12 ways to go from grey to green.

This World Environment Day let us begin to make amends to this wondrous home of ours by embarking on this simple 12 step program to become more Eco-friendly.

1. Make a commitment

Reducing your carbon footprint is no different from any other task. Telling people you will reduce carbon emissions may seem simplistic, but even simple actions like announcing your commitment to go carbon neutral can be effective, while the simple act of asking for ideas can lead to creative and innovative solutions.

2. Assess where you stand

It is likely that carbon will eventually be judged as an atmospheric pollutant and regulated accordingly, with consequent costs—and opportunities—for all sectors of society. Knowing where and how you generate greenhouse gases is the first step to reduce them. For individuals and small businesses, online calculators and internal assessments can help start the process. Larger organizations may need specialized advice and tools, such as the new ISO 14064 standards for greenhouse gas accounting and verification.

3. Decide and plan where you want to go

Based on your assessment of climate-related risks and opportunities, a strategy and action plan can be developed. Targets help focus efforts and also provide a benchmark for measuring success. Most homes or businesses can reduce energy use by 10 per cent—which almost always results in a 10 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions—with a one year payback or less. A plan to reduce carbon emissions will first focus on the type of energy and the way it is used; for example electricity for buildings and fuel for transport. Reducing this energy can create instant savings.

4. De-carbon your life

There is a broader way to think about carbon and climate. Everything an individual, organization, business or government does or uses embodies some form of carbon, either in products themselves or in the energy and materials it takes to make them. Buildings, fittings and equipment are all proxies for carbon; ‘carbon copies’ can be chosen based on the least amount of impact they will have on the climate. Integrating climate friendly criteria into decision making can trigger a ripple effect.

Other ways of reducing your carbon footprint include wasting less time and energy on travel. Cities can improve public transport options, companies can encourage low carbon habits (by ceasing to subsidize parking or investing in hybrid technology company vehicles), and individuals can car pool or use public transport. Sometimes simple actions can produce a shift. Secure bicycle storage and changing and shower facilities, for example, are often inexpensive compared to other parking structures but create a strong incentive for those who can commute by bicycle. In larger cities with adequate public transport, a monthly or yearly pass can be offered instead of parking facilities. Paris and Vienna, for example, offer a public bicycle system that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and traffic congestion.

5. Get energy efficient

Improving the efficiency of your buildings, computers, cars and products is the fastest and most lucrative way to save money, energy and carbon emissions. This does not mean going without. Energy efficiency is about increasing productivity but doing more with less.

More efficient buildings, cars and products will a direct and lasting contribution to limiting carbon emissions. Conventional buildings can account for almost 40 per cent of CO2 emissions. High performance, environmentally accountable, energy efficient and productive facilities are now economically possible.

Very simple measures can lead to immediate savings. Just turning off unused lights, motors, computers and heating can substantially reduce wasted energy—and money. Generally, laptop computers use less energy than desktop computers and LCD monitors use less energy than CRT screens. Also consider what to do with equipment when its useful life is finished.

6. Switch to low carbon energy

If possible, switch to energy sources that emit less carbon and can reduce costs and emissions. Generally, coal produces twice the emissions of gas, six times the amount of solar, 40 times the amount of wind and 200 times the amount from hydro. In many parts of the world customers can choose to have a percentage of their electricity supplied from a renewable energy source, such as a wind farm or landfill gas project.

These ‘green choice’ programmes are maturing and proving to be a powerful stimulus for growth in renewable energy supply. Today, more than 50 per cent of all US consumers, for example, have an option to purchase some type of green power product. 

7. Invest in offsets and cleaner alternatives

There is a limit to how much efficiency you can squeeze from your lifestyle or your organisation’s operations, or how much renewable energy you can employ. The choice for those who wish to compensate for their remaining emissions is to fund an activity by another party that reduces emissions.

This is commonly called a ‘carbon offset’ or ‘carbon credit’. The term carbon neutral includes the idea of neutralizing emissions through supporting carbon savings elsewhere.

The average price for carbon offsets is US$15 per tonne, but costs range from US$5-50 per tonne. To purchase offsets, individuals or businesses pay an offset company to implement and manage projects that avoid, reduce or absorb greenhouse gases.

Climate change is a global problem, so carbon reductions will have the same impact no matter where they are implemented. Carbon credits can be generated by emission-free energy generation, reduced demand, including energy efficiency, or sequestration in the form of underground and forestry storage.

 8. Get efficient

Looking at your life or business through a carbon neutral lens can help you in other ways by increasing the efficiency of resource use, avoiding and reducing waste and ultimately improving your overall performance and reputation.

Economists are fond of saying that there are no banknotes lying around because someone will have already picked them up. In climate change, there are still plenty of banknotes just waiting to be picked up.

After all, carbon is generally the waste product of producing energy, and reducing waste and becoming more efficient is always a good idea. Integrate the 3R approach—reduce, reuse and recycle—into your thinking.

9. Offer—or buy—low carbon products and services

The market for climate friendly products and services is growing rapidly, from energy efficient products to new renewable energy systems. To offer such products, however, it’s important to begin at the design stage.

Actions as simple as adding energy efficient specifications into the design process, for example, can produce a design that minimises energy consumption during its use and saves customers the time and energy from making adjustments to a product after a purchase, (for example having to wrap water heaters with insulation blankets).

10. Buy green, sell green

The market for green products and services is growing rapidly. In many countries consumer surveys report that growing numbers of consumers are willing to buy green products if given the choice. For businesses, innovative product design and presentation combined with responsible marketing and communications can help ensure that this consumer interest translates into purchasing.

However, the market for green products remains underdeveloped because people still find it difficult to locate products or trust their environmental claims.

Businesses can help consumers to be more climate friendly, from the online click for carbon offsetting on a tourism booking website to the label on a product at the local store.

11. Team up

Many private sector companies are increasingly working with non-governmental organisations, cities or governments to identify and implement best practice solutions to reduce emissions. The Carbon Disclosure Project (www.cdproject.net), for example is an independent non-profit organisation providing information for institutional investors with a combined US$41 trillion of assets under management.

 On their behalf, CDP seeks information on the business risks and opportunities presented by climate change and greenhouse gas emissions data from more than 2,000 of the world’s largest companies.

 12. Talk

The increasing importance of climate change means that companies and organisations will need to communicate. Transparency is critical. The internet and other new media mean that companies, organisations and governments cannot hide behind greenwash. This is where tools for verification and reporting guidelines with recognised indicators are critical.

Read the entire piece at www.coolplanet2009.org 

The simplest way to combat climate change is to plant trees: Trees breathe in Carbon Di Oxide and through the process of photo-synthesis create food for themselves and breathe out Oxygen.

At Sustainable Green Initiative, we plant trees to help the fight against climate change and also hunger, poverty and rural migration. By planting a tree you help in doing your bit to mitigate your carbon footprint and carry on the fight against hunger, poverty and climate change.

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Did you know a tree sequesters about 1 ton of carbon and processes enough oxygen for two peoples requirements in its life-time?

So what are you waiting for? Plant a tree today.


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