Despite the claims of some right-wing politicians and media outlets, climate change is a very real threat to the future survival of humankind on Earth. The deal agreed in November 2014 between the U.S. and China to reduce carbon emissions is an important step on the part of influential political leaders to address the issue. However, the vested interests of the fossil fuel industry (and their strong ties and financial backing of right-wing political parties not only in the U.S. but also the UK and Australia) and political in-fighting within countries means that a truly global response to this most pressing of concerns still seems a long way off. Indeed, in Australia (a country, let us not forget, that will be at the forefront of changes to the climate, having already experienced drastic droughts and fires as a result – according to the vast majority of scientists – of global warning) the incumbent Liberal government has become the first Western nation to actually dismantle legislation intended to combat the man-made warming of the planet by repealing a tax on carbon emissions.
However, despite the frustrating lack of accord among the political classes, climate change is still being tackled on the individual level. Many people are taking it upon themselves to reduce their own impact on global warming. Here are some ways that everyone can help to combat climate change.
Use energy efficiently
It sounds simple, but the best way to reduce emissions of the greenhouse gases that are primarily responsible for climate change is to reduce the amount of energy we use. The cumulative effect of small changes in energy use can help reduce consumption. For instance, in the home, turn appliances off when you are not using them (rather than putting them on standby), change light bulbs to low-energy alternatives, and only run the washing machine when you have a full load. In the permaculture garden you can also use planting techniques to modify temperatures in buildings, by establishing a deciduous tree next to the house to provide shade, for example.
Get green energy
The vast majority of the energy we use is generated by the burning of fossil fuels. However, there are several different methods of generating energy from renewable sources, namely wind, solar, wave and geothermal. Increasing numbers of companies are recognizing that consumers want to be able to access green energy, and you should be able to find a green energy supplier in your local area to whom you can switch your energy supply. Alternatively, you can install green energy capture systems on your property to become more self-sustainable in your energy use. Consider installing solar panels or a wind turbine if your property is suitable. You may even be able to sell surplus energy to the municipal system.
Use water efficiently
It takes a lot of energy to treat, move and heat water for domestic use, so using it efficiently within your home is
water-21070_640another way of contributing to the fight against climate change. Besides developing water-aware habits, such as turning off the tap while you brush your teeth and only filling the kettle with as much water as you need, make sure all your water appliances, such as toilets and showers, are in good working order to avoid leaks and water wastage. As permaculturists, we seek to maximize the effectiveness of irrigation in the garden, and reusing household water, be it the liquid used to wash vegetables or a full greywater recycling system, can significantly reduce water use.
Whenever possible, use public transport rather than your car. Municipal mass transit systems are much less polluting than cars, and by utilizing them you indicate your support for your local authority to focus resources on improving and expanding them. For short journeys, walking will reduce your impact on the climate to zero, and give you a chance to exercise.
Sometimes, of course, you cannot avoid using the car, but there are steps you can take to ensure your impact on the environment when behind the wheel is kept to a minimum. The first thing is to make sure the vehicle is running at its most efficient. That means checking the components of the engine are all in good working order, that the air filter is not blocked, that the oil is at the correct level and is of the right grade, and that the tires are inflated to the ideal pressure. These help the car use less fuel, saving you money and minimizing the need for repairs. Once on the move, avoid harsh breaking and rapid acceleration, and try not to idle with the engine running for lengthy periods of time.
You can also look at combining activities so you only make one trip in the car – by doing the grocery run on the way home from work, for example, rather than taking a separate trip – and car-sharing, particularly if you have colleagues at the office who live near you.
Reduce your food miles – the energy required to grow, harvest, process, package and transport the food products you buy – by purchasing local, seasonal wholefoods. Food products that have not been processed with preservatives so they can be transported long distances are also better for you health-wise. Try to reduce the amount of meat and diary you eat. Estimates put the proportion of greenhouse gases caused by the production of meat and dairy products at 18 percent. Even going meat-free for just one day per week will have a significant impact on your contribution to greenhouse gas production.
The energy cost to recycle materials such as paper, glass and plastic is much lower than that required to manufacture new products. Whenever possible, use recycling schemes in your neighborhood, and if there isn’t one, lobby the local authorities to institute such a scheme. Composting your food waste reduces landfill and thus the greenhouse gases that leak from them. Take care of your belongings so that they last longer and you do not have to buy new products so regularly.