My Ecological Footprint and What We Can All Do to Lower It
Hi! My name is Jovita (Ho-v-tuh) I decided to make my first blog post about myself and to come clean about how my lifestyle on Earth is far from sustainably acceptable. Becoming aware is the first step in making changes to your life. Before becoming a student at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) my ecological footprint (or ecology for that matter) wasn’t something that I was conscious about. Of course, nobody wants to hear about another animal becoming extinct or abused and sure, I had learned things from my parents like turning off the lights after I leave a room (they would yell tienes un cola? [do you have a tail?] at me whenever I didn’t), don’t waste food and to recycle. But I had thought of these habits as a way to save money like not using our heater or even to make money by recycling cans. Don’t get me wrong, as a college student and generally just a person living in the United States at this time I am all for saving and making money, but after taking environmental classes (one was literally titled “Earth In Crises”) I became overtaken with emotions-sadness, anger, and frustration for the irreversible and future damage humans have caused to our planet. As much as I want to write an angry post about the oil barons and corporations that are leading us into a point of no return (I’ll save that for another day) we can all make some changes in our life. In my classes we had to take a 27 question “Ecological Footprint Quiz” created by the Center for Sustainable Economy that calculated how many Earths would be required to sustain your consumption patterns and absorb your wastes on an annual basis if every person lived your lifestyle. With the information I’ve learned since then I decided to take the quiz again and see what I can do to lower my footprint in a way that works for both the planet and myself. Therefore, I (and lets face it, most of us) need to be able to do it CHEAP.
The first time I took the quiz two months ago the number of earths it said I needed was 5 (I was shocked myself, but my professor told us one girls was over 30 in another class!!!!). The questions deal with household fixtures, modes of transportation and how often you use them, energy saving features and habits, recycling habits and your food imprint. As my results began to calculate as much as I could wish my number of earths would be 1 I couldn’t help but laugh at the thought that I had become an environmental role model in two months especially when only a few of my answers had changed. The quiz generated multiple graphs for me to look at and I was not wrong:
Hold your applause. I know what you’re thinking, I am such a good person I lowered my planets a whole .1!!! But sadly I can’t accept your praise knowing I could personally ruin over 4 planets (and then I get scared imagining what the results would be for other groups of people or celebrities who carelessly fly private jets all over the world as if their carbon emissions aint no thang).
What We Can All Do to Lower Our Footprint
This part of the quiz was frustrating to me because being a student at UCSB I have few options available to me as to where I choose to live. I live in Isla Vista and rent a 2 bedroom 1.5 bathroom duplex with 4 girls (and my pug Obi Wan Kanobi) that looks and operates like it was built in the 70’s, oh and I pay 580$ to share half of a small room. And believe it or not, this is cheap for my college town. Therefore, my landlords choose the energy sources I use like natural gas, propane, and electricity. And I can assure you the last thing on their mind is installing solar panels, and putting extra insulation to keep us warm at night. So, until I am financially stable enough and own my own home I am most likely going to continue living in an apartment that is cheap and run by a landlord. If you own your own home, or rent from someone that lets you manipulate the house, here are some tips to help save energy in your home (and even money!).
- Choose Green Electricity Utilities: Many utilities give you the option to purchase electricity generated by alternative energy for a small price. Some of the products you own might already have energy saving features like your refrigerator so after you read this check out your appliances to help lower your bills and your footprint.
- Choose efficient appliances, like low flow showerheads, faucets, and toilets.
- Extra insulation and Insulating blinds: My walls must be made out of paper or something because it feels like my house is 10 degrees during the winter, but adding insulation to your house will help regulate the temperature during the seasons and will lower your electricity and gas bills when you don’t have to crank the heater or air conditioner as much (or at all).
- Solar lights/Panels: All the natty light cans on the block aren’t going to pay for panels, but they are going to be the first things I put in my house. For those of you that are financially able to already commit to this kind of green living, solar panels are easy to install, proven reliable and effective, and can be installed for as low as 1000$ or less, contrary to what most Americans believe. They are a step in living a zero carbon household and as long as the sun keeps shining it is likely to produce revenue right away, and to keep producing it. Therefore, its an inve$tment!!!!!!!
Modes of Transportation
On the quiz I estimated that with small road trips and daily tasks, along with driving home from Santa Barbara I travel 17000 miles by automobile and fly 1000 miles annually. And disappointingly, I don’t utilize public transportation as often as I should because I can’and will in the future. Tips:
- Flying is not only expensive but is one of the worse things we are doing to our planet because of how often we do it and the emissions it releases, so when you have to go some place far take the train or bring friends along for a road trip.
- Invest in a hybrid or electric car: I drive a silver, dented, 1996 Honda civic and yes, it’s as beautiful as it sounds, but when I graduate I want to scour craigslist for a used electric car. Remember, cars are one of the worst investments because the second you drive it, it begins to lose its value until it dies. When you have to drive, owning a vehicle like this can save you money on gas, and is a MAJOR way you can lower your personal carbon emissions. Oh, and don’t forget to always try and carpool!!
- And of course: Walk, Bike and take public transportation whenever it is safe and available. You can make new friends! And if you don’t want to make friends just stick some headphones and nod your head back in forth even if you’re not listening to music.
-Mini tip: Stop taking the drive thru and letting your car run idle for more then 30 seconds. Park, and walk inside!
Energy and Water saving features and habits
- Unplug your electronics when not in use and use a power strip. This will take you 2 seconds to do, probably as long as we look at one Instagram picture.
- Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs. The common light bulb is not only a product of planned obsolescence but fluorescent bulbs last longer and can save over 5 times the purchase price in electricity. (You can even find these at the Dollar Tree!)
- Dry your clothes outside whenever possible.
- Unless you’re taking a bulldozer to the Amazon rainforest, it’s okay to use some trees. Use your chimney or buy a portable fireplace for a fun and cozy way to keep the house warm during winter.
- Take shorter showers-this not only saves water, but the energy necessary to heat it.
- Make your own compost instead of running the dishwasher
- Only use the laundry machine when its full.
One of the easiest ways to lower your footprint is by utilizing your curbside recycling service. Here are things you can recycle and if they have a CRV you can take them to a recycling center in your town and get some extra ca$h back:
- Cardboard boxes
- Cereal boxes
- Notebook papers
- Milk Jugs
- Plastic soda/Water bottles
- Detergent bottles
- Aluminum Cans
- Steel Cans
Use the free and for sale section in your cities Craigslist. Just be safe! Meet in a public place, bring the exact amount of cash, bring a friend and tell people where you’re going. You can find community events, free furniture, appliances, clothes, gardening supplies, and more.
Before you buy new clothes or furniture first, ask yourself “do I really need to replace or throw this away.” If the answer is yes, then take a trip to a few thrift stores before you go some place else and probably spend to much money. Not because Macklemore says its cool, (recycling has always been cool) but because there are some awesome steals!
Exhibit A: My go to thrift store is called Savers and every Halloween they have there own brand of costumes that are cheap and fun! This year, I found my Unicorn costume there for 30$ and in Santa Barbara I found JEFFREY CAMPBELL LITAS for 40$.
Exhibit B: I found this jacket at Savers for 5 bones and don’t you dare tell me it isn’t fabulous.
I am going to be honest; I am and will probably always be an omnivore. I’m not here to tell anyone to go vegan or vegetarian as awesome and healthy as those diets are. These canines are sharp and I would wrestle my own pug for a good steak but that doesn’t mean we can’t all eat more responsibly. Making the decision to become vegan or vegetarian can not only save you money and help you become healthier but it takes less land and energy to produce then meat and seafood which drive deforestation, animal abuse, and overfishing and comes with a high carbon footprint price tag. Regardless of how you choose to eat there are things we should all try to watch when shopping for food.
- Unless you live in a state that forces the labeling of genetically modified food products, you probably don’t know what is being scientifically put into your food. And eating organic is not as expensive as people think it is. Look up upcoming farmers markets, and flea markets in your town, or take a trip to your local Trader Joes it’s a fun way to get fruits and veggies and the staff always wants to help!
- Don’t waste food: Before you go food shopping plan your meals for the week and only buy what you need. If you have fruit that you know you’re not going to eat before it rots cut them and put them in freezer and use them to make delicious and healthy fruit smoothies. You can even freeze spinach!
I hope some of these tips are helpful. Take the quiz here to find your ecological footprint!
From me and Obi