A Sustainable Environment: Let’s Watch Our Footprint to Help Fight Climate Change

A Sustainable Environment: Our Obligation to Protect God’s Gift

by George P. Nassos

Let’s Watch Our Footprint to Help Fight Climate Change

The annual day of prayer for the Care of Creation is September 1, and this year three world religious leaders made a statement about mitigating climate change.  Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury issued an unprecedented joint statement calling for everyone to take action against our changing climate.  Their focus is to protect the children’s future and the future of everyone’s common home.  Their statement is also an appeal to the delegates of the forthcoming COP26 U.N. climate summit to be held in Glasgow, Scotland in November.  Country governments, local governments, corporations, NGOs and even individuals must take whatever action is possible so we can all fight this universal problem.  But what can individuals do to help fight climate change?  We need to take a step forward on this issue with your foot, that is, your footprint.  

The carbon footprint is a measure of the total greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted by a country, a company, a product, a service or even by an individual and usually expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent.  China with 9.3 billion tons per year is currently the world’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide at almost twice the quantity of the U.S. at 4.8 billion tons per year.  However, since the industrial revolution, the U.S. has emitted about 400 billion tons which is twice the 200 billion tons emitted by China.  And today, on a per capita basis, the U.S. (15 tons) is emitting twice the quantity of China (7 tons).  While many countries, companies, and organizations have adopted strategies to reduce their carbon footprint, each of us can also do something about it.  Everyone needs to participate in reducing their carbon footprint.  There are many ways we can all participate in this very important program, but here are a few with which we can start.

  • If you have a short trip destination, walk or bike there rather than driving an emitting carbon dioxide.  Even if you have an EV, you would still be emitting carbon.
  • If you have a rather long trip, try to use public transportation like a train or bus.  Even think about carpooling if possible.  
  • If you have to drive your gas fueled automobile, try to drive efficiently.  Increase your speed gently, coast to a red light, don’t drive above the speed limit, and when going to a fast food restaurant, park and go inside instead of idling in a long line.  
  • And if you use your automobile, make sure the tires are inflated as recommended and tune up your car regularly in order to maximize fuel efficiency.  
  • Turn off lights and unplug devices if you are not using them.  Even if you turn off an electronic device, it still uses a small quantity of electricity, so unplug it.
  • Eat more locally grown food to minimize your contribution to the shipping of food across the country to get to your dinner table.  Also eat less meat as animals give off plenty of methane before they are prepared for your table.
  • Minimize your waste to a landfill by selling, reusing, or donating items.  Waste going to a landfill will decompose over time and emit carbon dioxide.
  • Try to get used to warmer temperatures in the summer and cooler temperatures in the winter.  Set your thermostat at 78 in the summer and 67 in the winter.  
  • When washing clothes, make sure you have a full load.

While you are working on reducing your carbon footprint, why not do the same for your water footprint?  The consumption of water by a country is largely dependent on various industries including agriculture that require large quantities of potable water, but as individuals we can help reduce this consumption.   

  • Try to avoid drinking bottled water.  Just to produce the plastic bottle requires about twice the volume of water. So when you are drinking a 12 ounce bottle of water, you are really consuming about 36 ounces.
  • Be conscious of the water consumption required for different food items.  For example,
    • A quarter pound hamburger consumes about 2,200 gallons of water, mostly for growing the animal feed.
    • You may wish to eat more pork which consumes about 40% that of beef.  
    • If you eat almonds, each one consumes over three gallons
    • As a chocolate lover, I have to be careful since a 4 oz. chocolate bar consumes 2,500 gallons.  What is worse is a chocolate covered almond.
  • While you are saving energy when washing full loads of clothes, you are also saving water.
  • Do you really need to water your lawn on a weekly basis?  Even if it turns a little brown near the end of a hot summer, by fall it should be green again.  
  • If you need a new toilet, make sure you install a dual flush model.  

Implementing any of the above recommendations may have a very small impact on the improvement of climate change so most people won’t bother to implement them.  They will have to adjust their lifestyle for minimal impact.  So why bother?  This is understandable, but if everyone did just a little bit, it will help mitigate this very crucial environmental issue.