We discuss how we can easily go green by focusing on reducing our individual carbon footprint.
The impact of global warming is worse than initially anticipated. Now, I’m no meteorological expert, but given that the United Nation's initial anticipation was that global warming would destroy the Earth, it's fair to assume that worse than that isn’t ideal.
Before I go any further, let's acknowledge that every one of us has a role to play in climate change. With a lot of the movements we see in society, people taking recycling more seriously, and even making changes in the little everyday things, like carrying around a metal straw, it's evident that the majority of individuals like helping the planet in any way they can. The realisation from these movements is that it doesn’t take only large corporations investing millions of dollars to make a difference to climate change — It all begins with me and you.
The issue I see is that with the actions we take to preserve the environment, there is no real measurable way to calculate how much of an impact we’re making or whether the things we’re doing actually make a difference at all or if there is any at all. That’s exactly where the carbon footprint comes in.
What, then, is the definition of a carbon footprint?
Professor Mike Berners-Lee, author of The Carbon Footprint of Everything, defines it as ‘the sum total of all the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions taken place in order for a product to be created or for an activity to take place’.
The typical consumer in a developed country spends their money on four main types of goods and services: energy for the home, transportation, food, and everything else (which is largely the stuff we purchase, such as cutlery, clothing, vehicles, and televisions).
You may be wondering, “Ali, that all sounds good, but how do we calculate this footprint?” Well don't worry! I've got you covered there. The good people at Just Energy have created a simple formula to calculate our footprint, but since they’re based in the United States, I’ve used my wizard level mathematical skills to make it appropriate for Malaysia.
So here’s what you need to do:
Multiply monthly electric bill by 23.39
Multiply monthly gas bill by 23.39
Multiply monthly oil bill by 25.17
Multiply total yearly car mileage by 0.79
Multiply the number of flights taken in the past year (4 hours or less) by 1,100
Multiply the number of flights taken in the past year (4 hours or more) by 4,400
Add 184 if you DON’T recycle newspaper
Add 166 if you DON’T recycle aluminium and tin
Add 1-8 together for your total carbon footprint in pounds
Keep in mind that an ideal carbon footprint (or a low footprint count) is anywhere from 6,000 to 15,999 pounds per year. 16,000 to 22,000 is considered average and under 6,000 is considered very low. Over 22,000? You definitely need to look into ways to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. But how should you do that as a university student?
Here are some of the unconventional ways to reduce your carbon footprint that you wouldn't even think are contributing to global warming.
Going to the library seems uncommon in this day and age when physical books can be purchased for cheaper rates in supercentres and even lower prices on eBay. Using the library is one of the most basic, but underutilised, strategies to lessen one's environmental footprint and save money. Borrowing a book from the library is obviously less expensive than purchasing it, even at a discount!
Many consumers are unaware that when retailers stop buying books, printers reduce production due to a lack of demand. Fewer trees would need to be chopped down to produce books if more people utilised libraries as their major source of reading material.
Similarly to other forms of digital communication, email requires energy to work.
Creating hardware, maintaining online servers 24/7, as well as users accessing the internet and streaming media all have significant energy demands. Internet usage accounts for 3.7% of worldwide GHG emissions so, concerning the environmental impact of email, spam is a serious concern. They need energy to be sent, received, and even stored. Imagine the resources spammers throughout the globe are squandering because of the sheer volume of spam they send out. The conventional way of thinking about the carbon footprint of a single email is in terms of its weight. Sending more information across the Internet consumes more power.
The Rainforest Action Network (RAN) published Banking on Climate Chaos in 2018 which outlined the many ways in which global financial institutions contribute to environmental degradation. It was found that five years after the Paris Agreement, the 60 of the world's top banks financed $3.8 trillion fossil fuels which led to a variety of negative results like an increase in violations of indigenous peoples' rights, pollution, and health concerns, as a result of extreme weather which forced people and animals from their habitats.
Through your checking and savings accounts, you provide the banks with the capital they need to lend to and finance these ecologically damaging projects. Choosing a bank without first researching their sustainability policies might have catastrophic consequences.
Since shaving is something most people do on a daily basis without giving it much thought, we go through a lot of disposable razors. Some people may only use a razor twice before throwing it away, contributing to the overflowing rubbish cans at the local landfill.
How can we make this situation better?
Instead of shaving, you may use an electric trimmer (preferably one that is powered by renewable energy), a hair removal product made from plants, or a sugar-based wax. You could even just pretend it’s Movember (which is coming up soon) every month and just embrace that beard (or body hair for the girls)!
Toilets store water until it reaches a specified level in the tank, BUT you don't need a full tank to flush them.
Placing a filled bottle with water into the tank can ‘trick’ the toilet into thinking it’s full when it’s not.
A 500ml container may not save much water with every flush, but it’ll definitely save a lot over the course of a year!
Now after reading some of these, you’re either mind blown or think I’ve a screw loose in my brain to think that these could actually make a difference for one person to do. And you might have a point! If just one person does any of this it's unlikely to make a difference, but imagine if millions of us started taking these little steps to make a difference. So I’ll leave you here to think, will you do your part to save the world, no matter how small?
Ali Moossajee is a Taylor’s Alumni who pursued a Bachelor of Quantity Surveying (Hons) at Taylor's University. Through his experiences leading several organisations at the University, he has developed a passion to share his learnings through writing to create an impact on society. He also enjoys cultivating connections with others and hopes to inspire others to grow and develop their purpose.
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