Carbon consultant Heidi Fog sent a letter to her friends and family in Denmark. Subject: ‘Emergency call and solutions from Australia’. It provided 10 suggestions for doable ways to cut your own individual carbon footprint in half, as the climate scientists have told us we need to do before 2030.
PREFACE AND PERSPECTIVE
Heidi Fog wrote her 10 suggestions in the light of the scientific warning that humanity needs to half its carbon emissions during the 2020s, and had been inspired by Gene Blackley’s Drawdown Australia presentation at Geelong Library in March 2020.
In October 2018, the United Nations’ panel of climate scientists, the IPCC, issued a special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C. The scientists had found that,
“…limiting global warming to 1.5°C will require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”
~ Global Warming of 1.5ºC, special report, IPCC
The report found that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities, and it clarified to the world’s leaders that “global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050.” Remaining emissions would then “need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air.”
That is what the scientists tell us needs to happen. The rest is up to us and the leaders we elect.
HEIDI FOG’S EMAIL TO HER FRIENDS AND FAMILY IN DENMARK:
Emergency call and solutions from Australia
“Good morning to all
You are probably all busy with absorbing the CV-19 news and the changes that it brings. I hope you all are okay and remain safe.
For some time I have been writing on an email for you about our shared climate. The climate issue has not gone away even though it has slipped out of the media over the past few weeks. The imbalance is here to stay for many years to come because you, I and those we know have consumed too much.
You have probably seen images of the bushfires in Australia which have burned areas that are larger than all of Denmark. That is all animals, all people, all infrastructure… Gone. In many places, they will not return. The fire was too hot, caused too much damage. Most people could drive, sail, and fly away from the affected areas, but the animals could not, including all birds, because it was too hot.
Here in our city, my children and I received our share of climate refugees, and for a longer period we had to stay indoors due to the air pollution coming from fires over 300 kilometres away with such intensity that we could not see our neighbours’ houses for smoke. At times we wondered if there were fires burning in our neighbourhood as the visibility and air quality were so poor.
Some of you have followed my journey as an environmental consultant. Despite the science and our individual observations still many individuals/businesses have an ingrained notion that “life is comfortable, and we can both burn and travel as we always have done.” We will never forgive ourselves if we do not all seize all the opportunities to stop climate change now.
That comfortable life may be completely ruined for some of us. (Denmark’s forests aren’t doing too well either, by the way). But it is going to affect all of us. Last week, I attended a forum where the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest living organism, was declared dead. Science can see that the bit left now has no chance of surviving. Without protection from the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland is a Netherlands without dikes. There are five million people living in Queensland.
Every product or service we buy has contaminated the air before we bought it, while we own it, and after we have passed it on either as waste for incineration or recycling. It should come as no surprise. But have you given it some thought that every product or service we buy takes a bite of the future of our children and makes it a bit more dangerous?
Solutions you and I can do if we would like to be grandparents (if that is any goal in itself, as it is rather short-term planning):
• 1) Minimize need for refrigeration and air conditioning (The International Energy Agency estimates that improvements in energy efficiency can deliver more than 40% of the greenhouse gas emissions reductions needed to meet global climate goals, yet demand reduction is a long way behind that of renewable energy.)
• 2) Throw out less food waste. Eat all the food we buy before we buy new. Minimum set up of own compost and hens
• 3) Increase the percentage of plants in the diet
• 4) Eat less. A supper for 4 has consumed 2,000-5,000 liters of water + electricity / gas / transport before eating it.
• 5) Plant many trees by the way. The famous Danish designer Arne Jacobsen has given Denmark a lot, and he also said: “If you have three square metres of land, you will plant three different plants. Since I have 300 square metres, I will plant 300 different plants.” Me: So the biodiversity is fixed too. Thanks Arne. So let’s get started today
• 6) Fly 50% less and the flights we do take offset with carbon credits
• 7) Sponsors a girl in Africa so she gets an education and therefore minimises the number of children she will get
• 8) Half use of oil, petrol, gas, electricity
• 9) Consume less. About 70-85% of our carbon footprints come from purchased products and services. Denmark generates the most waste per capita in the world. The ability for waste to energy and recycling is no excuse for unnecessary consumption
• 10) Become an advocate for 50% less square metres in new houses
The journey towards a 50% reduction starts today. My children and I hope you will join us on this journey to a safe climate wherever you live.
PS. It’s not just the summer months that are out of balance, it is all seasons. That’s what we need to fix.
As I said, I hope you all are well and will remain that way. In the midst of the risk of CV-19, there are also opportunities in the form of using this time for planning and restructuring our lives to include solutions 1-10 and others for a safe climate.”
Hugs and solidarity from Heidi
→ Heidi’s home page: www.heidifog.com.au
CO2 levels – weekly averages
29 March 2020: 415.74 ppm
This time last year: 412.39 ppm
10 years ago: 391.47 ppm
Pre-industrial base: 280
Safe level: 350
Atmospheric CO2 reading from Mauna Loa, Hawaii (part per million).
Scientists have warned for more than a decade that concentrations of more than 450ppm risk triggering extreme weather events and temperature rises as high as 2C, beyond which the effects of global heating are likely to become catastrophic and irreversible.
→The Guardian’s weekly carbon count
“Global warming is happening with a rapidity that leaves me speechless”
~ Peter Kalmus, climate scientist
DIY energy efficiency during lockdown
By James Conlan, Environment Victoria
“We’re all spending a lot more time at home. And rightly so, it’s the most important thing we can do to keep our communities safe right now. But what will this mean for your energy bills?
Many of us will be using much more energy than usual, especially if the lockdown continues into winter. So let’s use this time to make our homes more efficient and more comfortable! It’ll mean lower bills and less need to burn coal for electricity and gas for heating. Win, win!
To help you out we’ve put together a list of ideas for DIY efficiency upgrades. Many of them are surprisingly simple and cost very little.
Beyond upgrading our own homes, there’s another important thing we can do. And that’s help to improve energy efficiency in homes across the board.
Real estate agents in Victoria are not required to provide energy efficiency information to home buyers or renters at inspections – even if it is requested.
That’s why, before COVID-19 hit, our volunteers were conducting surveys about energy performance at open-for-inspections. The purpose was to inform house hunters and find out if real estate agents know anything about the energy performance of the homes they sell or rent out. If they can’t supply people with information about how much energy a house will need to be kept comfortable, we need to call this out.
With this survey data, we can start a bottom-up, consumer-driven push for change and call for new rules that help improve energy efficiency in all homes. This means more people living in comfort, lower energy bills and less pollution. But first we need volunteers to help us survey real estate agents over the phone. Will you join us?”
~ James Conlan and the team at Environment Victoria
Being the change: ‘Live well and spark a climate revolution’
→ Download the app for your phone from earthhero.org
→ Read Peter Kalmus’ book chapter by chapter
Fossil fuel free family
“Over recent years many of us have worked hard to reduce our household carbon footprint. We’ve installed solar PV and house batteries and have bought electric cars. We have moved off gas. This means that lots of Australian households now have relatively small direct carbon footprints.
Where do we go from here? Step Two.
All the time we’ve been transitioning our household away from fossil fuels I’ve been aware that our direct carbon footprint is only part of the story. What about the carbon embedded in the products we buy and the services we use – our indirect carbon footprint?”
~ Dave Southgate
Family’s carbon footprint report
Dave Southgate has produced a carbon footprint report for his family for 2019 which describes how he has arrived at a detailed breakdown of their total household consumption carbon footprint. He writes:
“Today I have released my 2019 Carbon Footprint Report which forms a part of our ‘Fossil Fuel Free Family’ project. In this report I show how we reached ‘net zero emissions’ in 2019 by managing our carbon emissions (both our direct and indirect footprints) through the use of carbon credits.
I have claimed credits for solar PV electricity exported and carbon offsets which I purchased specifically to reach our ‘net zero emissions’ goal for the year. I intend that from here we will be ‘net zero’ each year.”
→ Download Dave Southgate’s Carbon footprint report (PDF)
→ One Step Off The Grid – 31 March 2020:
One Step, Two Steps towards a net zero emissions household
→ Net Zero Emissions Household – 8 March 2020:
2019 Household Carbon Footprint Report
Never underestimate the power of small
“Small-scale clean energy and low carbon technologies—such as solar panels, smart appliances and electric bicycles—are more likely to push society toward meeting climate goals than large-scale technologies, according to a new study from a team of international researchers. The findings, published today in Science, suggest governments and investors around the world should prioritize small-scale, low carbon technologies in policy design and research development in order to reduce emissions responsible for climate change in a more efficient and just way.”
→ The Daily Climate – 3 April 2020:
Climate change: For big emissions reductions, we need to think small
“Big new infrastructure costing billions is not the best way to accelerate decarbonization”
→ Science – 3 April 2020:
Granular technologies to accelerate decarbonization
Take control of your electricity bill with the myEnergy dashboard
With the myEnergy dashboard, you can see how your home or business uses electricity over time. Use it to identify ways to save money and become more energy efficient.
→ The Conversation – 15 April 2020:
Climate explained: how white roofs help to reflect the sun’s heat
“Does the white roof concept really work?”
Mik’s ‘Show Me How’ video series
“The biggest restoration effort in Australia”
Restore Australia is a movement pushing to scale up nature-based solutions to climate change.
Beth Dalgleish fra One Tree Planted and Amelia Young from The Wilderness Society at the Restore Australia launch discussing how you can get involved in Restore Australia.
The Global EverGreening Alliance is bringing together key stakeholders from across all sectors to “restore Australia”. The goal is to leverage existing investments and successes, drawing on the strengths and capacities of all significant stakeholders and using proven best practice and emerging innovations, to support a massive-scale coordinated effort to restore the health and productivity of degraded farm, range and forest lands across Australia.
World Resources Institute
“In today’s turbulent world, WRI is working around the globe to turn big ideas into action at the nexus of environment, economic opportunity and human well-being.”
→ WRI – 1 April 2020:
7 Tips to Make Your Food Last While You #StayAtHome
“Ensuring your food lasts as long as possible will cut down on shopping trips, help your wallet and bring an added benefit by reducing food waste, which contributes to climate change.”
Truck company halved its emissions over 10 years
Between 2007 and 2017, the leading Australian logistics company Linfox has reduced their rate of greenhouse gas emissions by 44 per cent, and they are well positioned to achieve further reductions. With fuel remaining one of the highest operating costs for supply chain organisations, Linfox is investing heavily in renewables, and it looks for sustainable solutions in reducing emissions inherent in environmental externalities produced across its expansive operations.
Mark Delaney: How to love low-carbon living
‘Low-Carbon and Loving It’
‘Low-Carbon and Loving It’ is an ordinary person’s, easy-to-read guide to climate change. It’s also the story of the Delaneys, an ordinary Australian family who have made some extraordinary choices to live in the slums of India. From helping negotiate better terms for residents in a slum about to be demolished, to living on $100 for a month, they’ve sought to serve – and learn from – their impoverished neighbours.
In the book, father-and-son authors Mark and Tom introduce us to several of their Indian neighbours who lead very low-carbon lives. They consider the reasons a typical Australian’s carbon footprint is ten times larger than the average Indian’s. Encouragingly, they offer many suggestions for how we in the West can live a much lower-carbon life, in a way that is fulfilling and even fun.
The Delaney family have lived alongside the poor in the slums of India for more than a decade. The boys, Tom and his brother Oscar, were born there and have spent much of their lives in slums. Their experience of moving between middle class Australia and the slums of India has given them a very different perspective on life, which allows Mark and Tom to see afresh the climate crisis to which many in the West are blind.
“This is a remarkable book. Very few westerners have had the experiences that the authors have embraced, and as a result very few can speak with the same credibility about the choices we must make as a society. I hope everyone reads this volume – and thinks, deeply, about what it means.”
~ Bill McKibben, author of ‘Deep Economy’. Founder of 350.org
“If we are to deal with the crisis of climate change as seriously as it demands, all of us need to overcome our addiction to our unsustainable carbon-based life-styles. The Delaneys, a family who have lived a lowcarbon life in the slums of India and the suburbs of Australia, show us how we can do it in style.”
~ Dave Andrews, author of ‘Building A Better World’
“We have now sold about 400 copies of Low Carbon and Loving It. We’re grateful to everyone who’s purchased our book. However, we want to spread the message of climate action as widely as possible – including those who don’t buy books. So, over the next 9 months, we will be uploading a chapter at a time, available for free download. Please read and reflect. The 37 chapters have reflection questions, so please share your thoughts by commenting at the bottom of the blog.
“Our world is in trouble. If our atmosphere warms more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, we will face more frequent natural disasters, the extinction of thousands of species, sea level rise measured in metres, food shortages and possible climate-related wars. These changes will happen within this century unless we, as a global community, limit our carbon dioxide emissions to around
800 gigatonnes for the remainder of the century. That might sound like a lot, but it averages about two tonnes per head per year for everyone on the planet.
At the moment, Australians emit 23 tonnes per year. As a global community, we’ll blow our budget by 2040 if we continue at the current rate. The awful consequences of climate change will increase in intensity within our own, and even more so, within our children’s lifetimes…”
Mark and Tom Delaney: ‘Low-Carbon and Loving It – Adventures in sustainable living from the streets of India to middle class Australia’. Paperback: AUD$19.95 E-book: AUD$9.99
» Bulk order: Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
» Website: www.lowcarbonandlovingit.wordpress.com
Download the book
Having sold over 1,000 copies, the authors have released the book for free download. Download a copy of the introduction and share your thoughts on it here.
Part 1 here. Part 2 here. Part 3 here. Part 4 here. Part 5 here. Part 6 here. Part 7 here. Part 8 here. Whole book here.
What can I do in order to cut my footprint into half?
Sitra: Test yourself and find out whether you are a threat or an opportunity.
Is your lifestyle good or bad for the environment? After this short test, you will get tips tailored for you. They will help you save time and money and improve your quality of life. And our planet will thank you!
The Finnish Sitra test has been done almost one million times and the average carbon footprint is 7,200 kilos of CO₂e
Sustainable tips on how to make a difference in your home
The 2020 National Sustainability Conference takes place on an online, digital hosting platform on 27-28 April 2020. In the conference’s newsletter on 14 April, the following four recources and guides for a more sustainable living were suggested:
|88 ideas for living sustainably |
If you want to become more sustainable in your home and business, having the right information on hand will take you to the next level.
→ Plant with Purpose – 2018: 88 Ideas for Living Sustainably (PDF, 16 pages)
|Global trends impacting on sustainability|
Global trends aren’t always good for the environment. Find out what seven global trends are impacting negatively on the sustainability movement so you can avoid them and make a difference.
→ Forbes – 15 April 2019: 7 Global Trends Impacting The Sustainability Movement
|Four free eco-friendly apps your kids will love|
Ever wondered how you can get your children involved in helping preserve the future of our planet? Technology is the key. Here’s four apps you can download that will help all household members become more sustainable.
→ Homes To Love – 29 September 2016: 4 free apps that benefit the environment
|Green eco tips for sustainable living|
Living a sustainable life at home doesn’t have to be difficult. With everyone spending more time at home, here are some great tips on how you can make your home more sustainable.
→ Global Stewards – 2014-2019: Green Eco Tips for Sustainable Living
10 ways you can befriend the planet from home
1 Grow microgreens and other veggies
2 Cook your own food
It’s more important than ever to have non-perishables in stock but you can also preserve perishables through pickling. Try fermentation. Get creative with leftover food. Include more vegetarian options in your diet if you eat a lot of meat.
3 Take up sewing
Take a shot at sewing if you haven’t already. Start from something simple such as mending a tear to making reusable bags from old clothes or fabrics. Some grocery stores are currently not allowing them due to COVID-19 but you can use them when this is all over.
4 Research on things you don’t usually have time for
This is a good time to do some research on things that you usually put away such as slow fashion. You can also participate in questionnaires from the comfort of your home to aid more research like this one on vegan shoes or this one on “Right to Clean Environment with special Reference to door to door wastage collection facility in the city of Ahmadabad“. Sanctuary is offering its April, May and June 2020 issues free of charge, online, for all those who register at this link, a good chance to understand what’s going on with our environment. Explore work from home gigs and if you are interested I can share a list of places with you where you can find some.
5 Make your own fertilizer
Make your own fertilizer like zenrainman does. He says, “Chuck banana peels, onion peels, potato whatever vegetable remains into a large glass bottle. Add water, jaggery plus curds – a spoonful. Leave for a week. Strain water, dilute and use for potted plants as fertilizer. Compost the peel remains after 4 refills.”
6 Support local businesses
Support your local businesses by shopping local. Many shops may have shut down temporarily but they might still be delivering their goods albeit rather slowly.
7 Go paperless
If you get your bills in the mail, it is time to switch to online billing and payments. Imagine how much paper we would need if all the population got bills in the mail. There are more than 7 billion of us on this planet.
8 Donate to environmental organizations
If you want to stop the next pandemic, donate to organizations that are keeping the earth healthy. Loss of forests is making the virus’s job easier. Amazon Rainforest Conservancy, Sanctuary Asia Foundation, Bombay Natural History Society to note a few.
9 Explore your neighbourhood
It’s easy to jump on your two or four-wheeler for a quick errand in the neighborhood. It’s evident how lockdowns are clearing the air around us, why not keep it that way? We have satellite photographs as well as photographs from individuals supporting it. Take a walk if not under complete lockdown to explore nearby areas.
10 Browse to plant trees
New York Times carbon-footprint-reduction checklist
New York Times wrote in their e-newsletter: “If you’ve done what you can to support those affected by the coronavirus — and have the privilege of staying home with newfound time — why not tick a few items off your carbon-footprint-reduction checklist? Here are some ideas:”
|Program your thermostat: Although an estimated 41 percent of Americans have programmable thermostats, just 12 percent actually program them. By setting yours to automatically change with the time and season, Brenda Ekwurzel, director of climate science at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said you could reduce “heating and cooling emissions by 15 percent.”|
|Get cleaner power: Research solar panels (some companies are promoting contact-free installations) and community solar. Or, if you live in a deregulated energy state, look into switching to a green provider.|
|Kill energy vampires: Nearly 5 percent of our total residential electricity usage comes from devices that stay plugged in when they’re not being used. So Dr. Ekwurzel suggested putting devices on a single power strip that you can easily switch off.|
|Adjust your water heater: According to the Department of Energy, lowering the temperature of your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit from 140 degrees (or to about 50 Celsius from 60) could reduce its annual energy usage by as much as 22 percent.|
|Experiment with climate-friendly recipes: Going vegetarian could reduce your food-related footprint by a third — but even if you’re a devoted carnivore, Dr. Ekwurzel said simply eating less meat “makes a big difference over the long run.” To stay stocked on produce, search for farmers’ markets near you; many remain open or are offering online ordering. (GrowNYC has a list of area farmers with delivery or pickup.) Adding frozen veggies to your grocery list isn’t a bad idea, either.|
|Join a C.S.A.: As another way to avoid “buying agricultural products that have been flown around the world,” Laurel Hanscom, chief executive officer of the Global Footprint Network, recommended subscribing to a community supported agriculture program. (Just note that, if spring hasn’t yet sprung in your region, it may be a while before your first delivery!)|
|Compost: The Environmental Protection Agency says food is the biggest single contributor to our landfills, constituting an incredible “22 percent of discarded municipal solid waste.” Keep your scraps out of the landfill by (finally!) starting a compost pile.|
|Go paperless: Spend 20 minutes registering for digital statements from all of your accounts. While you’re at it, reduce your unwanted junk mail, too.|
|Buy carbon offsets: Remember when traveling was a thing? Well now is the perfect opportunity to purchase offsets for prior adventures.|
|Make your voice heard: Ms. Hanscom urged readers to “encourage your representatives to fight for climate-forward policies in the bailouts and stimulus packages.” (Luckily, you can do that from the couch.)|
However you spend these next few weeks and months, Ms. Hanscom said the coronavirus has shown us “how connected we all are in terms of our decisions.” So, moving forward, she said, it’s important to ask: “How can we take these lessons to thoughtfully bring ourselves, humanity and the planet, back into balance?”
“The most important word in today’s world is ‘together’.”
~ Jan Eliasson, UN Deputy Secretary-General
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