10 Ways to Change Your Life
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EAT YOUR VEGETABLES
All you have to do is stop eating beef. Worldwide, beef production contributes more to climate change than the entire transportation sector. The carbon footprint of the average meat eater is about 1.5 tons of CO2 larger than that of a vegetarian. Cutting beef out of your diet will reduce your CO2 emissions by 2,400 pounds annually.
DRINK FROM THE TAP
You can save money and your environment by giving up bottled water. The production of plastic water bottles together with the privatization of our drinking water is an environmental and social catastrophe. Bottled water costs more per gallon than gasoline. The average American consumes 30 gallons of bottled water annually. Giving up one bottle of imported water means using up one less liter of fossil fuel and emitting 1.2 pounds less of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
OBSERVE AN ECO-SABBATH
For one day or afternoon or even one hour a week, don’t buy anything, don’t use any machines, don’t switch on anything electric, don’t cook, don’t answer your phone, and, in general, don’t use any resources. In other words, for this regular period, give yourself and the planet a break. Every hour per week that you live no impact cuts your carbon emissions by 0.6 percent annually. Commit to four hours per week, that’s 2.4 percent; do it for a whole day each week to cut your impact by 14.4 percent a year.
TITHE A FIXED PERCENTAGE OF YOUR INCOME
Tithe a fixed percentage of your income to non-profits of your choice. If an average U.S. family contributes 1 percent ($502.33) of its annual income ($50,233) to an environmental non-profit, they could offset 40.7 tons of carbon dioxide per year. Many of our public health and welfare services are tied to consumer spending which, in turn, depends upon planetary resources. If you want to help, don’t go shopping. Just help.
BUILD A COMMUNITY
Have dinners with friends. Play charades. Sing together. Enjoying each other costs the planet much less than enjoying its resources.
GET THERE UNDER YOUR OWN STEAM
Get around by bike or by foot a certain number of days a month. Not only does this mean using less fossil fuel and creating less greenhouse gases, it means you’ll get exercise and we’ll all breathe fewer fumes. If you can stay off the road just two days a week, you’ll reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 1,590 pounds per year.
COMMIT TO NOT WASTING
Wasting resources costs the planet and your wallet. Let your clothes hang-dry instead of using the dryer. Take half the trips but stay twice as long. Repair instead of rebuy. The list goes on. In the summer, for every degree above 72°F you set your thermostat, you save 120 pounds of CO2 emissions per year, and if you wash your clothes with cold water you can cut your laundry energy use by up to 90 percent.
TAKE YOUR PRINCIPLES TO WORK
We must act as though we care about the world at work as much as we do at home. Company CEOs or product designers have the power to make a gigantic difference through their business, and so do the rest of us. In commercial buildings, lighting accounts for more than 40 percent of electrical energy use, a huge cause of greenhouse gas production. Using motion and occupancy sensors can cut this use by 10 percent.
DONATE A DAY'S TV TIME TO ECO-SERVICE
Take one day off from TV—the average American watches four and a half hours of TV a day—and try voluntary eco-service instead. Those four and a half hours a day watching TV add up to 825 pounds of carbon dioxide each year.
BELIEVE WITH ALL YOUR HEART THAT HOW YOU LIVE YOUR LIFE MAKES A DIFFERENCE
We are all interconnected. Every step toward living a conscious life provides support to everyone else who is trying to do the same thing—whether you’re aware of it or not. We are the masters of our destinies.
Colin Beavan adapted this piece for Climate Action, the Winter 2010 issue of YES! Magazine. Colin Beavan is founder of the No Impact Project, noimpactproject.org. His book No Impact Man was published in 2009 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
- Christmas with No Presents? Colin Beavan recounts what the holiday season was like for him and his family when they committed to living with no impact for one year.
- The No Impact Experiment for You: Colin Beavan invites you to try what he did, just for one week, and promises to connect you with others doing the same.
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