Carbon Futures

by Deb on August 19, 2010

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Want to decrease your environmental impact?  Win prizes?  Write an ebook?  It’s all here.

I’m running a challenge for the next 3 weeks – it is actually a national one but I thought it would be good to run a private Science@home group as well.  The idea is that we all sign up, report our results and encourage each other and there is a prize for the group winner at the end.  It is open internationally except for the transport module, there is no option to choose other countries but you can pretend you live in an Australian state.

Climate change is probably the greatest threat facing humanity today.  It’s not just going to make us turn our airconditioners on more – it can change the ocean circulation, stop the monsoon (sorry India, no food), drown coastal areas and whole islands (want some real estate in Manhattan?) and will have major effects on crops.

One of the ways for working out how expensive a lifestyle is for the planet is to work out an ecological footprint.  This is basically how much land and resources it takes to support a particular lifestyle – say you eat the equivalent of one cow per year, it would work out how much land it has taken to grow the crops that cow has eaten.  And you could work out how much carbon dioxide has been produced by the trucks carrying your food.  Obviously it’s very rough, but it can give an idea.

Australia has a very high ecological footprint.  Basically if everyone lived the way we do in Australia, it would take 3 earths to support us all.  Not all of that is our fault – it’s a big country and things need to be moved, there is a lot of desert.  But we could be building better houses.  We could be investing in tropical agriculture and public transport and better town planning.

Three areas where we can all make small but significant changes as individuals are transport, electricity and water.  I think we all know this, but how many of us actually do it?

Carbon Futures is an online challenge to help us do just that.  It goes for 3 weeks and you do a daily quiz to record how you are going.  The idea is to make small changes and see how they affect your carbon footprint.  Then all the individual changes add up to make real change.  It runs from Monday the 23rd of August – so sign up now!  You must sign up and do the baseline quizzes before the 23rd.

When you sign up you choose which areas you are going to work on and do a baseline quiz to see where you are starting from.  I chose electricity and water – I already walk most of the time because we live in a small town.

You can join the Carbon Futures Facebook Group or follow them on Twitter to find out what is going on.

The idea of the Carbon Futures challenge is to make sustainable changes.  It is easy to do something special when you are accountable to a report, but then slip back into your old habits when it is over.  So the idea is to have small changes that you will continue when the challenge is over.

Look around you for changes you can make – open the doors at night for a breeze rather than airconditioning, or alternatively turn the heater off half an hour before you plan on going to bed.  Get a good old fashioned hot water bottle!

It takes time to turn something new into a habit.  This is why the challenge lasts for 3 weeks and you have to keep participating – to support you until you have made the shift.

To turn this into a supportive group effort, we need a place to encourage, make suggestions and generally talk about it.  On the Science@home Facebook Fan page in the discussions tab I have started several topics, this is the place to reply, chat, or start your own topic.  This is where the ebook comes in – I think between us we can come up with lots of practical, useful suggestions – I know there are some experts reading as well as environmentally conscious consumers.  I’d like to collate all the ideas we come up with into an ebook that can then help others as well as the environment.  You don’t have to be part of the challenge to join in with this – anyone who has tips can share them.

Prizes. There will be some.  I’m tempted to say a bulk supply of sodium bicarb and vinegar, but that would be difficult to post.  Everyone who participates will receive a top secret prize shh, but I’m working on an ebook of science activities that will be released soon. There will also be a prize for the top participant that I haven’t decided on yet.

If you are interested in your own ecological footprint, there is a footprint calculator here at WWF.  You do a quiz that covers food, transport, housing, rubbish and electricity and it works out how many earth’s your lifestyle is worth.  There are then suggestions on how to improve.

Please join in!  You will be saving yourself money, improving your lifestyle and getting ideas and support from others while you do it. Let me know in the comments that you’re in!

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Brenda August 19, 2010 at 11:13 am

Lots of good thoughts. Thanks.
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Ro August 19, 2010 at 11:16 am

Woot!
That’s a great idea, thanks 🙂
I think we’re pretty good with our carbon footprint already but it never hurts to look and learn more ways to shrink it further!
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Heather August 19, 2010 at 1:42 pm

An interesting post, Deb! Despite temps at 90F, I have yet to use the AC this summer, though I have had the fan on low a few times. Keeping the front blinds closed during the day seems to help, and I turn off lights in rooms I’m not using. I also walk or take the bus a lot. The one thing I cannot do in my current apartment, however, is turn the heat down at night. I would literally freeze to death. I’m on an exposed NW corner, and at one time last winter had four heavy quilts on the bed and was still cold. I swear there is NO insulation in the northern wall.
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Deb August 20, 2010 at 2:05 pm

It’s interesting hearing from people all over the world – freezing is never a problem here! But our current house is badly designed – it’s literally a converted shed – so I’m very interested in designing houses that won’t need extra heating and cooling.

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Aussie Mum August 19, 2010 at 3:29 pm

Hi Deb – I really like this post and would love to join in the carbon futures challenge but I’ll be in hospital next week for the arrival of baby number 3 so I don’t think I would get much out of it right now! I will be following along on the facebook group though to get some inspiration. We have made a lot of changes in our household in the last year or so to try and reduce our carbon footprint (walking more, better home insulation, more efficient lighting, heating etc.) but I know we still have a long way to go. Look forward to reading more.
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Deb August 20, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Congratulations on the bub, I think you’ve found a very good excuse 😉 We’ve started looking at it in the last year as the girls get older, so I’m interested to see what the challenge is like.

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Self Sagacity August 19, 2010 at 5:11 pm

I love reading about this sort of thing. It makes me wonder and think about what I can do, but this I need more time to decide. Wonderful thought.
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MultipleMum August 20, 2010 at 6:26 pm

I’m in! Sounds like a great plan. Thanks for sharing. Found you via FYBF
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Jen August 20, 2010 at 11:08 pm

Ive just filled in the form to participate but now I need to go back tomorrow and read properly as to what I need to do to make changes in our house 🙂 . Thanks for the link to this. I will friend your facebook page and keep up to date that way too 🙂

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Tricia August 22, 2010 at 9:38 am

Thanks for letting us know about this challenge.

I just signed up. I selected transport as its the one area I know i need to focus on. Water and Energy were two of the areas we focused on early. We now have solar hot water, pv panels and rainwater tanks and keep an eye on our consumption. But transport i’ve been slack. I want to ride my bike or take public transport, but many mornings I’m running late and jump in the car.

I found footprint calclators a great way of identifying which areas to focus on first. I was surprised to learn that our ‘Food’ had the greatest ecological impact. So thats where i focused first.

The ACF calculator is also worth trying. http://www.acfonline.org.au/custom_greenhome/calculator.asp?section_id=86

Looking forward to playing along. 🙂
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