1. Eat less red meat. Traditional red meat comes from ruminant livestock such as cattle and sheep. These animals produce large amounts of methane, which is a greenhouse gas that packs 72 times the punch of CO2 over a 20 year period. Other types of meat, such as chicken, pork or kangaroo, produce far less emissions. At average levels of consumption, a family’s emissions from beef would easily outweigh the construction and running costs of a large 4WD vehicle, in less than 5 years. There is no need to cut out red meat entirely, but fewer steaks and snags mean far less CO2.
2. Purchase “green electricity“. The future of energy clearly likes in renewable sources such as solar, wind and wave power and ‘hot rocks’. Even without climate change, there are limits to available oil, natural gas and coal. ‘Green power’ is electricity that comes from these technologies, but is delivered to you in the same way as ‘dirty power’ from fossil-fuel burning. That is, down your power lines. You can buy enough to replace your entire energy usage, or some fraction (I recommend going for 100%; the cost is a few more cents per kilowatt hour of electricity). Most energy suppliers now offer this service and will purchase energy from green sources that is equivalent to what you use. As more people take up this scheme, it will drive ever greater investment in these technologies, reduce cost of delivery, and so further hasten the pace of update. It’s a feedback, and you can be the catalyst of change. [Note some problems with GreenPower here]
3. Make your home and household energy efficient. We all unthinkingly leave lights on when we are not in the room, or switch off the TV by the remote instead of at the wall, fire up the heater on when we could put on an extra layer of clothing, or turn on the air conditioner when we could open the window and turn on a fan. It’s force of habit – a bad habit we can break, with just a little thought. Behaviour change lies at the heart of most individual actions on reducing our individual carbon footprint. By being sensible about your use household energy use, and making sure your house is well insulated, you can make a huge dent in your CO2 emissions. Oh, and it will save you plenty money that you no longer spend on wasted energy, year in, year out.
4. Buy energy and water efficient appliances. Aside from behavioural change, we can invest in more sensible technologies that help us in our day to day lives. When buying new electronic appliances, air conditioners or washing machines, look at their energy and water usage. The more energy efficient they are, the more they’ll save you in the long run, and the lower their CO2 impact will be. In most cases the ‘payback period’ – the difference between the initial cost of a high versus low efficiency appliance and the long-term savings in lower electricity and water bills, is only a matter of a few months to a few years. After that, you are laughing all the way to the bank, and doing something meaningful to combat climate change at the same time.
5. Walk, cycle or take public transport. Cars are not only a slow way to get to work when you’re faced with a city gridlock – they are also a huge user of oil (which is running out globally) and cost the tax payer heft amounts in road building and maintenance. Getting people from A to B using trains, buses, bikes and on foot is much more greenhouse friendly, and often considerably cheaper. The main problem right now with public transport is that because not enough people use it, there is not enough investment by government to improve the quality of service and capacity to support large volumes of commuters. It might seem like a Catch-22, but some cities have solved the dilemma and now move most of their people about on public transport. So start patronising your public transport network, and push governments at all levels for some decent bicycle and walking trails instead of building more and more roads for cars and worrying incessant