A lot of things have changed over the recent weeks. Among them was the swearing in of a governmental administration whose approach to climate change and sustainability is…questionable. Many of the rules and regulations that safeguard against environmental disasters are being rolled back. This means that it is up to us, the consumers, to take the steps necessary to improve the sustainability of our communities and to reduce our collective footprints.
If you’re overwhelmed by this and not sure where to start, don’t worry; you are not alone. Most of us are feeling this way, so we thought it would be a good time to put together some steps that we can each take to reduce our carbon footprints at home and within our professional and commercial spaces.
Where does your power come from? Many of us are still powered primarily by fossil fuels because they’re cheaper than power gained from sustainable options. Now is the time to find a way to pay that extra ten to twenty dollars every month. Before you panic, know that there are plenty of ways to create wiggle room in your budget to accommodate this expense. And if you live in a state with a deregulated energy market, you can shop around for sustainable energy rates that are budget friendly. In Canada, there are sites on Alberta Energy Providers to make comparison shopping easy. Your local state or town likely has a similar marketplace to help you narrow down your choices as well.
It is important that you do this at work as well as at home. If you own your own business, look into better rates for your office space or retail shop. If you are not your company’s owner, talk to your boss about making the change. Be sure to talk up the savings he or she will get; it will appeal to their desire to improve their profit margins.
You should also take some time to call your local officials and encourage them to opt for renewable energy sources for the municipal buildings (and vehicles!). Call your city and county commissioners, city managers, even your state reps. Put together some information for them–you’ll get further than you would if you simply made the request and hung up. Give them information about the Go Green Program, which helps make sustainable measures more affordable for municipalities and neighborhoods.
At home, there are dozens of different things you can do to reduce your power consumption. Line drying your laundry, unplugging power strips when you leave the house, reducing your dependence on HVAC systems, turning off the lights when you leave a room, using energy efficient lights and appliances–you know the drill.
There are also larger steps you can take. Installing even one solar panel dramatically reduces your dependency upon your municipal power grid. Using solar chargers and lights wherever you can (especially on porches and in yards) is also helpful.
In your business, you can take these same steps to incorporate solar power into your company’s property. You can also look at creating sustainable decorations like creating rooftop gardens, hanging planters on parking structures, etc. There are a lot of creative ways to “green up” a corporate and civilian space.
For example, if you have a water feature as part of your decor, install a feature that recycles its water instead of allowing fresh water to continuously run through it. If your offices are located in a building with a workout room or a gym, hook up the training machines to the building’s wiring so that the people doing the training are helping to power the building. Allow people to telecommute from home, reducing their commute-based waste (gas, exhaust, etc).
One great example of a municipal waste reduction happened in New Hampshire, where residents were charged for trash collection by volume instead of a flat rate. They had to purchase specific bags for the garbage collectors to pick up. The reduction in waste was significant as it forced residents to evaluate each item they were thinking of putting into the trash.
One of the very best ways to reduce your community’s carbon footprint and improve sustainability, try to shop only at local shops, grocers, etc. Prioritize businesses that take steps to improve their sustainability and reduce their power consumption. Shopping and dining locally helps the local economy but it also reduces the amount of money spent on transportation and packaging costs–for the consumer and the provider!
Form local groups for stuff like composting, recycling, runs to the dump, etc. You can even set up a group to swap clothes, books, etc. to reduce money spent buying these things new and encouraging your community to reduce, reuse and recycle.
Remember improving sustainability and fighting climate change isn’t just up to the government. It is also up to us. Use these hints to help your home and your community work together to be as green as possible!