Chasing Sustainable Lifestyle Changes

glacier Last night I watched Chasing Ice* with my good friend Jen. We’ve been talking about environmental issues since we met, more than ten years ago. One of our concerns has been reaching a tipping point when the earth won’t be able to right itself again, no matter what changes the human race makes.

After watching the movie we wondered, have we reached that point?

The best points the movie made (although, very softly) were:

1.    Our atmosphere has changed and that will affect everything. Thinking about the air we breath is more visceral than constantly referring to climate change. For centuries our CO2 mix has been about 280 ppm. Now we’re at 396.80 ppm and showing no signs of slowing.
2.    Glaciers have receded 10 times faster in the past 10 years than they have in the past 100 years.  And, once you see the raging rivers of water tunneling through the ice and causing calving, it’s clear something larger-than-life has been put into motion. Is it possible for cultural values to change so that people will think of our life-support system (earth) before their immediate needs?
3.    Anthropogenic soot from fossil fuels pockmarks glaciers and causes melting.

One point that I didn’t hear mentioned was that when glaciers melt they release the CO2 trapped within them – adding to the already high level of CO2 in the air – creating a cyclical effect.

Here are some highlights of the types of lifestyle changes Chasing Ice recommends (easy to hard):

•    Use less paper and use recycled paper.
•    Use reusable bags for grocery shopping.
•    Don’t buy water in plastic bottles.
•    Bring your own mug for your coffee.
•    Recycle.
•    Cut back on plastics.
•    Lower your thermostat in winter, reduce air conditioning use in summer
•    Lower the temperature in your hot water heater
•    Plug electronics into power strips and turn off the power strips when not in use.
•    Insulate your hot water heater and pipes.
•    Use push mowers or electric lawn mowers.
•    Collect rainwater to water your garden and car washing.
•    Combine trips, drive less; use public transportation when possible.
•    Buy a hybrid or electric car when purchasing a new car.

Their list is pretty tame. I was surprise that reducing airline travel wasn’t mentioned. A UK site notes: Just one return flight from London to New York produces a greater carbon footprint than a whole year’s personal allowance needed to keep the climate safe.

All this made me reflective, naturally. How many changes had I made to safeguard our environment since I started this blog? Isn’t that what it comes down to anyway — the changes each of us make? Even though I care about the environment, I have been glacially slow to change my habits. It’s not easy to reassess – everything.

Jen is my low-carbon footprint role model. She has always been extremely aware of her impact on the earth. I’ve learned a lot from her over the years including how to bike commute in the wet NW weather and arrive without looking too disheveled; as well as how to build a compost bin.

I guess that’s all any of us can do…lead by example, right?

* Chasing Ice is playing for free as part of Bainbridge Island’s Earth Day celebration on April 20th. If you’re local, reserve your spot.

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