Carbon offsetting is the method used for decreasing greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases are gases existing in the earth’s atmosphere. These gases are important because they help maintain the temperature of the Earth. However, post-industrialization and the modern conveniences of man have resulted in a steady increase of planetary (global) warming. Greenhouse gas emissions are not just caused by industrial byproducts; they are also caused by the small and large business inefficient usage of lighting, heating and cooling systems. And we, as consumers are also guilty of contributing to global warming: from inefficient usage of household appliances to gas emissions from automobiles, airplanes, and cruise ships.
Fortunately there are many ways to reduce or eliminate these gaseous emissions. Large corporations, for example, are currently contributing to carbon offsetting by participating in campaigns to reduce emissions. Most of us are familiar with many of the projects currently underway such as: Renewable energy which would include wind farms, solar power, and biofuels; Energy efficiency practices which include turning off lights when not in use, temperature regulation in the form of furnace and air-conditioning units; and reduction (or elimination) of industrial pollutants and agricultural byproducts which would include reducing or eliminating the use of fertilizers which pollute our water supplies.
These efforts have helped a great deal but these strides are not enough. It will take the concerted efforts of all of us to make a difference. That being said, I want to share a story with you that deals with this topic. I had these neighbors, and good friends, that for years held the title the neighborhood experts in reusable energy! The couple never had any substantial form of garbage! Come trash day, the rest of us would have two large ninety-six gallon trash bins spilling over with trash while they would consistently have one small 3x3 brown box of trash. They recycled newspapers, plastic containers, and aluminum and any organic trash he had left-over he would use in his compost located in the corner of his backyard. They never used plastic-wrap or plastic garbage bags or any paper-products like paper-plates and cups. When they barbecued they brought out reusable dish-wear and serving utensils (the rest of us were guilty of utilizing disposable paper products.
Any left-over food never went to waste: the dog would get the meat bones and vegetables/fruit pits, skin, etc would go into the compost along with any grass clippings, leaves, etc. They used linen napkins and hand-towels in place of paper napkins and towels. Sponges were sterilized in the dishwasher and reused and household cleaners were made using the same reusable plastic spray bottle(s). I think they even reused kitchen sink water to water their household plants. I don’t know why the rest of the community didn’t follow suit and practice what our neighbor had so eloquently modeled. I know for me it was always a matter of convenience, I worked full-time had three kids and went to school and was just too tired. And so I looked for the most convenient way to get by like using disposable plates and utensils, and throwing out everything instead of taking the time to separate recyclable materials. It all just took too long and I justified my behavior by saying my neighbor was doing enough for the rest of us.
I was pretty young and naive back then. I have learned that we can’t look the other way, make excuses, or pass the buck. If we truly want to make a difference then we all have to participate. It is not good enough that my neighbor recycles, I (and you) have to also recycle. Instead of throwing out grass clippings donate them to a local farm or to a community co-op’s compost. Instead of throwing out aluminum and glass containers we need to request a recycle bin from our garbage disposal company. At the end of the day, when the sun goes down, we all need to open up our windows and turn off the air-conditioning. Usually the cool night air is enough to bring down the temperatures in the home.
You don’t have to give up your toilet paper or park your car in the garage and bike to work. Contribute what you can, there are billions of people on this planet, if we each gave up one thing and reduced the waste of another (such as walk more, drive less) what a difference it would make for the future of our planet.
Be green, live clean!
Dr. Mundorff is the author of several books, including her latest book, Take Control: A Guide to Holistic Living.