There are many voices out there that claim to help you reduce your carbon footprint. Project Neutral is one of the only practical tools that tells you your personal carbon footprint based on local data AND offers you actions you can take to reduce it. Our personal carbon footprint comes primarily from transportation, homes, and food. Decarbonizing our lifestyle is actually quite simple!
For transportation, shrinking your carbon footprint is a two step process. The first stage involves reconsidering your travel needs. Some trips may be possible by active transportation such as biking. Public transit may work for trips within your city. Have you tried carpooling or car-sharing for some journeys?
You’re out of office meetings can be offset by using teleconferencing tools. If a personal vehicle is still necessary, choosing the smallest electric vehicle that meets your requirements can help you achieve zero emissions for transportation. Here in Ontario, our electricity comes largely from a clean electricity grid which does not produce significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. As a consequence, emissions associated with driving an electric vehicle are negligible, especially if it is recharged during off-peak hours.
The major source of carbon emissions for homes is from heating the home and water. Start by improving the energy efficiency of the home through draft-proofing; adding insulation; upgrading lighting and appliances. Heat pumps with electric resistance heating backup can provide all our heating and cooling needs, even in our colder climate.
Not all food is created equal. A plant-based diet has a smaller carbon footprint than an omnivore diet. One also can’t generally go wrong by choosing seasonal, local produce. Choose to eat less meat and choose plant-based proteins more often. Reducing food waste and using green bins or compost can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions set off when food is placed in landfills. We are lucky here in Southern Ontario to have access to tasty local food all year-round!
Bonus: Put your money and your voice where your values are
It may be surprising but your financial investments may in fact contribute significantly to your carbon footprint. Divesting from fossil fuels can provide a double whammy by reducing your personal climate impact while simultaneously defunding the fossil fuel industry. Money re-invested in renewable energy projects can provide competitive returns while leading to further decarbonisation.
Simple, isn’t it? Reduce your demand for energy in transportation and home heating, and switch as much as you can to electric. Eat a plant-based diet with local, seasonal produce. Divest from fossil fuels. That is all it takes to lead a near zero carbon lifestyle. Achievable? Absolutely. Easy? Maybe not without some government policy changes and incentives. So here is the last ingredient: let your political leaders know that climate change is a concern and that you would like to see more climate action. We CAN do it!
By: Heather McDiarmid
Photo Credit: Evie Shaffer, Unsplash
14 Jun 2017
by Mary Jane Patterson, Executive Director
Drumroll please: We are just past the halfway mark in our Climate Action plan for Waterloo Region, and the results are in:
- Our emissions have gone down by 5.2% – great news! And getting closer to our target of 6% below 2010 levels by 2020, if we can keep it up.
- Most of the heavy lifting was done by the province, by closing down the coal generating stations. So what was the impact of our local actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Without the province’s changes, our local emissions would have gone up by 4.4%. Wrong direction!
- But taken in context, we have made progress locally. During that same time period, our economy grew by 14% and our population by 5.7 %. Our local actions meant that emissions did not grow at the same rate – we separated emissions growth from population and economic growth. This is an important step forward.
The most concerning information we see in the Progress Report is the growth in emissions from transportation. During the time period of 2010 to 2015, vehicle ownership in Waterloo Region grew at twice the rate of population growth. Transportation emissions now make up 49% of our carbon footprint, and they’re continuing to grow. That is our biggest challenge as a community going forward.
3 ways to reduce your carbon footprint
Here’s three ways each of us can do to reduce our own carbon footprint and help us reach our target as a community:
- Pick one thing related to our daily/weekly routine that could reduce emissions, and make it a new habit. It will cost little or nothing, and can make a big difference over time. The Progress Report has a list of actions we can all do for each focus area.
- Make each new purchase for your home, vehicle or workplace a transformational one. The kind of thing that means without thinking, your normal daily activities are now lower in carbon emissions. Appliances, lighting, vehicles – all of these purchases have long lasting impacts, and by choosing well at the time we buy, we can significantly reduce the emissions they create throughout their lifetime.
- Step out of our comfort zone and speak up on this issue. Let politicians and others know this matters to us, to support them in making decisions that look ahead for generations in our community.
In fact, there’s an opportunity to have our say and to hear what our community could look like in the future, coming up.
Community engagement kicks of June 22
Join us on June 22 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Our Progress, Our Path event as we kick off several months of community engagement on visioning our long-term path to reducing emissions. Join the conversation, and hear from 2 or 3 speakers about the big changes that we could adopt, or are adopting locally, and the impact they’ll have.
Let’s build on our success, together!
What excites me about the direction we’re going in with ClimateActionWR is that as a community we’re planning for the future we want, not the future that comes when you’re not paying attention. And that’s a future for sustainable living that builds prosperity and attracts talent to our community. The warm reception for our Progress Report at all three city councils and the Region demonstrated the political awareness and support we have in Waterloo Region for a low carbon economy, and the desire to do more. Let’s build on that together.