The direct impact of your daily life
How getting ready for work directly impacts myself, other people and the environment
- I wake up in the morning and drag myself into the kitchen and put on a full kettle of water to boil.
- I trudge down the hall and throw myself into the abyss of the shower.
- I wash, shampoo, scrub and take a quick doze under the hot steam.
- I make my way back to the kitchen as the kettle whistle screams at me.
- I pour the water into my coffee press and take a few sips as I slowly come to life.
Not 15 minutes have gone by and yet it's enough for a snapshot of my impact on the environment and people around me.
- I could have filled the kettle only as much as I needed, taking half as long to boil. I probably could have cut down my shower time. This would have taken half the energy, and burned half as much coal to create that electricity, and created half as many polluting emissions from the coal, that is given off into the air and affecting air quality.
- I could have used natural soaps and shampoos that ultimately go down the drain and into a nearby river, lake or ocean. What goes down the drain affects the water quality, as well as the fish living in it and the people living by it.
- My coffee could have been fair-trade - the farmer who grew the beans could have earned a fair wage. My coffee could have been shade grown, meaning the forest around the coffee tree was kept intact, maintaining the biodiversity of the area.
We can go for days, if not weeks, without having to think beyond the sidewalks or building walls of the city. We can live our lives without ever having to see how the things we buy or eat made it to the store shelves, or where our garbage drains or sink drains lead to. In fact, some of us do live this way. It's no wonder that it takes so much effort to learn about environmental issues - we are so far removed from it.
How does going to work directly impact the environment, myself and others?
- I'm late, again. I forego the subway and hail a taxi, again.
- I get out one block early so I can run into the corner café and grab a muffin and, what the hell, one more coffee - to go.
- I sit at my desk all morning, busy in a flurry of phoning, emailing and printing reports.
- The only time I got up was to grab a bottle of water from the vending machine downstairs.
- Finally lunch rolls around and my coworkers and I decide that Tuesday is as good as any day to order a pizza in for lunch - pepperoni it is.
EASY! You just need to change these habits to make a large positive difference
- If I prioritized getting out the door on time, I could have made the subway and eliminated the extra emissions from driving in the taxi, reducing both air pollution and an added bit to the gases adding to climate change.
- I could have grabbed the muffin in just a napkin and the coffee in my to-go mug, eliminating the need to create garbage with the muffin bag and throw-away coffee cup, which are thrown in the garbage, shipped to the dump, processed and buried under the ground, releasing greenhouse gas emissions as they rot and taking up natural land space.
- I could have printed my reports on post-consumer recycled paper, eliminating the need for trees to be cut down for my printing. I could have printed double-sided, cutting the amount of paper I used in half.
- I could have a refillable water bottle at my desk at all times, eliminating my need to buy bottled water, which uses 3 bottles worth of water for every one bottle produced, and eliminating the need to produce more packaging and deal with the extra garbage or recycling.
- I could have bought lunch from the market or brought food from home, eliminating the garbage produced from ordering take-out and emissions from the delivery of it.
- We could have at least ordered cheese or vegetarian pizza, since meat takes so much energy to produce - all the energy that goes into the crops that feed the animals makes up 20% of the emissions driving climate change. If I cut meat out of my diet entirely, it would have the same impact as if I gave up my car for a hybrid.
Climate change and the slew of environmental issues that we hear about are caused by peoples' choices - my choices, your choices. This also means that the onslaught of environmental solutions only needs the support given by the choice of the people - my choice, your choice. These small choices hardly impact your daily lifestyle and standard of living.
Tracing where my your products come from, or where they go when I'm finished with them, is a clear way to link my life to my impact on the people and environment around me. I haven't made my life perfect, but I have made it better.
From one 15-minutes to the next, it's up to me - and it's up to you.