The new books on display in the front of the library had an “Earth Day” in one section which grabbed my attention because it actually relates to my white paper theme of sustainability. The book I chose is called How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint: 365 Simple Ways to Save Energy, Resources, and Money by Joanna Yarrow. I think the title says it all.

I picked it because my studies in civil engineering made me realize the importance of sustainability and how we as people, Americans especially, disregard the effects our practices has on the environment. Although it is a struggle to change the macro systems of our society, there are such simple things we can do at home to minimize our carbon footprint. Being guilty myself, we have developed everyday bad habits that are just wasteful and lazy. There have been many” zero emissions” homes built around the world, even some communities. This is more expensive than our traditional homes, so if you cannot afford to help our environment out that way, I would suggest reading this book to learn the simple, easy things you could do to save energy, resources, and money!

The book is split up into ten chapters (besides the introduction and bigger picture concluding chapters) that address various components of our lives. They are: heating and cooling, electricity and electronics, cooking, washing and cleaning, gardening and D.I.Y. (do-it-yourself), shopping, children, work, leisure, and transportation. Flipping through the book I found some interesting facts that make you think deeper about something you would typically overlook: “Houses that don’t have air-conditioning typically use half as much energy as those that do,” and “Electronic appliances left in standby mode account for 5% of all domestic power consumption in the U.S., costing consumers $3.5 billion a year.” Other statistics I came across amazed me because it regarded things I do every day without thinking, like brushing my teeth, preheating the oven, and using other appliances inefficiently.

Today being Earth Day and all (April 22), I decided to look at the leisure chapter in the book, because I could guess what all the other chapters included. I wondered what this chapter could include seeing “Celebrations” as a subsection. This chapter was very interesting because it touched on the mundane behaviours/traditions we have that are wasteful. The amount of electricity we use on christmas lights is astounding. “The ingredients for a typical Christmas dinner travel up to 30,000 miles.” The wastefulness of wrapping paper is rediculous just to hide the present for a moment, to then later be ripped of in a few seconds. This tip made me think of an exercise that Professor Orsborn did with my marketing class last semester. He had us go through the life cycle of a toothpick – cradle to grave. It was absurd to see all the effort, energy, and transportation involved in getting a little piece of wood to a consumer so they can pick at their teeth for a few minutes, and then toss it away. All of this is typically free to the consumer; but imagine all of the wood used, all the fuel used on gas for transportation from the tree, to the manufacturer, to the distributor, to the restaurant, and all the money spent by these businesses to offer an immediate substitue for floss.  I would love to see a number placed on the effects that a toothpick’s lifecycle has on the environment for a mundane luxury that we all can live without.

This book does not only give easy tips that could help the envirnoment and yourself, but it also makes you aware of the effects of our every day lives. It gives you a sociological imaginative view of your habits, and how little changes could save our world.

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6 responses »

  1. Kate says:

    When I was abroad, I learned valuable lessons on sustainability. In Spain, the utilities are extremely expensive. After living in America where it is normal to leave your electrical devices plugged into the outlet all night, it took me several weeks to learn how to keep my computer unplugged after my battery was charged. My senora would always unplug it when I was at school or tell me (pretty much on a regular basis) to not put my computer in standby mode. This lifestyle most certainly made me aware of the energy that i was wasting. If Americans were more aware of the costs of our energy consumption ($3.5 billion dollars on domestic power consumption alone), I believe that it would bring positive changes to our every day habits.

  2. Sarah says:

    I feel like everyone should read a book or some sort of pamphlet on how to reduce our carbon emissions. There are so many little things that we could do to make a difference and reduce emissions and although the actions might be small, like remembering to turn off lights when we leave a room, they all add up to make a greater impact. The problem is that these small steps are not ingrained habits for many of us. I too am guilty of leaving the water running while I am doing my teeth sometimes or forgetting to turn off the heat when I leave the house for the day. I really think we could be using technology to our advantage to help reduce emissions further. For example lights in all houses should be motion sensitive so they turn off automatically after a period of time in case we forget.

  3. Jordi says:

    One of my favorite all time xmas presents came from my mother in law. After listening to me bitch about how I hate the work and waste of wrapping presents, she gave me a huge basket full of all kinds of shapes and sizes of cloth sacks and ribbons. Now I can simply reuse all of these. They look nice, it is easier, often, and no crazy paper waste. I think in Japan they often do this… maybe? Guessing on that one.

    The appliance,s you mean computers? You don’t mean refrigerators, microwaves and such, do you?

    • Hannah says:

      We do the same thing at my house for Christmas…we don’t wrap anything in boxes, paper of bows. Instead we use re-usable boxes that are Christmas themed that are thick and sturdy so they won’t crumble. I always saw it as my family just being too lazy to wrap presents, but I never saw it as us reducing our waste. Thanks for the insight.

  4. Mike says:

    You bring up a great point Jordi. I think having waste be more expensive, or have some monetary penal system to force people to watch the amount of waste they produce would benefit our society. It would change people’s habits and make them realize that once the garbage leaves your house, it has to go somewhere. When something is in our way, we throw it out. If we want to clean up a room quickly, we diregard recycling anything or identifying if the items could have more use out of them; we just throw it away. This is because it costs the same to put 3 bags of garbage on the street as opposed to one, and there are no awards for recycling or not having as much garbage on the street. It’s out of sight and out of mind once it leaves your house. Encouragement to do the right thing, or discouragement to not waste needs to be implemented in our system to change our impact on the environment – and I’m not talking about the 5 cent deposit system, because that helps nobody except the homeless survive longer…it actually just encourages most to throw recyclables out if a recycling bin is a few steps farther away.

    One experiment I would think would be cool is if a whole community would stop garbage and recycling collection for a few weeks. I would like to see how people would react even when they know in advance that this will be happening. Would they still throw the same amount of garbage in bags and just store them in their garage until collection started again? Would they be more conscious of what they throw away? Would they reuse things or make the most out of everything they use? A study on how people’s habits would change would be beneficial to modifying our garbage/recycling system.

    I like the reusable wrapping cloths you mentioned, I’ve never heard of that. And I did not know what the book meant on appliances.I too just thought of computers when I heard “stand-by”. I wonder if they suggest unplugging microwaves and coffee pots when not using them. There are enough clocks in a kitchen, so wasting energy on keeping the clocks on them going might be also included in the book’s statistic. But how much energy could that really be using anyway?

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