5 Ways to Help the Planet While Stuck at Home…

Are you going crazy yet? If you’re stuck at home (for a GOOD reason), and potentially loosing your mind, you are in good company. I miss people. I miss the option of going out. I miss hand washing being optional (obviously kidding).

But staying home is giving some time to get things done around the house. Perhaps you are trying new recipes, decluttering that forgotten closet, or learning how to knit to pass the time. I have begun to learn to use my sewing machine, and attempting to crochet some “slippers” for our kitchen table chairs.

Our home, our hub, our refuge. This place plays a vital role in reducing our environmental impact, but often I forget that I can make a difference with some simple changes around the home. I often thought that in the grand scheme of things it wouldn’t make much a difference if I left a light on or left my appliances plugged in. But then I thought of a saying I heard not that long ago, “it’s just one take-out coffee cup….said 1 million people.” It’s easy to forget that collectively we hold the power to make big changes, much more than just us as individuals. If collectively we all started to refuse take-out coffee cups, imagine the giant impact this would make! And it’s the same with all other “small” decisions.

So on that note, here are 5 areas you can tackle while being at home:

  1. Household emissions
    • Turn off that light
    • Unplug that appliance
    • Turn down the thermostat
    • Do less laundry
  2. Drive less
  3. Meal plan & consume less meat
  4. Switch to reusables
    • Cleaning rags
    • Facial tissue
    • Toilet paper
  5. Buy local

…..

Household Emissions

Did you know that 19% of the total CO2 emissions (2015) in Canada is produced by Canadian households? That includes emissions released when using fuels for transportation, home heating, & electricity.

The lights we have on, the appliances we have running, and what we use to heat & cool our homes all use energy that burns carbon dioxide into our atmosphere.

Collectively, turning our lights off when we are not using them, switching to LED lights, using our appliances as little as possible, and turning the thermostat down lower even 1 degree has an impact on the pollution households are responsible for.

How you do laundry can also help to reduce your household emissions by:

  • Washing your clothing less frequently (my rule: no spills & no smell under the arms, I wear it again!),
  • Considering hand washing your clothes,
  • Using shorter wash cycles & using cold water cycles,
  • Only washing your clothes if you have a full load, and
  • Hang drying your clothing.

There are a LOT of kitchen products and appliances, and of course marketing is designed to make you believe that they are a necessity, or that it will make your life much more convenient. In reality, they may partially help, but most likely not an essential. Often they sit on our counter or in our cupboard collecting dust until we dispose of it. So, before buying that kitchen appliance, ask yourself:

  • Do I need this?
  • How often will I use it?
  • Will it help reduce the energy I produce (example: toaster oven) overall, or will it increase my household energy?
  • Is there another way that does not require this appliance?

Drive Less

Okay, so this is an obvious one as overall there is much less traffic on the roads since we are required to stay home. But if you are getting antsy at home and wanting to get out of the house, consider taking a walk, riding your bike, or just sitting on your front porch instead of taking a drive.

Transportation is one of the fastest growing sectors of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Globe&Mail).

“Light-duty vehicles (read: cars) produce more than four times the GHG emissions of all domestic aviation, according to Canada’s 2019 national greenhouse gas inventory. If you include light-duty vehicles and light-duty trucks – so, cars, pickups, SUVs and smaller vans – they account for nearly half of all GHG emissions from the transportation category. Heavy-duty vehicles, such as 18-wheelers and larger pickup trucks, make up the other big chunk, at 35 per cent. Railways account for 3.8 per cent of the category, while motorcycles contribute 0.2 per cent.” (Globe&Mail).

Check out the Globe & Mail article to read about which vehicles are worse for CO2 emissions, which is quite surprising. If you are in the market to buy a new vehicle, ensure you do your research on what is more efficient.

Meal Plan & Consume Less Meat

I believe meal planning is an under appreciated action step in reducing our waste. Taking an hour or less weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly will help ensure that all items you are purchasing will get used, and lessen your need to buy quick packaged goods. During this time of isolating at home, it has the potential added benefit of reducing the amount of visits to the grocery store or another take-out food location due to not having an idea what dinner will be. Win, win!

Globally we consume 315 million tonnes of meat every year. The amount eaten per person has doubled in the last 50 years, and it is anticipated this will continue to significantly increase in the next 20 years. Raising livestock has a higher carbon output than vegetables, fruits & grains, and these animals release carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide into our atmosphere.

Becoming vegetarian can save 0.8 tonnes of carbon emissions per year per person.

“As global meat consumption increases, so does its climate impact. Livestock production accounts for 70 per cent of all agricultural land use, occupies 30 per cent of the planet’s land surface and is responsible for 18 per cent of greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide. Growing animals for food is also inefficient. It takes about five to seven kilograms of grain to produce one kilogram of beef. Each of those takes energy and water to produce, process, and transport” (David Suzuki).

My family has started reducing our meat consumption. We have begun having at least 2 meals per week without meat, and reducing the quantity of meat we put in the other meals. Meal planning has significantly helped me to reduce our meat intake as it gives me time to research vegetarian meals, and ensure that what I am making will be enjoyed and consumed (my toddler is quite picky these days!).

If you need some inspiration, check out this vegan family’s recipes & weekly meal plans!

Switch to Reusables

Rags, facial tissue & toilet paper….

Now is the time to try giving up paper towel, napkins, and maybe even toilet paper. We have been using rags for a while now, and being a cloth diaper mom I have definitely felt less stress about getting my hands on paper towel and toilet paper during this pandemic. We have saved some old clothes to use as repurposed fabric, and I have been cutting them up to use to clean (wipe surfaces, dust, clean dishes, wipe up spills), as facial tissue/table napkins, and potentially toilet paper should we come to that. The only extra personal energy required is to remember to throw them in with your laundry load.

Check out this video of a family of 4 that uses cloth as toilet paper!

Buy Local

Our economy will be impacted by this pandemic more than we can currently fathom right now. Buying local will not only support those small businesses owned by your neighbours during this difficult time, it will put money back into your local economy.

It will also reduce your overall indirect household emissions. “The average meal travels 1,200 kilometres from the farm to plate. Food grown closer to home produces fewer transportation emissions, is fresher and supports local farmers. As the distance food travels decreases, so does the need for processing and refrigeration to reduce spoilage” (David Suzuki).

Grow your own…

It’s Spring, the perfect time to consider growing your own food, which is as local as you can get. Trust me, there is nothing more satisfying than going out to your garden to pick the ingredients you need for dinner. Now is a great time to give gardening a try to grow your own produce! Click the “follow” button at the bottom of this page to stay tuned in to hear from some amazing guest bloggers who are gardening in the city!

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