Thinking globally, acting locally

2

 by Theresa Peluso

Here we are at the start of the year 2012! I always feel that the new year is yet another chance to make a difference in how I live and how I influence others and the world we live in. I won't bore you with my personal resolutions, but I'd like to suggest ways we can all make an impact on our world.

In the realm of the natural environment, our individual actions affect the quality and availability of the air, water, soil, plants, and animals on which our lives depend. When we decide to carpool, refuse to use drive-throughs when banking or buying coffee, do as many errands as possible on one trip into town, or avoid going on ocean cruises or by plane during our holidays, we reduce the pressure to exploit new petroleum deposits and the inevitable destruction and pollution of soil, water and air. When we opt to hold onto our electronic devices and appliances for several years instead of replacing them with the very latest model (which is superseded by an even newer model a few months later), we not only save money, we reduce the need for more mining and manufacturing.

Always remembering to take a reusable bag when shopping will divert more than 300 plastic bags per person per year. (I find it very discouraging to see customers at the local grocery store still using plastic bags despite the 5-cent charge.) Not only are plastic bags a petroleum product, toxic chemicals are emitted during their manufacture. After these bags are thrown out, the damage and death they inflict on wildlife and the oceans, which is where so many of them end up, is sickening. I have found that if I need a plastic bag, I can reuse bird-food bags, toilet-paper packaging, cereal box liners, bread bags, rice bags, and milk bags (I rinse out and save the pouches for freezing small quantities of food).

 Here in our community, several people have found a way to make a difference. They are using the outer plastic bags that milk comes in, to crochet sleeping mats for people in Haiti, still left homeless after the 2010 earthquake – in many cases, the mats are all that comes between them and the hard, damp ground. Several churches in Almonte are participating: the Almonte United Church, the Almonte Presbyterian Church, and St. Paul's Anglican Church. In Carleton Place, St. James's Anglican Church, and St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church are joining in this worthwhile endeavour. The milk-bag mat organizers always welcome donations of milk bags, but are also greatly in need of volunteers to keep up with the volume of bags they receive. They would welcome your help to cut the bags into strips and crochet them. The result is a remarkably attractive, and potentially life-saving, product. In fact, plans are underway to hold a mat-making workshop in Carleton Place sometime in the next few weeks. Call Rhoda at (613) 257-7964 for more information.

Another member of our community, Cliff Bennett, is showing his commitment to saving the atmosphere from further global warming. Just as during World War II, when gas was rationed, Cliff set up his own system two years ago to limit the amount of gas he uses per week.

Cliff established a baseline by collecting 10 consecutive weeks of gas purchases on his credit card slips, and recorded the numbers of litres of gas shown on the slips. He then divided the total by 10 to get the average number of litres used per week. Multiplying the number of litres of gas by 2.2, he obtained the number of kilograms of carbon emissions he produced. He then set himself a limit of 20 litres of gas per week (down from the 38 litres per week he was using), and set up a ration card to record his purchases. At the end of the week, he subtracted the number of litres consumed that week (20) from the original amount of gas used (38), multiplied the difference (18) by 2.2, and realized his efforts had prevented 39.6 kg of carbon emissions from harming the atmosphere. After two years his total is 4,000 kg of carbon saved. His new goal is to lower his ration to 18 litres of gas per week.

Here's how Cliff has managed to achieve such impressive results:

  1. Drive with someone else where possible, and return the favour so they can save gas.
  2. Keep your vehicle well serviced and your tires at the right pressure.
  3. Trade in your gas guzzler for a more efficient vehicle.
  4. If you own a standard shift, coast with the clutch in as much as possible.
  5. Don't idle your vehicle. Shut it off.
  6. Control your acceleration to a moderate speed.
  7. Get settled in your car, fasten your seat belt and get ready to drive before you turn on the ignition.
  8. Make one trip do instead of two. Plan ahead.
  9. Park your car and walk.
  10. Take the most efficient route.
  11. Instead of a Sunday drive, try a Sunday walk.
  12. If you have to take a longer drive for a special reason, save up your coupons so you won't go into deficit.

If one person can prevent more than 4,000 kg of carbon emissions from heating our atmosphere and acidifying our oceans, imagine that result multiplied by 1,000 people, or maybe even 1,000,000? How many of you readers can join him in this endeavour? He would love to hear from you!

 Next month I would like to highlight other ways that people in Mississippi Mills and Carleton Place are making a difference to our natural environment. Please write to the Millstone and share your achievements and ideas.