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Three New Year’s Resolutions for Sustainability

If you’re thinking about making some changes that will have a positive impact on the environment, then here are three simple things you can do:

  1. Eat a vegan diet
  2. Save electricity in the home and office
  3. Refill
1. Environmental impact of a vegan diet

Vegan diets are associated with huge reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions.

In the last 50 years, the world’s human population has doubled. With this explosion in numbers, milk production has also doubled. Meat production has tripled.

There are approximately 2,400,000,000 domesticated cattle and sheep on Earth, and forests are being cleared to make room for animal-feed crops. With deforestation, atmospheric carbon dioxide increases because of the reduction in CO2-sequestering plant life. And all those livestock are emitting methane gas into the atmosphere.

It’s estimated that if the world’s population began eating a vegan diet today, atmospheric greenhouse gases would be 70% reduced by 2050.

2. Save electricity in the home

In October 1881, the Savoy Theatre became the first public building to be lit throughout by electricity. Theatre producer Richard D’Oyly Carte demonstrated the safety of the bulbs to the nervous audience by breaking one on stage before the curtain rose on a performance of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Patience.

Today, we’re all so accustomed to electricity, we hardly notice it.

“The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.” Mark D Weiser, American computer pioneer

And because we hardly notice it, we don’t always think about how we’re using it.

Light bulbs

Of the energy emitted by a traditional incandescent light bulb, only 10-15% is in the form of visible light, which is measured in lumens. The majority (85-90%) is heat. That’s a lot of energy wasted, especially if you need to compensate for unwanted heat by opening windows.

An LED bulb, however, emits up to 80% light and as little as 20% heat.

If an LED bulb and an incandescent bulb were each to emit 1600 lumens, the incandescent bulb would consume 0.1 kW-h of energy, whereas the LED bulb would use about 0.02 kW-h of energy.

By using LED bulbs, which consume only one fifth of the energy used by incandescent bulbs, families can contribute to the preservation of the world’s fossil fuels and a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

Turn appliances off

Each year, the average UK household is responsible for 50kg of carbon dioxide emissions simply by leaving appliances on standby. Televisions, computers, and DVD players are frequently left on standby all day, every day. Turning these devices off when they’re not in use will contribute to the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions.

When in use, a desktop computer typically consumes about 0.1 kW-h. That’s 0.8 kW-h in an eight- hour day, 4 kW-h per five-day week, and 208 kW-h per year. The generation of 208 kW-h of electricity produces 48.5 kg of carbon dioxide gas.

In sleep mode, the desktop’s energy consumption is reduced to about one third. Therefore, left in sleep mode for 16 hours overnight, the computer will consume approximately 0.5 kW-h of electricity, which amounts to 2.5 kW-h per week and 130 kW-h annually. The generation of 130 kW-h of electricity produces 30kg of carbon dioxide emissions, and if the computer is left in sleep mode at weekends, too, that’s another 82 kW-h of energy and 19kg of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

Switching off a computer when it’s not in use goes a long way to slowing down global warming.

3. Refill

What processes are involved in the manufacture of plastic water bottles?

First of all, there’s the extraction of raw material – mainly oil. Then there’s the production of plastic resins. Resins are melted and formed into bottles, and the bottles are filled with water. Discarded bottles are recycled, incinerated, or put in landfill.

Transportation occurs between every stage of the bottles’ lifecycle – from the source of fossil fuel to manufacturing plant, to bottle factory, to bottling site, to wholesalers, to retailers, to end-of-life destination.

Each of these processes consumes energy. By-products include carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide – greenhouse gases that retain heat in the atmosphere for many years.

With plastic bottles, the damage isn’t confined to the manufacturing processes. Plastic will take between 500 and 1,000 years to decompose, and in that time, ecosystems will be damaged by microplastics that are absorbed into the food chain.

Well, that’s enough doom and gloom! This is all about prevention. The only way to slow down the manufacture of single-use plastic is to cut off demand, and the solution is to refill.

Whether you’re buying a takeaway coffee or grabbing a drink of water, refilling a reusable mug or bottle will save a piece of single-use plastic from being sold.

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