Why does the earth need “saving”?
The earth’s resources such as fresh water, soil and land are finite – there is a fixed amount of each. Also, the earth has a fixed rate at which it can absorb waste and pollution, and still rejuvenate. But as world population continues to increase and our level of consumption climbs, the earth’s resources are under increasing pressure to support us.
In their Living Planet Report 2010, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) found that we are using the earth’s resources at a rate 50% faster than the earth can produce them, and releasing more carbon dioxide than ecosystems can absorb. This is clearly unsustainable. Unless we change our behaviour, we will soon destroy our own life support system.
Discover your own impact
Find out how your lifestyle is impacting the planet’s resources by calculating your ecological footprint at http://myfootprint.org. You will find out how many “earths” would be needed if everyone lived the way you do. The ideal rating is one earth – because that’s all we have. The results will also show you specifically which areas of your lifestyle need attention.
10 ways you can live more sustainably
Recycling saves energy and water, and stops materials taking up landfill space and polluting. Put an extra bin next to your throw-away bin, and remember to rinse out any food containers to avoid maggots and smells.It’s amazing how much can actually be recycled: cans, glass, paper and several types of plastic can all be melted down and re-used.
#2: Walk or cycle more, drive less
You’ll have to plan your itinerary a bit more carefully, but walking or cycling will reduce your carbon emissions, save you money, and improve your health. If you can, choose to work, gym, shop or eat out near to where you live. If it’s too far to walk, use public transport or share lifts. Why not implement car-free Sundays?
#3: Be energy efficient
In SA, electricity is predominantly made from burning coal, a non-renewable fossil fuel that releases large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Switch to renewable energy as far as possible, choose energy efficient appliances, and switch lights or plugs off when not in use.
#4: Be water wise
SA is a water scarce country; we only receive half of the world’s average rainfall, so we need to use our water resources more efficiently. Save water by showering instead of bathing, installing a low-flow showerhead, using grey water to flush toilets or water plants, and capturing rain water to use on site.
#5: Eat less meat
Meat is a far more resource-intensive form of protein compared to plant-based options. For example, producing 1kg of beef requires up to 100 000 litres of water, whereas 1 kg of soya only requires up to 2 200 litres. A 2011 article in the New Scientist suggests that an eco-friendly diet means we shouldn’t be eating more than 80 to 85g of red and white meat (or one burger and one chicken fillet) every three days.
#6: Support local farmers
At a farmers’ market you will be able to buy local, seasonal and organic produce. This type of produce has a lower carbon footprint than food shipped over long distances and/or farmed using unsustainable methods. You’ll also be supporting local jobs rather than international corporations.
#7: Buy smart
Excessive consumption is one of the major causes of unsustainable resource use today. Yet studies have shown that after our basic needs have been met, buying does not make us much happier. So, buy only what you really need. If you can fix it, rent it, or borrow it from a friend or family member, even better. Also, think about buying second hand, and choose items that will last a long time. Avoid disposable products as far as possible.
#8: Grow indigenous
Improve biodiversity by removing invasive alien plants and re-planting with indigenous varieties. They will use less water and attract indigenous wildlife back into the area, besides being far less “fussy” to look after. If your home or workplace doesn’t have much space, think about planting a rooftop garden or even a simple vertical garden against a sunny wall.
#9: Be conscious of family size
Although many might think the choice of family size is a personal matter, there is just no way around the fact that the strain on limited natural resources is due in large part to increasing population. Population growth needs to stabilise, meaning that two parents are replaced by two (biological) children. This does not necessarily mean your family has to be limited to four – if you desire a larger family and have the means to support them, consider adoption. There are many abandoned or vulnerable children in South Africa who desperately need a loving home.
#10: Get involved
Don’t let the change stop at you. Take the initiative and implement sustainable practices at work or within your community group. Encourage your friends, colleagues and children to live more sustainably and give them tips from your experience. It’s going to take action from all of us to help heal the earth.
Published on Jacarada FM’s website on 2 April 2012