In Saskatoon, early August, we had a torrential rain storm that flooded basements. Since then we’ve had almost no rain. As I write this, hurricanes are ripping through Central America and the southern United States. Meanwhile fires rage through British Columbia, Alberta, and the western United States. This summer, unfathomable heat was killing people and crops in India, only to be followed by strong cyclones across India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. Someone needs to take action on climate change.
Regular readers of my column will know that the “someone” I’m referring to is “us.” It’s you and me. I think that we all want to do our part but sometimes we just don’t know what to do. That is the point of this column. It is about things you and I can do to reduce our energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. For the next several issues each column will be about how you can audit the energy or water consumption in your home (or office, or church, or…) and make some changes. To audit means to check something out to see what is happening.
You don’t often hear me talking about waste in this column (it is ENERGY Conservation Corner, after all) but waste is also an energy issue. It takes energy and water to extract resources, then manufacture, market, and transport products. When we throw out a product, we are effectively throwing out all the energy and water embodied in that product. For every kilogram of regular household waste we put in the landfill, 1.3 kilograms CO2e of greenhouse gas emissions are created.
For the first audit in this series, I thought we should start with an audit that is straightforward, and highly visible: waste it is!
Take a bag and hang it from your belt for a day (or a few days). Each time you produce
a piece of garbage, put it in the bag on your belt. At the end of the day, look at what is in your bag, and think about what could have happened instead: Does your bag contain a disposable coffee cup, unwanted clothing, paper towel, empty containers, or spoiled food?
There are lots of variations on this activity:
- You can use a disposable plastic bag; or a reusable cloth one (which you wash after).
- You likely want to exclude bathroom garbage and messy kitchen garbage.
- If you are pretty good at the waste minimization thing, maybe you want to include things you would have thrown in the recycling.
I was talking to my neighbor the other day and she said, “Now that we have city recycling and compost pickup, we hardly have any garbage.” That is certainly the experience at our house. With three adults, we produce one or two grocery bags a week of garbage. That doesn’t include what we produce at work.
Now that you know what you are putting in your garbage, make some changes: use a reusable mug, donate unwanted clothing, use a rag, recycle containers or buy in bulk, and do better grocery planning. Then hang a bag from your belt again to see what you need to tackle next.
Hopefully, this audit, and the rest in the series, will help you make changes. If you learn something and you want to share, or if you have questions, you can always contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’d love to hear about your successes!