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WHAT:

We’re not all rich rich: certainly not as rich as the richest person in the world, Jeff Bezos. Nor are we rich enough to have entire seasons of reality television dedicated to our families (that’s the Kardashians). But that doesn’t mean that our lifestyles aren’t unsustainable. Because of the system we live in, just by living the way we do, living as per normal, and living business as usual, we can end up having pretty sizeable impacts, and chalking up a pretty big carbon footprint. It starts with the smallest things that you probably never thought made an impact: how you dispose of your waste, the type of produce you buy, and even how you clean. 

WHY:

According to Dr. Jonathan Foley, executive director of Project Drawdown, to reengineer our society away from fossil fuels and rapidly decline our emission levels, we need action on multiple levels. It’s the government and industries, but it’s also us as individuals, households, and communities. We need to change our lifestyles, an action that is also inevitably tied up with leveraging our power as citizens and households to change the system. 

 

It’s simple: our lifestyles are unsustainable, and we can’t keep business-as-usual in our homes.

From the type of energy we use, to the amount of energy we consume, from how we manage our waste, to how we do our laundry: there are many places to start when it comes to cleaning up our homes and making it more sustainable. 

 

How do these choices connect to the wider issue of emission levels? A 2019 report titled “1.5-Degree Lifestyles” revealed that the “changes in consumption patterns and dominant lifestyles are a critical and integral part of the solutions package to addressing climate change.” The researchers found that there are clear opportunities for much-needed changes to move us towards lifestyles compatible with the 1.5°C targets. Now the question that remains is: will we do it?

HOW:

There are many ways to start reducing your emissions from your home. Unsurprisingly, the most effective kind of action you can take depends on where you are. However, there are a few guiding points that you can find from various reports. According to the “1.5-Degree Lifestyles” report, household resource consumption can be classified into six domains: nutrition, housing, mobility, consumer goods, leisure and services. From there, they concluded that there are several “hotspots of lifestyle areas”, including meat and dairy consumption, fossil-fuel based energy, and car use. Of the domains considered, then, nutrition, housing and mobility tend to have the largest impact on total lifestyle carbon footprints. 

 

This information was corroborated with a 2019 report to the UK government, for example, which found that shifts towards more plant-based diets, towards decarbonised homes with low-carbon technology, a “modal shift” to public transport (and lesser flights) will majorly cut emissions. Rightfully, the researchers point out that this is not just about consumers being given more information about the environmental cost of their actions (through a carbon tax and increasing the prices of carbon-intensive options), it’s also about the government enacting policy that helps push this forward. “These changes need not be expensive or reduce well-being,” the report concluded, “but they will not happen at the pace required unless policy first removes obstacles to change in markets and consumer choice.” 

 

What does all of this mean for us in practice? Practically speaking, this means we can begin by examining our own lifestyle choices, and making changes to reduce our household lifestyle footprint depending on what effects the most impact in our local context. But we also have to recognise that much of our changes are limited by policy: so we have to get involved in local organising or local climate groups to leverage change on that front too.

RESOURCES:

Elemental.Green – a digital media company whose website hosts countless tips and tricks for sustainable home renovation and appliances.

 

Constellation’s Energy Blog – a blog run by Exelon that primarily has tips on efficient energy consumption, but also includes other sustainability pointers.

 

Australian Government Guide – the tips here are targeted at an Australian audience but can actually be applied anywhere in the world!

 

Conserve Energy Future – their Green Living section provides suggestions for ways to make your home greener and more sustainable.

 

Report: “1.5-Degree Lifestyles: Targets and options for reducing lifestyle carbon footprints”

“The four lifestyle choices that most reduce your carbon footprint”

“What lifestyle changes will shrink your carbon footprint the most?”

Project Drawdown

#LittleGreenSteps:

  • Close all windows and doors when the AC is on to maximize its efficiency. On cooler days or when possible, use a fan instead of the AC.
  • Use LED light bulbs.
  • Open curtains and use natural light when possible.
  • Use natural cleaning products instead of products containing chemicals.
  • Choose energy-efficient appliances. Invest in low-carbon houses and equipments like heat pumps and insulation.
  • Buy local produce instead of imported products, and unpackaged vegetables. Cut servings of meat, processed products, etc.
  • Reduce and compost food waste and separate recycling. Reuse glass jars and pots. Reduce your trash output overall.
  • Collect cold water from the shower in a bucket, which can be used later to mop, water plants, feed pets, clean, etc.
  • Use a fuel-efficient car, carpool when possible, take public transport more often
  • Change your source of electricity to renewable sources, install solar panels at your home
  • Line-dry laundry loads instead of machine drying. Wash with cold water.
  • Get involved with on the ground climate groups to galvanise businesses and governments to do more to change the lifestyle infrastructure of your town, city or country.

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