By Annabel Cooper
While many of us had to slow down over the last 16 months, climate change did not. It is no longer something to worry about in the future. It is impacting us now.
In Bermuda, we are particularly vulnerable to rising seas and stronger storms, and pollution from our vehicles is having a negative impact on some of our wildlife.
Caused by human activity such as burning fossil fuels, deforestation, agriculture and producing cement, climate change is a global problem requiring a global solution, but there are still powerful things that we, as individuals, can do to make a difference. After all, said Mother Teresa, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
Every time we forgo a single-use plastic bag, for example, that is one less that that needs to be manufactured and one less that could end up in the stomach of a sea creature.
Here are some small, and also some larger, ways we can each make a positive difference for the next generation.
ELIMINATE OR REDUCE SINGLE-USE PLASTIC
According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) over 99 per cent of plastics are produced from chemicals derived from oil, natural gas and coal, all of which are “dirty, non-renewable resources”. Moreover, they estimate that around 60 per cent of plastic items produced since the early 1950s has ended up in either a landfill or the natural environment. If current trends continue, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050.
Water bottles, disposable toiletries, plastic bags, bin liners, food packaging and cups are among the biggest plastic polluters. Help stem the tide of plastic pollution by choosing one, some or even all of the following ideas:
Invest in a reusable water bottle and take it everywhere you go.
Keep reusable shopping bags in your car or by your front door so you don’t forget them.
If you like take out coffees or smoothies, keep a reusable cup with lid and reusable straws handy.
In Bermuda we can’t recycle plastic, but we can recycle aluminium and glass. Where possible, choose food and drink items that come in aluminium or glass containers.
Buy reusable, washable food coverings and containers to eliminate the need for cling film or Ziploc bags.
When ordering take-out meals, say no to the plastic cutlery and bags; you could even buy your own bento box for take-out food.
Use bars of soap instead of shower gels or soaps in plastic containers; go a step further and try shampoo bars.
ENJOY A MORE CLIMATE-FRIENDLY DIET
According to UNEP, “meat production is one of the most destructive way in which humans leave their footprint on the planet.”
This is because it takes around 1,695 litres of water to produce just one quarter-pounder burger, and cattle ranching is the largest driver of deforestation in every Amazon nation, accounting for 80 per cent of total clearance. Raising animals also takes up around 80 percent of agricultural land, but only contributes to 18 percent of the world’s calories. There is also the problem of methane gas which comes from ruminants such as cattle.
If you are a meat-lover, going from all to nothing is unlikely to work, however even reducing meat consumption by one less day per week will make a difference. It’s also important to know where your meat has come from. Eating a sustainably reared burger or steak for example, is better than an intensively-farmed, mass-produced version.
If you are too busy to figure out how to cook delicious plant-based meals, you can order online from Nourished Bermuda (nourishedbermuda.com) who will prepare them for you, or take inspiration from @cleaneatkates.
ENERGY EFFICIENT APPLIANCES AND HABITS
According to Belco, lighting accounts for about 15 per cent of a home’s electricity usage so a simple money and energy saving tip is to turn the lights off when not in use. If you invest in LED lights you will use 75 per cent less energy and they last up to 20 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs.
When buying a new appliance for your home, make sure it carries the ‘Energy Star’ symbol. Energy Star is a US government-backed symbol for energy efficiency. Each product that earns the label is independently certified to deliver efficiency, therefore better for the environment and lower running costs.
USE SOLAR POWER
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, solar energy systems do not produce air pollution or greenhouse gases therefore “using solar energy can have a positive, indirect effect on the environment when solar energy replaces or reduces the use of other energy sources that have larger effects on the environment.”
Not only that, but a solar energy system can also have a positive effect on your wallet too.
While every home is different and exact figures vary depending on solar array orientation and shading, a 10 panel, 3kW system from Be Solar can bring about $175 in monthly energy savings and a 17 panel, 5kW system around $300 in monthly savings.
As solar panels become more and more popular and the technology improves, so have the financing options.
Swapping your vehicle for an electric one has a higher upfront cost, but you would not only be reducing your fossil fuel consumption, you could also save money in the longer term because you are spending less on fuel. If you have solar panels and are charging your electric vehicle on a sunny day that saving could increase dramatically.
World Distributors on North Street, Hamilton, has six electric motorbike options ranging from the equivalent of 50cc up to 125cc from brands including Super Coco and Ecooter. Prices are between $2,595 up to $5,295.
Evolution Motors on Addendum Lane in Pembroke currently has two electric car options. The Levdeo i5, which is a D-class sedan and costs $26,988 and Zojun Z60, which is a B-class hatchback and costs $19,488. They are currently looking into a SUV option that might be on island by the end of the year.