There are lots of words being tossed around by people who claim to know how to fix things. Some of the words were invented by scientists to describe something they were seeing. Some were borrowed by people trying to explain what they meant. The result is confusing to nearly everyone who isn’t in the middle of the conversation. One of the most popular terms is something about “your ____ footprint”. That blank spot is where you insert words like ‘carbon’, or ‘water’, or ‘power’ or… you get the idea.
What do we mean by “footprint”?
We are all travelers here. As we pass through our world, our lives leave footprints, marks on our world that said we were here. Your passage leaves a trail of damage that the planet must repair so that those that come behind you (like your children) will have somewhere to travel.
These “footprints” come in different sizes.
If you are American, or from one of the more advanced countries, you’ve been encouraged to leave elephant sized footprints. Your government, the businesses you deal with, and sometimes even your family has encouraged you to stomp around and use up as much as you can, as if it were a contest. Remember the “the one with the most toys wins!” from a decade ago?
If you are from a developing country, you’ve seen the “american dream” and you probably want it as soon as you can get it. That means you are trying to trade your horse sized foot print for an elephant’s size. Guess what? There there are eight times as many of you as there are Americans. For you to have enough room to stomp around that way, we would have to have another planet.
And for the rest of you, in countries that are just starting to gain the technology and opportunities, you’ve been treading around like you were a small bird. Your group is about 12 times as big as the American group. So we would have to get another one and one half planets to give you American sized stompers.
Well, the problem is that we’ve only got this one planet, not three and one half planets. So we have to figure out how to change the size of prints that we all make.
Americans will have to shrink those stompers, as well as people from other developed countries. Places like China and India, who want those elephantine stompers, are going to have to try to make it with the horse sized stompers while we get smarter things out there to help repair the damage. And you little bird sized stompers, we’ll get you outfitted with bigger stompers so that life isn’t so hard for you, but you need to aim for something less grand than the stompers the Americans have to give up.
Making things better isn’t that hard, especially since two thirds of the planet will be steadily improving, while the other third gets smaller stompers, which should give them lots of reason to do things smarter so they don’t have to give up so much.
So, how do we change the size of our “footprints”?
For some of you, you can’t make your stompers any smaller without being dead. That’s not the goal, so you just have to try and make sure your stompers don’t get too big.
For the developed countries its a different thing though. There are lots of simple things to be done. To help ensure that your children and their children have somewhere to stomp around, do as many of the things in the list below as you can. Everything on the list will help tremendously, reducing the size of your flappy stompers.
- If you’re a heavy meat eater, cut back. The Meatless Monday movement has the right idea, since meat eating makes stompers huge really quickly. Besides, it will tend to improve your health and help you lose weight (assuming you need that).
- Buy local and in season. Eat local. Try not to buy apples from the opposite hemisphere, all that shipping increases your stomper size.
- Compost your food waste. Yes, you can even do this if you live in an apartment.
- Buy in bulk, and avoid products that have lots of packaging.
- Get your power from renewable sources. Most electric providers have renewable energy programs, you just tell them that you want your power to come from renewables.
- Get a programmable thermostat. Only heat or cool your dwelling when it’s needed.
- Unplug small appliances when they are not in use. Your cell phone charger draws power, even when it’s not charging your phone. The same goes for game consoles, etc.
- Turn off lights even when you leave a room. Yes really.
- Turn down your thermostat on your furnace and water heater. If you air conditioning raise it. Just a couple of degrees either way will make a big difference.
- Install a solar water heater. Hot water for free, what could be bad about that?
- If you’re buying a computer, choose a less power-hungry laptop and turn it off when not in use. The screen saver only does what it says – it saves the screen. It still uses almost the same amount of energy as powering the whole machine.
- Only run washing machines when they are full (dish and clothes), do whole loads.
- If you have older models then defrost your refrigerator/freezer regularly.
- Line dry your clothes (check to make sure you’re allowed first).
- Check for insulation, and if it’s not there, get it.
- Use a bicycle wherever you can. Some places offer incentives for this.
- Carpool. Share rides.
- Use the bus or train rather than your car whenever it’s possible.
- Only fly when you must.
- Work from home one day a week.
- If you’re replacing a vehicle, choose a model with low CO2 emissions, and the best fuel economy.
- Get a diesel, modern diesels are more fuel efficient and you can even make your own biodiesel to use.
- Even if you have a regular gasoline engine, convert it to LPG fuel – it causes fewer problems and will be cheaper too.
It’s pretty much that simple. If you want to save you and your kids and your kids’ kids a lot of grief, just do these things and it will be a great start!