How Many Earths are we Using?

27 May

So here I am, in the first week of my new 30-Day Project: Green Living and Sustainability. It seems these days that everyone (or at least most everyone who is conscious about their life) wants to improve their lifestyle habits to become more eco-friendly and make less of a footprint on our planet for future generations, other species and general health – and I am no exception.

I think I have had a pretty decently green lifestyle over the past number of years. I do the big things that a lot of us do – I recycle virtually everything I can, use low-flow showerheads and toilets, buy and eat local quite a bit, use energy-saving lightbulbs, drive a small efficient car and consolidate my trips in it, etc. Last month I moved into a new place which is incredibly low-impact: the 24-unit community property was built with energy efficiency in mind, is extremely low maintenance with concrete walls and floors and a metal roof, has native drought-resistant landscaping and even a rainwater collection system for outside water. Yet I feel that there’s probably much more I could be doing.

I’m doing the easy stuff – and in doing these things over the past few years, I’ve found that once you make something a habit it is relatively easy, like second nature. It’s no hassle to recycle, it just comes naturally like taking out the trash. So if I can make more sustainable actions a habit in my lifestyle, it would be even better. Maybe there are things that I’m not even aware of, that I could implement or do in a much better way.

That’s what I want to find out, and work on, in this project.

I began by taking this Ecological Footprint Quiz from the Center for Sustainable Economy – want to try it? In spite of my awareness and decently green lifestyle choices, I am still living as if I had 3.27 earths – so more than three times the resources that the earth would currently provide if everyone lived my lifestyle. Of course I know that is an average, taking into account both the millions of people who, not by choice, take up so little of the earth that it’s practically nonexistent; as well as the small percentage of people who regularly use 80% of the resources.

= 3.27 Earths

Still, I can do much better – and want to. I know that one area that really dents my score is transportation – I travel a lot, and airplane travel is one of the biggest culprits. I don’t really know what to do about this, other than buying carbon offsets and trying to be mindful of travel, because it is not only a huge passion in my life, but a big part of my work as well. If it wasn’t for my airplane and car use (which is FAR lower than the average American), my score would be way better. I did score well below my country average, especially in my carbon and housing footprints – although that isn’t saying much since the USA is the world’s worst culprit on using far more than our share of resources. (Note: technically China is slightly above us in whole-nation resource use and carbon emissions, but considering they have more than four times the people we are still the worst offenders)

Yellow is my footprint; blue is the U.S. average

So here I go on this path to learning how to improve my sustainability by reusing, reducing and recycling even more. Some resources I will be using the Center for Sustainable Economy resources, including their list of ways to Reduce Your Footprint; also National Geographic’s Green Guide and a couple of books I am excited about. I plan to take the Nat Geo Great Energy Challenge. If you have any tips or resources I should check out, please feel free to comment below. Remember, I am looking to go beyond the basics, which I already do. Thanks!

More to come soon!

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One Response to “How Many Earths are we Using?”

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  1. Eating Local & Organic = Better Health, Better Taste « 30 Days at a Time - June 27, 2011

    […] just wrapped up my 30 Days of Sustainability project, I have now embarked on 30 Days of Eating Local & Organic. They sort of go hand in […]

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