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Take action to curb climate change

In this century we need to prevent the release of three trillion tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and it is critical that we start now, as the planet is already committed to a degree of warming from past emissions. The time has come for each of us to take responsibility for our own emissions and take action to reduce our impact on the Earth. Each of us can make simple changes to our lifestyles that will significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and our environmental footprints.

Did you know that South Africa is a significant global greenhouse gas emitter – the 12th largest emitter in the world and has the seventh highest emissions per GDP, with over 70% of emissions arising from its low-grade coal-based electricity production?

Reducing emissions is not just for the factories. Each product we use, each shower we take has wider consequences with regard to greenhouse emissions. Some products require high energy input in their production, whilst others have high greenhouse gas emissions as they decompose, and unless we think carefully about the chain of production and waste, it is easy to miss the collective importance of each small action that we take.

Did you know that a move to new ultra-efficient technologies, such as appliances, lights, and cars that use 75 percent less energy and buildings that use 67 percent less energy, would mean sufficient energy savings to cover at least half of the anticipated global energy demand in coming decades while using fewer resources, emitting dramatically less greenhouse gases, and lowering overall energy costs by literally trillions of dollars? In China, which is soon to become the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, switching to decentralized power supplies such as home and office energy systems instead of continuing to build large coal-fired plants could halve CO2 emissions while reducing energy use and saving $400 billion in consumer and construction costs by 2021.

Below are some simple tips and adjustments that you can make in your home, at the office, out shopping and in your community to contribute to a healthier and more balanced planet.

AT HOME

Electricity

As 90% of South African electricity is derived from coal-fired production plants, reducing your electricity consumption will reduce the amount of CO2 that you release into the atmosphere. It will also reduce your monthly electricity bill!

  • Turn your geyser down and fit a “geyser blanket” available at hardware stores. Better still, install a solar geyser. You could also install a very small indoor geyser dedicated to a shower head or a sink, allowing you to switch the main geyser onto a timer to heat up at night only.
  • Shower instead of bathing. By using an average of 22 liters of water for a shower instead of 150 liters for a bath, you will reduce the energy required for heating water.
  • If you do bath, share the water and then leave it in the bath to heat the house.
  • Switch to gas cooking.
  • Turn off your electrical stove plates a couple of minutes before your food is cooked, as it will continue to cook on the residual heat.
  • Use a hotbox. Bring food like rice, a stew or other slow cooking meals to a boil for ten minutes and then transfer the pot to a hotbox (an insulated container for pots - a nest of blankets works just as well). The food will cook itself during the day.
  • Use a mini oven for roasting small food items – heating a large oven for two potatoes is a waste of energy.
  • Wash your clothes in cold water to save on water heating.
  • If the weather is fine, try drying your clothing on a line or clothes horse rather than using a tumble dryer – it is easier on your clothes, your pocket and the environment.
  • Fill your dishwasher to capacity before turning it on.
  • Unplug electrical appliances when not in use. Appliances such as televisions, DVD players and computers can use up to 40% of their running power when they are plugged in but switched off.
  • Even when you’re cell phone’s not plugged into it, your charger is still drawing and wasting energy.
  • Keep a thermos (or a hot water bottle) near the kettle to store any leftover hot water.
  • Use rechargeable or wind-up devices.
  • Cut down on unnecessary electrical appliances around the home, such as electric pepper grinders and leaf blowers.
  • Buy “Energy Star” labeled appliances, as these are energy efficient products. An Energy Star washing machine uses 50% less energy!
  • Look out for the renewable energy supply soon to be offered by Eskom in association with a wind farm on the west coast.
  • Why not convert your home to solar and wind power, emitting zero CO2 and allowing you to be independent of the municipal electricity grid?
  • Turn off your pool filter for the winter - just add a dash of chlorine and cover the pool. In summer, turn the filter on for a maximum of four hours a day. A filter left on all day will only circulate fine material and waste electricity.
  • Switch to energy-saving fluorescent lights, which last for 10 times longer than traditional bulbs and use a fraction of the energy, and switch your lights off when not in use. If a million people each replaced just one bulb with a fluorescent bulb, we could eliminate more than 200,000 tons of CO2 emissions.
  • Save on heating and cooling in your home by using curtains, blinds and insulation to keep your house warm in winter and cool in summer. Use insulating materials on the colder southern walls and insulate your roof, which is the largest area of heat loss.
  • If a warm day is forecast in winter, open all windows in the mid morning and close them again in the afternoon.
  • Wear jerseys in winter!
  • Put automatic closers on your doors to prevent heat being lost from living rooms.
  • Plan or renovate your house to be passive solar with large solid walls or floor areas that face north to store heat that is later radiated at night.
  • By planting trees, you can shade your house in summer and reduce home cooling costs by as much as 50%.

Waste

By reducing the amount of waste you throw out every week you will reduce pressure on your local landfill and reduce the amount of methane and CO2 emitted into atmosphere by the landfill. As a greenhouse gas, methane is 23 times more potent than CO2, so reducing methane emissions will make a significant contribution to curbing global warming.

  • Compost your left over food and garden waste to reduce your landfill stream while creating natural fertilizer for your garden.
  • Pay your bills online to reduce paper usage and transportation costs.
  • Refill and reuse plastic water bottles.
  • Recycle newspapers, magazines, paper, cardboard boxes, aluminum, tin cans, glass bottles, glass jars and plastic #s 1 and 2. By recycling, an average family can reduce their CO2 emissions by up to one ton annually. Try to reduce the amount of non-recyclable items you consume - such as potato bags, wax-coated boxes, tissues, insulated cups, polystyrene, juice boxes, nappies, light bulbs, crockery, photographic paper and dog food bags.
Did you know that recycling just 2 glass bottles conserves enough energy to boil water for 5 cups of coffee? Using recycled glass to make new glass requires 40% less energy than making it from raw materials, while recycling a single aluminum can and conserve 96% of the energy used to produce another from scratch.

To find out more about recycling visit Ekamo Recycling and Environment website at www.ekamo.org

  • Use cloth instead of paper napkins and kitchen towels.
  • Use recycled toilet paper and napkins.
  • Buy reusable or electric razors instead of disposables.
  • Use cloth diapers rather than disposables: they only have to be bought once and can be laundered instead of discarded or burnt.

Water

It is predicted that climate change will leave the Western and Northern Cape of South Africa with about 30% less water than is currently available. This drying trend means that reducing household water usage will become critical to surviving global warming. Here are some simple ways of reducing your monthly water consumption.

  • Divert the bath and shower water into the garden, or save the bath water for flushing the toilet.
  • Installing a high-efficiency showerhead will save at least 45 liters of water per shower.
  • Place a bottle in your toilet cistern to reduce the amount of water used per flush and save up to 7300 liters of water a year.
  • Install a tank to collect rain water runoff from your roof for use around the house and garden.
  • Plant a water-wise garden. Plant a beautiful garden of indigenous water-wise plants to replace water guzzling lawns, and learn about your natural environment in the process.
  • Pre-rinsing won’t get your dishes any cleaner. Save as much as 70 liters of water per load by skipping the pre-rinse and loading straight into the dishwasher.

ON THE JOB

  • Avoid traveling for meetings. On average, every 3 meetings held by video conference instead of flying cross-country is equivalent to taking a car off the road for an entire year.
  • Turn off your lights, air conditioning, heating and appliances at the end of the day. Use heating and cooling only when necessary.
  • In winter use the air conditioner rather than an electric heater to heat the office as it uses about 60% less power than an electric fire for the same heat.
  • Switch to energy-saving fluorescent lights, which last for 10 times longer than traditional bulbs and use a fraction of the energy, and switch your lights off when not in use.
  • Motion sensor lighting can reduce your average energy consumption by as much as 33%.
  • Switch to the energy saving feature on appliances such as photocopiers or printers.
  • Take your own mug to the cafeteria and avoid using disposable cups.
  • Manage your paper usage:
      o Print and copy on both sides of the page o recycle paper o use recycled paper, which requires 60% less energy, 80% less water and creates 95% less air pollution to produce than virgin paper o re-use waste paper
  • Recycle your outdated electronic and computer equipment.
  • Start a recycling campaign at the office if there isn’t one already and show your co-workers the way.
  • Investigate going carbon neutral.
  • Take environmental education, conservation and climate change adaptation projects on as part of your corporate social responsibility program.

OUT SHOPPING

  • Buy locally produced goods and support Proudly South African wherever possible to reduce transport costs and emissions and help sustain jobs in your area.
  • CDs aren’t biodegradable. Next time you shop, buy music online and fill up your playlist not your landfill.
  • Support companies with top environmental records and sustainably produced products.
  • Reuse plastic shopping bags or take your own durable bag with you to the shops.
  • Buy products with the least packaging and buy in bulk.
  • Buy products with packaging that can be reused.
  • Reduce your consumption by eating less junk food and take-aways – this will reduce packaging, waste and emissions and make you healthier.
  • Go organic as organic food does not use chemical fertilizers – a major cause of global warming and pollution - and most organic food is locally sourced, thus reducing emissions associated with transport.
  • Buy wine from “green labels”. Select local wine estates that are part of the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative (see www.bwi.co.za for a full list).
  • Purchasing pre-owned or vintage clothing is often less expensive and conserves raw materials & energy.

IN YOUR COMMUNITY

  • Plant a tree - a tree processes about one ton of CO2 in its lifetime. Support projects which support biodiversity restoration. Find out more about these under CAP’s project section. LINK
  • Buy recycled products produced in your community
  • Donate old clothing to charities or family members, or if they are really ragged, reuse for dishcloths and rags, and reduce rubbish and emissions.
  • One man’s trash is another man’s treasure: join a waste exchange program, where ‘waste material generators’ transfer their products to ‘waste material users’ e.g. www.capetown.gov.za/iwe/RegistrationChoice.asp
  • Form an eco-club. Start a club and join WESSA’s Eco-school program. See www.wessa.org.za/eduecoschools123.asp
  • Dare to cut carbon and reduce your emissions 90% by 2030. Join a club with project 90x2030. See www.project90x2030.org.za
  • Set up a recycling depot. A school can be a centre for recycling for the whole community and raise funds for school facilities. See www.environment.gov.za/nwmsi/Recycling/Guidelines
  • Join an environmental organization. Volunteer to help conserve an area by clearing litter and invasive alien plants.
  • Report water leaks. Phone your municipality if you find a leak.
  • Don’t start fires that you can’t stop. If you want to braai or burn rubbish, check the weather forecast first. Hot, dry, windy weather is wildfire weather. Put out any fires you start.
  • Talk to your friends and neighbors about your concerns and interests in the environment; you may be surprised to learn you’re not alone.
  • Support politicians and political and media organizations that promote sustainability and act to curb and adapt to climate change.
  • Voice your concerns. If you are aware of new developments in ecologically sensitive areas in your neighborhood, contact your councilor and a local environmental organization, and write to the newspaper.

TRANSPORT

  • Walk or ride a bike instead of using a car for short distances.
  • If possible, live close to where you work.
  • Use public transport when possible.
  • Run a lift club.
  • Consider taking a boat to your next holiday destination. Boats are the most efficient method of fossil fuel transport, followed by trains, then buses. Better still chose a local holiday destination.
  • Purchase a fuel efficient vehicle that drives more than 15km per liter of fuel.
  • Drive efficiently to save fuel and reduce emissions - drive at a steady pace, stay within speed limits and accelerate gradually. At 110 km/h your car uses up to 25% more fuel than it would cruising at 90 km/h.
  • Change gear. The engine runs most efficiently at 1500 to 2500 rpm (lower in diesels), so change up through the gears as soon as practical. Automatic transmissions shift up more quickly if you ease back on the accelerator once the car gathers momentum.
  • Minimize drag. Roof racks, spoilers and having the window open all increase air resistance and fuel consumption by more than 20%.
  • Air conditioners can use about 10% extra fuel, but at speeds of more than 80 km/h, air-con use is better for fuel economy than an open window.
  • Servicing your car regularly can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 5%.
  • Use the correct octane fuel. Using a higher octane rating than recommended for your car does not improve its performance. It's simply fuel going up in smoke. If your car can run on 93 octane, don't waste money on 95 octane.
  • Use your handbrake on hills. Never ride the clutch to hold your car on an incline. You'll waste fuel and dramatically reduce the life of your clutch.
  • Why not compete for driving fuel-efficiency with your family and friends who have on-board computers in their car?
  • Keep your vehicle’s tyres correctly inflated to improve your fuel consumption enough to earn you a free tank every year.
  • Idling your car for just 10 seconds uses more fuel and produces more CO2 emissions than simply turning your engine off and then on again.
  • Combine your errands into one trip to reduce driving distances.
  • Don’t carry unnecessary weight in your vehicle.
  • Use a logbook to record and measure your fuel consumption, that way you will know when something is wrong.
  • Don’t use off-road tyres when you drive more on-road than off-road.

If you have any interesting and unusual tips for reducing one’s environmental footprint, please send these to us.

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