Green experiment

A story by journalist of Donetsk edition of newspaper “Segodnya” Julia Rymaruk, the first prize winner of SCM’s  competition “Carbon Diet”.

Putting Our Planet Through the Wringer

The Earth's energy and natural resources will not be enough to make everyone comfortable all life long.  Giving up overseas delicacies, travels abroad and plastic bags will help to save our planet. 

"Have you ever thought about how much carbon dioxide you produce, for example, when you buy a car or go somewhere? Americans gave some thought to the matter and came up with the concept known as "Carbon Footprint". Everyone leaves such footprint when he buys something." I came across an internet article with this introduction. It said that everyone takes responsibility for СО2 emissions when they buy food, drinks or choose a means of transport. However, it went no farther than theory that time. 

More recently I entered a website that offered me to calculate my carbon footprint. I got interested whether I use our planet efficiently and what footprint I leave, so I started answering questions like how many light bulbs I have in my house, what food I eat, how often I walk and where I go on holidays. I have no car and leave Donetsk region on rare occasions. To my amazement, I came to know that if I don't change my lifestyle I could use energy and natural resources of 2.6 planets even if I replace all incandescent light bulbs with energy-saving ones. I could put my planet through the wringer and go on doing the same to others. "Wait! What others?" thought I and pressed "The Green Lifestyle" button. The clever programme suggested several dozen ways of decreasing my carbon footprint. 

FOOD. What we eat and where food comes from plays an important role. Imported food will have a higher "Carbon Footprint" index than domestic products as more fuel was used for transporting them, which means that more carbon dioxide was emitted. "Buy local fruit and vegetables. If another 15 people follow suit it will be the same as if 21 people gave up a transatlantic flight," read the first message. Well, in summer when the product range is wide this rule is easy to follow. You should buy only seasonal vegetables to reduce your carbon footprint. Nonsense? No way. If I keep to this rule, the planet will save on production of 29,000 one-litre plastic bottles. Eating fresh products instead of frozen food, shopping at the market instead of a supermarket, trying not to eat meat at least twice a week – these simple recommendations help to reduce our carbon footprint. All of them were easy to follow and the feeling that I've done something useful encouraged me to do more. 

Besides, the way we cook our food is also important. If we cover our saucepans and frying pans with a lid when we cook, it will be tantamount to one person giving up a transatlantic flight. If we use a thermos flask for keeping tea or coffee hot, we save a forest area as big as two Donbass Arena stadiums. 

HEATING. As my experiment took place during a warm season, I didn't have to insulate my home to save energy. But I've already made plans what to do by the autumn. I live a private house heated with coal in winter. If I foil-back my radiators, I will save some energy. Moreover, it will be tantamount to one car disappearing from highways. 

WATER. Saving water was also easy. You just need to take a shower instead of a bath several times a week, install water-saving devices and try to spend no more than three minutes in the shower. These small tricks will reduce about 38 metres plastic waste going to landfills.

ELECTRICITY. This was one of the most difficult and exciting tasks. The easiest way to reduce power consumption, i.e. carbon footprint, is to remove ice from the freezer compartment. There's one more simple recommendation: switch the light off in unused rooms. I started with turning off outdoor lights at night. I don't think my dog minds. Later, I practiced the same habit with indoor lights. It was hard in the beginning and I had to put sticky notes to remind me of the rule, but now the light is always off if the room is empty. 

To reduce your carbon footprint you should replace incandescent light bulbs with their energy-saving alternatives as they use 75 per cent of energy less than regular bulbs but produce the same amount of light. Replacing at least five incandescent light bulbs will be tantamount to removing one car from highways. I had only one regular bulb but I threw it away. Leaving the linen in the open air to dry is another advice which is easy to follow if you live in a private house. 

"Don't leave your electronic devices in standby mode, switch them off", I heard and read about it many times but always forgot to switch off a laptop or a DVD if I stepped away for a hour or so. Again, I used reminder notes and developed the habit within a fortnight. 

PAPER\WASTE. I haven't succeeded in cutting down on household waste and paper. I've just managed to give up plastic bags in favour of textile bags. By the way, many Ukrainian stars as Sergey Pritula, Aleksandr Pedan and Olga Freymut follow this rule. Giving up plastic bags makes it possible to save a forest area as big as three football pitches. 

TRAVELS. This is what everyone can do easily. If possible, use public transport instead of driving your own car. If you can, walk or ride a bicycle. Don't spend your holidays abroad, it's better to go somewhere closer to home twice a year and give up planes in favour of trains. Mostly, I used public transport but sometimes my friends gave me a lift. When I decided to take part in the experiment, I turned down their services and even persuaded my friends to follow suit. Finally, they agreed to leave their car in the garage two or three times a week. 

PROGRESS. After two and a half weeks of experiment I took another test to find out my carbon footprint.  If I continue in a similar vein, I will consume energy and natural resources of 1.9 planets. If I use elementary rules and develop simple habits, I will save 0.7 of the planet.

Last updated: 02.08.2011