Thursday, January 24, 2008

Reducing your carbon footprint

This weekend I received a batch of spectacular photos from a friend of mine who recently visited Patagonia in southern Argentina. The title of his email was “Hurry up and take that vacation you’ve been dreaming about because these glaciers won’t be there for long.” For years my wife and I have been wanting to go to Patagonia but there never is enough time or money. Now we feel a sense of urgency to witness this paradise before global warming changes it forever.

It is safe to assume that those of us who garden as a hobby tend to be more environmentally concerned than the rest of the population since our gardens depend on Mother Nature for their successes or failures. When gardeners plant and work the earth, we make a positive contribution to our planet.

What is a Carbon Footprint?
Al Gore’s documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth” introduced us to the phrase, “carbon footprint.” A carbon footprint is the total amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases emitted over the life of a product or service. Greenhouse gasses are the gasses in the earth’s atmosphere that trap heat and contribute to global warming. Therefore, the less products and services we consume, the smaller our carbon footprint will be on our earth.

So what can we gardeners do to contribute to this worthy and immensely important endeavor? Besides continuing to work in our gardens, what changes can we make in our daily lives that will reduce our carbon footprints?

Here is my list.
1 – Cut down on driving our cars. My family and I are more conscious of how much driving we do and try to plan our trips so one outing can take care of several chores. I am trying to convince my employer to allow me to tele-commute from home twice a week.

2 – Reduce the amount of electricity used in my home. I recently changed all the light bulbs in my house to compact fluorescents. I turn off lights, fans, and any electrical equipment that is not being used, including the computer. I am also looking into installing a solar water heater. We turn off the AC when it gets cool and turn up the thermostat when it’s on. My wife bundles loads of laundry to run as few cycles as possible, always with cold water (we just invested in a super energy-efficient and water conserving washer/dryer set—boy was it expensive!!!!). Our dishwasher is never run unless it is completely full.

3 – Recycle, recycle, and recycle! In my home, we recycle everything possible, from all plastic containers, plastic bags, glass, and newspapers to used ink cartridges and old cell phones. Recently my dry cleaner began recycling hangers so I’ll be returning any I have.

4 – In the work place, I am trying to convince my co-workers to join me in being carbon-frugal. We turn lights off in rooms that are not being used and computers are off when its operators are not in. I am constantly telling my co-workers to use less paper and to reuse copy papers on both sides.

5 – The garden. I use recycled garden products when possible, like mulch given out by our local authorities (I use to buy mulch from my local Home Depot but no more). I am looking for a nursery that will accept used plastic planters (unfortunately, I haven’t found any in my area yet). I am trying to raise more of my plants from seeds and cuttings and am trying compost again (my first attempt was not very successful).

6 – I am contacting my elected officials to let them know how important this issue is to my family and me (this is the only way they’ll get behind it). Recently, our county was considering ending the weekly recycling pick up because it felt the expense did not warrant the low participation. I immediately picked up the phone and called my county commissioner and let him know how I felt. I have written to my federal congressman and senators, especially about important environmental issues here in Florida, such as offshore oil drilling and our Everglades National Park restoration plans, as well as national ones, such as saving ANWR.

7 – Lastly, education. We must educate anyone and everyone, especially our children and youth. After all, they are the ones that will inherit this mess we have created and must realize they are a critical piece of this complicated puzzle.

Every citizen of the earth has a stake in this endeavor; the urgency cannot be disputed any longer. Planet Earth hangs in the balance and we are all responsible. Won’t you join me in reducing your own carbon footprint and becoming a good steward of Planet Earth? For more information, visit “Your carbon print” web site.

Remember--the start of a long journey begins with a first step.

Patagonia's glaciers


Yasir Rosli said...

This is freaking me out. I see this you are very active as an environmentalist. There is a movie called The Corporation Film. It shows how corporations harm environment and people. A very good movie, I think watching the trailer for it is sufficient to understand the basics of corporate power and harm.

Sue Swift said...

But sadly, one of the most important things we can to to reduce our carbon footprints is cut down on flying. Which means rethinking whether we really should be going to Patagonia ...

rusty in miami said...

You have a good point Sue, however I believe that if we take responsibility in our daily life and reduce our daily carbon foot print, a once in life time trip to a far away place like Patagonia is like trading carbon emissions (if nations do it why not individuals)
It is unrealistic to expect us to stop traveling and go back to horses and sailing ships. We should demand more efficient ways of transportation, such as hybrid cars and fuel-efficient planes like the new Boeing 787.
I also believe, if more people see and feel these places affected by global warming, there would be a global outcry to stop it.

Anonymous said...

It always heats up before a new ice age and we are over due for a new one.

Yolanda Elizabet said...

Excellent post Rusty. I'm recycling as much as I can both in my garden and out and I'm trying to be as energy conscious as I can. Here we have the option to buy green electricity, do you have that option too?

And of course I grow everything organically in the garden, but you knew that already! :-)