Take Calculated Steps to Reduce Your Eco/Carbon/Water Footprints

Most of us pursuing a MOGO life pay attention to the impact of our choices on people, animals and the planet. We have some vague idea of our ecological footprint  — the amount of land, water and other resources it takes to support us, and the amount of waste that we generate. But, have you ever calculated your footprint? There are a slew of “eco” calculators, and of course, they can only give you a general idea of how your choices affect the environment and its inhabitants, but they’re still a helpful and fun tool that you can use yourself and share with others. Here are 4 popular ones that I’ve found:

~ Marsha

20 Years After the Exxon Valdez: A Great Time to Kick the Oil Habit

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, reportedly the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Nearly 11 million gallons of oil poured from a gash in the ship’s hull, spreading  out into one of the most pristine and delicate areas of the U.S.: Prince William Sound. The spill eventually covered more than 1,200 miles of coastline, killed millions of animals and devastated numerous communities.

Nature has written an article about the spill, reflecting on the disaster and examining the impact that lingers today, and you’ll find plenty of other media coverage.

People, animals and the planet are still feeling the impact of that spill. What a great reminder that our actions can have enormous and long-lasting consequences. What a great time to pay attention to all the choices we make that involve the use of oil — not just for transportation, but for our food, the products we buy, and so on.

Today, make a list of  all the connections you can think of that your life has to oil. Then brainstorm ways that you can reduce your impact, such as:

  • walking or biking whenever you can
  • eating a plant-based diet
  • using natural alternatives to petroleum products
  • choosing renewable energy options
  • writing your editor, legislators and other people in authority to encourage them to create systems that are sustainable and restorative.

Why support something that can cause enormous suffering and destruction (Iraq War, anyone?), when we can create and use the humane alternatives available to us now, and continue to work for better future alternatives?

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of USGS.

MOGO Tip: Become Your Own Garbage Hauler for a Few Days

garbagebagsJust how much waste do we generate? The average American generates 760 kgs of garbage per person per year (4.6 pounds per person per day).

And this New York Times article from May 2008 reveals that “Americans generate roughly 30 million tons of food waste each year, which is about 12 percent of the total waste stream.”

A lot of what we throw away is stuff we don’t really use (or need), or stuff that could be diverted elsewhere, whether reused, recycled, redirected (or refrained from using in the first place).

Challenge yourself for a day or a week: keep all your waste — everything that you would throw away, and store it somewhere, so that you can get a real sense of what your garbage footprint is. If you can’t keep it, then write down everything you toss and keep a list. Then look through your treasure of trash and notice what could be recycled, what could be reused, what could be redirected, and what you could have done without in the first place. Think about how you could have gotten what you needed without generating garbage. If you have kids, get them in on this little adventure; turn it into something fun.

Although I’m encouraging you to keep your waste for just a few days, one guy decided to keep all his garbage and recycling for a YEAR, to see how much would accumulate, and how well he could do at reducing his waste impact. Dave kept a blog of his efforts, cataloging all the waste he generated and how he dealt with it.

Dave now has a website, Sustainable Dave, with resources, tips and insights for reducing waste and living sustainably. Check it out for some tips to help you reduce your waste-print.

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of fnavarro.

Humans Closer to Maxing Out “Ecological Debt”

According to the Footprint Network , yesterday was “Earth Overshoot Day.” Each day between now and the end of the year is a day in which the world is using more resources than the earth has the capacity to create in 2008. This year humans are projected to use 140% of the resources the earth can generate.

“Globally, we now require the equivalent of 1.4 planets to support our lifestyles. But of course, we only have one Earth. The result is that our supply of natural resources — like trees and fish — continues to shrink, while our waste, primarily carbon dioxide, accumulates.” ~ Footprint Network

Of course, not everyone is using those resources to the same degree, or at the same rate (even though many are trying). Global Footprint’s National Footprints Accounts data from 2006 shows how many Earths we’d need if everyone lived like a resident of these countries:

  • United States – 5.4 Earths
  • Canada – 4.2 Earths
  • United Kingdom – 3.1 Earths
  • Germany – 2.5 Earths
  • Italy – 2.2 Earths
  • South Africa – 1.4 Earths
  • Argentina – 1.2 Earths
  • Costa Rica – 1.1 Earths
  • India – 0.4 Earths

And, the “biocapacity” being measured doesn’t take into account the needs of the animals and plants all over the world. How much room do they actually need to be sustainable, healthy and happy? Almost no one considers that in their footprint calculators.

Fortunately, we don’t have to sit back and feel defeated at such news. We can decide to pay attention to the impact of our daily actions and take steps to make choices that do the most good and least harm for all people, animals and the planet. We can determine what’s most important in our lives and what’s only distraction, noise and perceived obligation or ephemeral desire and choose to nurture the former and release the latter. We can learn to look beyond what our culture has raised us to think is relevant to our lives and needs to what really brings us fulfillment and joy (which usually isn’t stuff). We can embrace the fact that we have enormous power to make a positive (or negative) difference around the world and choose to use that power to help create a peaceful, compassionate, sustainable world that doesn’t live beyond its capacity.

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of Footprint Network.

Thanks, Treehugger, for the heads up.