Did you know that toasting your bread every day, whether for your breakfast or a light snack – puts about 20 pounds of carbon into the atmosphere every year? That’s the size of my old roomate’s large orange cat, Murph, per person.
Industry, agriculture and transportation are guilty of the largest carbon emissions on the planet, but it’s shocking how the little things, like the toaster and other home appliances can also contribute to climate change.
In life, it is often the little things that count. If we all waited for government to control carbon emissions, not only would we be pathetically passive, it would also take away the ability that we each have to make a difference, one piece of toast at a time. It has to start with individual action. Not only will it make you feel good, you will be helping to make positive change.
Listing the various ways that one can reduce their ecological footprint is a fun and easy exercise. Dozens of websites have produced various ways of calculating how big your individual impact is, with recommendations on reducing it.
The footprint concept, which measures how much we consume and the waste that it generates, is the love-child of the Brundtland report, which also popularized the concept of sustainability.
Sustainable development was first coined during the Brundtland Commission as that which “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This description is vague and has received a lot of criticism, but it provided a crucial turning point in the discussion about our impact on Earth’s resources.
Many of the big drivers of environmental action and change have adopted this concept in some fashion. The David Suzuki Foundation introduced the David Suzuki Nature Challenge, which offers ten simple things to do that instantly reduces your ecological footprint. Eating meat-free at least once a week, using alternative transportation instead of solely relying on your car, using incandescent light-bulbs, air-drying you laundry and bringing re-usable bags to the grocery store are some of Suzuki’s suggestions.
Rick Mercer used the footprint concept and the climate crisis to launch the Canadian government’s One Tonne Challenge in 2004. It was a push in the education sector to raise awareness of Canadian greenhouse gas output and the impact this would have on the planet. The challenge was for Canadians to reduce this output by one ton every year in an effort to meet the standards set out by the Kyoto protocol.
The government’s suggestions echoed Suzuki’s: using public transportation, lowering the thermostat, idling cars less, better insulating the home, using energy logo appliances, composting and recycling regularly and so on.
To save the world, this will not be enough, but it’s a start and movement in the right direction. Start today and don’t look back.
Groups of youth in the United States are well aware of all of these basic steps to a greener world. Knowing that it simply isn’t enough, they formed coalitions to pressure the government into taking real action on climate change and our impact on Earth’s finite resources. One momentous, energizing and change-making annual event is Power Shift, which has now caught on in Canada.
Clearly a group of innovative thinkers, the change makers at powershift organize conferences, choreographed demonstrations and addresses to the government asking for the tools to survive in a rapidly climate-changing world. Green jobs, clean energy and avoiding environmentally profiled racism are the backbone of Power Shifters.