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Calculating my Contribution to the Environment

I was very surprised to learn, through viewing the Carbon Footprint website, that Canada is such a leader (in a bad sense) in Carbon emissions averages. My “carbon footprint” was very close to the industrialized nations average, but Canada’s totals were twice that. This is very alarming, as from my own consumption and resulting emissions as a by-product of that consumption, that it would take five additional planets to sustain this amount of harmful gases if everyone lived as I did.

When calculating in information, such as how far food and other packaged items were shipped (instead of being produced and sold locally), it was useful, personally to see subtle changes in buying behavior that could help the environment. The calculator, allowed for other factors to be considered in how to help the environment, as well. Many were surprising, such as the purchase of used clothing, rather than new apparel, which would require less production and shipping.

I thought that I was doing well in this sense and others and I was shocked at my energy use, as I take public transportation and do so infrequently. I, also, do not ride motorbikes or fly that often. But, even despite that, my energy use from home appliances made the “footprint” much larger than it should be for a sustainable environment. Knowing all of this, makes the environmental impact of our consumption and travel habits more personal. Many people in Canada and elsewhere in the world do not even realize the potential harm that they are doing.

Once armed with this information, however, it is our duty to both change our unnecessary habits related to energy use and to inform others of the small, but significant steps one can take to make a positive and not a negative footprint on the earth. Recycling is yet another example of a small step to a better planet. Re-using items, rather than throwing them away is a very humanitarian and eco-friendly act. Buying and donating used items can help limit the amount of constantly manufactured goods in factories that emit very high levels of CO2.

If there was less of a demand for these goods, then this would definitely be a step in the right direction. Similarly, as mentioned before, buying produce and other items that are grown or raised locally is one way to help limit the transport of goods and the lower the emissions from the transporting vehicles. Many groups help to create this type of awareness and, although, using word of mouth encouragement to our colleagues and family can help (as the website shows the impact that even one person can make on our planet), others go a step further.

Eco Action Canada provides a host of online information about such topics as acquiring grant money to create a more energy efficient home. This idea is of special interest to myself, personally, as most of the CO2 I was using per year came from propane and other types of energy sources used in the home. Obviously, any initiatives to help homeowners design a less harmful system of operating their energy sources is very beneficial. In conclusion, I was very interested to learn about how much of an impact one person can make on his or her environment.

One can make the planet a better or worse place and when one is given the gift of knowledge, it is up to them to use it appropriately. People need to stop being so self-centered and be centered around saving the planet both for ourselves and for the coming generations. It is, also, our duty to speak up about what we know and start to take steps in leaving a positive footprint on our world by leaving it a better place than what we inherited.

References

Carbon footprint website. Available at: http://www. carbonfootprint. com/. Defining the Problem, Episode One (Video).Available at: http://www. knowledgenetwork. ca/globalwarning/index. html. Government of Canada’s EcoAction website. Available at: http://www. ecoaction. gc. ca/index-eng. cfm. Oreskes, N. (2004). Beyond The Ivory Tower: The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change. Science, 306(5702):1686. Available at: http://www. sciencemag. org/cgi/content/full/306/5702/1686 . Shellenberger, M. & Nordhaus, T. (2005). The Death of Environmentalism: Global Warming Politics in a Post-environmental World. Available at: http://www. grist. org/news/maindish/2005/01/13/doe-reprint/.

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