Are you looking for the maximum footprint reduction with minimal lifestyle change? Although I write about all the little – and big – things individual households can do to reduce their environmental footprint, I recognise that most people are probably not interested in wholesale change to the way they live. Not everyone is ready or wants to change their lifestyle significantly.
However, to save our planet from climate disaster, those of us who can, have a responsibility to do what is in our power to reduce the impact of our lifestyle on the Earth. Some of the most effective changes do require fundamental changes to our lifestyle. I believe, however, there are plenty of significant things we can each do without major disruption to our way of life.
What Actions Have the Greatest Impact?
A recent study at Lund University in Sweden has identified the four things that have the greatest impact on lowering one’s personal carbon footprint.
1. eating a plant-based diet
2. avoiding air travel
3. living car-free, and
4. having fewer children.
Buying Green Power and an electric vehicle were also high on the list.
The first four things listed above all have a significant impact on lifestyle. While many people are willing and able to make such changes to their lifestyle, I know there are many who are not. It got me thinking. What are some things we can do that have a high impact on reducing our carbon footprint and have a very low impact on our lifestyle? Two of them are mentioned above, opting-in to an accredited green power provider and buying an electric vehicle. Let’s look at some of the options in a bit more detail.
Minimal Lifestyle Change Carbon Actions
Generating your own power from the sunlight falling on your roof is fantastic. It isn’t feasible for everyone, however. Perhaps it is due to the outlay required or the fact you have no solar access. It is possible to opt-in to green power programs through most electricity providers. The small extra amount on your power bill will go toward investment in renewable energy sources.
While living car-free may be a worthy goal, it is usually not possible in the lifestyles we have already established. Cutting down on using fossil-fuel powered vehicles by walking or riding a bike can go some way to reducing emissions. Making your next car a green-powered electric vehicle, however, takes no lifestyle change.
We are all used to doing business virtually now, thanks to COVID. Let’s continue to use these tools to reduce the carbon cost of our work. Sometimes in-person meetings are necessary but very often they are not.
While travelling to overseas locations provides unique experiences, opportunities to learn about other cultures and increases cross-cultural understanding, it comes at a high environmental cost. When we can travel overseas again, I would like to see more of the world. However, swapping some overseas travel for more local options is a carbon-savvy decision. We each have so much natural wonder and incredible holiday opportunities on our own continent, I would argue that taking local holidays more often is not a significant impact on our lifestyle.
At first glance, changing one’s diet would appear to be a significant lifestyle change. Certainly, suddenly cutting out all animal products or even all meat might be overwhelming. However, eating one or two fewer meat meals each week, or even replacing the beef in those meals with lower impact chicken or pork, is a change that is not too big a stretch for most people. You may find, like we have, that you choose more and more vegetarian options as time goes by.
What I want to do in this blog post, is demonstrate that some very significant impacts can be made in reducing our carbon footprint by making changes that really don’t affect our day-to-day lives in any real way. Many families will be motivated to make significant lifestyle changes, such as changing the way they shop, reconsidering their consumption patterns or creating zero waste. Many others, however, while still being concerned about the future of our planet, do not see these as feasible steps. That need not preclude them from taking other very impactful actions such as those listed above.
“If everyone who has the means to do so takes concerted action to rid atmospheric carbon emissions from their lives, I believe we can stabilise and then save the cyrosphere.”Tim Flannery
The responsibility for the future of the Earth is in all our hands. As Tim Flannery said in The Weather Makers, if those of us who can take the actions available to use, we have a chance to save life on this planet. By opting for changes yielding maximum footprint reduction with minimal lifestyle change, I believe we can do this while enjoying a full and satisfying life, and grant this opportunity to future generations too.