Updated: Oct 4, 2020
Welcome to the Coping Guide, part 1. We shared with you on Instagram our first guide to deal with climate change and global warming. The series started with helping you to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions. Then we gave you tips on how to offset your resulting carbon footprint. And finally, we helped you to prepare for the inevitable effects of climate change by giving you tips on how to become more resilient and independent. Today, we put all these information in a few blog posts: the full edition of the Climate Coper manual.
TLDR- In this first part, you learn how to reduce your carbon emissions: reduce, reuse, recycle, limit meat consumption, eat local and seasonal food, compost, take public transport, say yes to second-hand items, choose eco-labels, switch to LED light bulbs and stop single-use packaging.
How to reduce your carbon footprint?
The preservation of the environment is one of the hottest topics in the news, and ultimately we shall all reduce our carbon footprint to avoid a catastrophic global warming effet on Earth. Here are some tips to start lowering your CO2 emissions.
This seems to be the winning formula for saving the planet. Reducing waste by consuming less in order to preserve resources, reusing everything that is only used once or twice, and finally, recycling everything that can be recycled. It is certainly a global struggle, but one in which everyone - states, producers, distributors and eco citizens - can make a contribution. Every consumer should be careful before buying. Being eco-responsible means thinking about what we are doing; it takes time, but it also means working for future generations.
According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation), livestock farming is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions (more than transport) and 8% of world water consumption. It takes 15,000 litres of water to produce one kilo of beef. We urgently need to reduce our meat consumption to protect the planet and fight world hunger.
Studies carried out by two Oxford University researchers, Joseph Poore and Thomas Nemecek, have shown that producing 100 grams of protein of bovine origin - with a high environmental impact - creates the equivalent of around 100 kilos of CO2 and uses 370 m2 of land, whereas the production of low-impact beef would have values 12 and 50 times lower, but much higher than, for example, peas. Even with a low environmental impact, beef would produce 6 times more emissions than legumes.
When we eat local seasonal produce, we are eating food that tastes good, is healthier and cheaper. Grown and harvested in the region, these products are sold in short circuits thus reducing transport time, middlemen and therefore the ecological impact. Eating local also means supporting the local economy by buying directly from producers.
Agriculture accounts for nearly 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The pesticides and fertilisers used to grow our food are responsible for a lot of pollution and largely affect ecosystems. The products on our plates that are the least ecological are: sugar, chocolate, coffee, meat, palm oil, soya, bottled water, fish and rice.
Organic materials such as fruit and vegetable peelings, egg shells, etc. make up 30% of our waste bins (average of 82 kg per year). We would reduce their volume considerably if we composted them. In addition, household waste bins are often incinerated, and of course the organic materials with them. We could therefore considerably reduce carbon dioxide emissions if we sorted them for composting.
Composting is the natural recycling of organic materials, which reproduces the cycle of nature. Over time, these materials decompose and return their nutrients to the soil. The transformation of these biodegradable materials takes place in the presence of water and oxygen through microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, actinomycetes) and larger organisms (earthworms, mites, sow-bugs, myriapods, beetles and other insects). It is a rich potting soil also known as the black gold of gardeners.
Buying new is by definition buying something that has just been produced, involving the extraction of raw materials, their transport, processing, transportation (again) and distribution. The concern is that it is often difficult to really realise the existence of this process and especially its consequences. Buying second-hand means saving money, pollution and production of raw materials. It also means sometimes not encouraging unenviable production conditions.
By refusing the model of our society - a victim of "buyer's fever" - which pushes us to buy again and again, then to throw away, you are opting for sustainable and responsible consumption. Did you know, for example, that the production of a single T-shirt requires around 2,700 litres of water, whereas it takes 7,000 litres of water to produce one pair of jeans? And we're not talking about the resulting pollution. Let's take the case of the fashion industry. It is the second most polluting industry in the world after the oil industry: textile fibres are produced, treated and then dyed with chemicals. In short, by buying second-hand products and selling your old objects instead of throwing them away, you are making a gesture for the planet, because you are extending the life of objects and delaying the appearance of waste.
Eco-labels are a voluntary labelling system for products that guarantees a basic level of environmental friendliness. Since their introduction, hundreds of them have been created, making it sometimes hard to see clearly. Eco-labels are more or less credible and transparent, with a wide variety of specifications and working methods for certifiers.
Depending on the region of the world where you are, the products you buy and the causes that seem to you to be a priority, the eco-labels that best suit you vary. But in any case, to guide you, here is a non-exhaustive list of safe eco-labels that you can systematically look for: Fair Trade, Organic food, Rainforest Certified, Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), European Ecolabel, Blue Flag, Green Key; NF environment, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes (PEFC).
Packaging now makes up the largest volume of the contents of waste bins and still ends up mostly in a landfill or incinerator. Sorting is not enough to stop this scourge. Packaging waste must be reduced at source. Favour products sold by the cut (meat, cheese) or fruits and vegetables in bulk. Take your boxes of eggs and your own bags and containers to local stores or markets. Reusable products avoid wasting the natural resources used to produce them.
Packaging can be a criterion for choosing a product in the face of the diversity of supply. Therefore, choose a soap with paper packaging rather than a shower gel in a plastic shell, or refills of products (soap, laundry, detergents...) to be poured into a dispenser bottle. Except in exceptional cases, use tap water rather than bottled water. Bottled water generates 10 to 20 million m3 of waste per year.
With 13.41 Gt of CO2 emitted in 2016 worldwide, transport is the second largest contributor of greenhouse gases after energy and electricity production. This does not even take into account emissions from infrastructure (concrete for bridge construction, deforestation, etc.). Carbon dioxide emissions from transport depend on several factors: the total distance travelled, the number of passengers per vehicle, the fuel used and the type of journey. However, statistics show an ever-increasing number of cars on the road worldwide, as well as an explosion in air traffic and world trade in goods.
If we look at the reports of the European Environment Agency, here are the figures that we obtain for the emissions of the different modes of transport in Europe
14 g CO2/passenger/km for the train
55 g CO2/passenger/km for an average car
72 g CO2/passenger/km for a motorised two-wheeler
285 g CO2/passenger/km for an aircraft
Changing your light bulb for an LED is a greener gesture than you might think. A study by the IHS Markit Institute highlights the contribution of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to the fight against climate change. The results of their calculations speak for themselves: the use of LED bulbs has made it possible to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by some 570 million tons in 2017, or 1.5%. This is equivalent to the output of 162 coal-fired power stations, the study says.
LEDs consume less electricity than other light bulbs to produce the same amount of light: 40% less than fluorescent bulbs and 80% less than incandescent bulbs. But this is not the only environmental benefit of these bulbs, which were invented in the early 1990s by two Japanese and one American, who were awarded a Nobel Prize. They generate less waste because they last longer than traditional light bulbs. They do not contain mercury either. A European household saves on average 10 euros per year by replacing a traditional 60-watt bulb with a 10-watt LED.
In the next parts we answer the questions:
How to offset your remaining carbon emissions?
How to protect yourself from global warming?