Reduce--This is probably my biggest goal. I have cut back considerably but recently signed up for the Yahoo Group Riot for Austerity, 90% Emissions Reduction Project and apparently have a long way to go. I'm not sure what they propose is readily possible for a city or burb dweller. This group has the simple goal to reduce what we use by 90%. Here are the austere goals they have in mind to save the planet followed by my own comments.
- 50 gallons per PERSON, per YEAR
- 1,100 kWh per HOUSEHOLD, per YEAR
Heating and cooking energy:
- If your home uses propane or natural gas, 100 therms per HOUSEHOLD, per YEAR
- If your home uses heating oil, 75 gallons per HOUSEHOLD, per YEAR.
- If your home uses locally and sustainably harvested wood: Unlimited
- If your home uses unsustainably harvested wood, 5 cords per HOUSEHOLD, per YEAR
- 0.45 pounds of garbage per PERSON, per DAY
I should mention that it is only because landfills are essentially buried and sealed off from the air that biodegradable waste is an issue. It is my understanding this actually converts the decay into a greenhouse gas. and if the dumps were open air then the stuff would just rot on its own and not be an issue. However the volume of garbage we piggish Americans produce every day is more than can be left in the open. We actually truck and barge the stuff around looking for a place to put it. Read "Garbage Land." It is a real eye opener.
- 10 gallons per PERSON, per DAY
- $1,000 worth per HOUSEHOLD, per YEAR.
- Used goods count only ten percent of their purchase price (so you could buy $10,000 of used stuff).
- Used goods that were donated to Goodwill or the church rummage sale, etc, can be bought in unlimited amounts (since might otherwise just end up in landfill).
- No less than 70% of food purchases should be organic and be grown within 100 miles.
- No more than 25% of food purchases should be bulk, dry goods (flour, pasta, etc) from more than 100 miles away.
- No more than 5% of food purchases should be wet goods (meat, fruit, shampoo) from more than 100 miles away.
Mind you now, we all must meet these goals, every single person on the planet, to stop our self-destruction. I assure you most in developed nations are not that motivated. I do fear though that nature is much stronger than any of us, and always seeks a balance to force sustainability. We have mickey moused around with nature so much, eventually it is going to strike back. And then, we will have no choice but to make these changes. Forget the Alamo. we should all remember the dust bowl of Oklahoma and the potato famine of Ireland instead.
Reuse-This is a difficult one. Most of the crap we have now is not made to be fixed. For example, I have a small appliances I use daily to grind flax etc. The only parts that are sturdy are the contact parts. The rest is cheap plastic and over time that plastic is cracking, simply from age and vibration. When it finally cracks all the way the motor will be out of line with the shaft and that will cause it to wear out. Can I fix it? Well, if there were a place to buy parts I guess I could. But, there is no place to buy parts. When I was a kid there were small appliance repair shops, but not anymore. Now we just throw it away and buy another cheap one. Even the computer that sits on my desk that I use for writing this blog is mostly disposable. Hard drive crashed? Buy another one. CD not working, buy another one. No one fixes these things and then puts them back in. You just pop down to CompUSA and buy it again. Convenient, yes but right? Not really.
Recycle-Ah, I love this one. I have become really good at recycling. I have stuff stacked all over which I run to the recycling places on a regular basis. Most of my garbage gets recycled. Any batteries I use get recycled. Anything I can recycle gets recycled. I have become very aware.
This fall I am planning on completing the Master Recycler" program. Why? Because this is the jumping off place into awareness. If you can make people aware of complete recycling you can get them thinking about reducing and reusing too. I'm not talking about the yellow curbside box recycling. That in some ways is a cop out. I mean thinking about everything that can be recycled. Batteries, compost, clothing, old electronics, etc. Things that are not necessarily picked up at the curb but can still be recycled with just a little effort. If you can keep it out of the landfill, then do! It is much easier than one thinks. It just takes a little practice and it becomes second nature. So much so that when my wife and I attended a Sustainability Fair and were handed a sample in a plastic bottle we could not bring ourselves to throw it away in the trash. And guess what? The Sustainability Fair had no recycle bins. We both found that very weird.
Well, I have really rambled on this time. Check out the 90% project. I'm not sure it is attainable for everyone living in the middle of the burbs but it has some worthwhile goals to strive for. The link is over there to your right.