What have you done today to lower your impact?

We are washing away the foundations of our existence on every front. It is high time we move from crashing about on the planet like a bull in china shop and find a way to go forward with intent. We must find systems of living based on sustainability. The systems and tools exist, it is up to each of us to adopt them.

Blog Archive

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Is being green so hard?-By Robb

Over on celsias.com there a thread starting up about the difficulties of "Being Green"
It includes some good points and worth a read. I don't mean to deny that change isn't difficult but I think it needs to be put in context. The degree of change we, in the developed world, need to make are actually pretty minor compared to the level of change demanded of those on the front lines of climate change. I wonder, what do the citizens of Tuvalu think? Here is my post on the topic.

What's so hard about living an intentional life? For me it's simple, "being green" is about using less of anything produced with fossil fuels, being more self sufficient in as many ways possible, and helping others to do the same. It's the difference between being a citizen and being a consumer.

There is a well known mantra I try to live by at all times and I don't find it a hardship, REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE, with heavy emphasis on REDUCE.

"Being green" appears much less difficult than being an environmental refugee, starving to death, or drowning, all increasingly likely outcomes for billions of people, even those of us in the developed world, if we continue to consume fossil fuels.

Any action that reduces use of fossil fuel matters, the more the reduction, the more it matters.

For the citizens on the move in India due to the recent unprecedented flooding, those that didn't drown, a massive and immediate lifestyle change is required now. Right Now! No choice in the matter, no pondering how difficult it is, to survive it must be done.

We here in the developed world have the luxury of a continuum of change. It generally isn't forced upon us by calamity, though the citizens of the ninth ward in New Orleans might disagree. For instance, I personally have reduced my flying by over 60% per year in the last two years as I have come to understand it's impacts. Next winter's visit home I hope to be the last time I ever step foot on an airplane. After that I will travel by sea. It took effort, a bit of soul searching, some compromise with my family, and perhaps has been the most "difficult" aspect of my personal continuum of change. I know many people that have already sworn off flying for good, one man I know has not flown in 18 years. Not driving more than once every 2 weeks, not eating fast food more than once a month, not leaving devices on standby, drastically cutting meat eating while drastically increasing my consumption of organic food, changing all my lightbulbs to CFL's, buying only used clothing, growing as much of my own food as possible, staying out of debt to maintain flexibility, the list of actions grows and all are on some sort of continuum.

This is the luxury I have, this is to some extent the luxury I have created. Guilt comes from not doing these things, frustration is eased by understanding that the continuum is a necessary part of transition, and enthusiasm is not "dead of a thousand cuts" rather it flourishes on the life giving blood of a thousand efforts.

We have less than 10 years to get our emissions under control, do we have the luxury of the easy?

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Like to eat? Then save the Bees!

Check out this article over at Organic Consumers Association regarding the US EPA's efforts to protect corporate interests, surprise surprise, at the cost of the environment. This time it involves a pesticide banned in Germany and France for years now due to it's danger to bees, those hard workers upon which "every third mouthful of food" we eat depends.

EPA is Hiding Colony Collapse Disorder Information

" 'This is a real mystery right now," said Dr. Gabriela Chavarria, director of NRDC's Science Center. "EPA needs to help shed some light so that researchers can get to work on this problem. This isn't just an issue for farmers -- this is an issue that concerns us all. Just try to imagine a pizza without the contribution of bees! No tomatoes. No cheese. No peppers. If you eat apples, cucumbers, broccoli, onions, squash, carrots, avocados, or cherries, you need to be concerned.' "

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Time for Plan B

Please have a look at this document from the Earth Policy Insitute

Time for Plan B

It outlines both the need for and the means of achieving 80% cuts in carbon emissions by 2020.

Free from Power Day

A monthly holiday in celebration of simplicity

This is an opportunity to express your willingness to consume less power in the form of electricity, fossil fuels, and products reliant upon them. It is also, a declaration of independence from the power of consumerism and media.

With a simpler life comes time to spend with loved ones, to exercise, to meditate, to work in the garden, to observe the rhythms of nature. With diligence you will discover how preferable is a life uncluttered by the superfluous trappings of the cult of consumerism.

By making this a monthly commitment you are more likely to adopt some level of these changes in everyday life than if it was less frequent, it stands to reason that adopting this action once a week, should you so choose, would be even more effective.

Thus on the first Saturday of every month:
1. Freedom from the power grid for entire day. Zero personal use of electricity delivered via the national grid.
2. Freedom from the fossil fuel use grid. Zero personal use of fossil fuels, no cars, buses, planes or trains fueled by fossil fuels. No cooking using fossil fuels or refridgerated food. No bathing or showering unless from rainwater heated renewably.
3. Freedom from Consumerism and media. No shopping, banking, television, radio, mp3, cell phone, land line phone, computer, or printed media usage.

This action developed out of a group discussion on the celsias.com thread started by John P. called “Can our economy grow forever?”. Everyone who commented on that thread has contributed to it’s development.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Thanks from Robb

Thanks to everyone who has visited this blog. Today I had my 1000th visitor. It is gratifying to know that the content I post here is of interest. I hope to continue to provide quality content dealing with issues of sustainability and hope that you will continue to visit the blog.

Tar Sands oil crimes video part 1

As oil companies ride rough shod over the environment of Alberta in a rush to extract profit from the earth they are destroying carbon sequestering arboreal forest ecosystems, creating huge toxic tailing ponds, leaving a legacy of cancer in the local communities through the toxification of the Athabasca river, and burning enough natural gas/day to heat 3 million Canadian homes. And who are they doing this for? American drivers, who else.

Tar Sands oil crimes video part 2

Tar Sands oil crimes video part 3

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Yikes! consuming again - by Robb

It has been a long time, months, since I have bought anything other than used clothes, used books, biodiesel for the van (made from recycled veggie oil of course) or food. Today Jacqui, that's my wife, and I drove the van, another unusual occurence, to the DIY shop and bought 5 tubes of silicone sealant, 4 cans of spray foam sealant, and some latex gloves. All of this stuff was product from the chemical industry, over packaged, and toxic. It was a weird feeling.

We are finishing a project on the house I started some time ago, insulating and sealing the ground floor. The insulation is made from recycled denim but the sealant and the protective gloves are certainly not sustainable products but are the only cost effective solutions to the problem of cold air ingress from the ventilated unheated cellar into the heated ground floor. This will save energy, obviously, but I wish there was a way to do green renovation work without the use of such nasty stuff. I wish the building had of been built more tightly 100 years ago and that when it was renovated along the way someone had thought of that. But alas, I'm stuck with stepping back on the treadmill again.

If this bugs me I dread how I'll react when I fly back to the US to see my family this winter, love miles.....ouch! Can't live with em, can't live without em.

I first heard the term "love miles" from George Monbiot. For a good read see Mr. Monbiot's fascinating essays on flying entitled "Travelling Light" and We are All Killers

Saturday, 16 August 2008

The tyranny of Consumerism - by Robb

thanks to Ms Money Savvy for the image

Free yourself from the tyranny of Consumerism!

Consumerism is consuming the planet. Consumerism depends on the debt economy. If you can't afford it without credit, you can't afford it. Don't buy on credit, use your resources to get out of debt as soon as possible. Be a citizen not a consumer.


There is freedom in getting out of debt. Freedom can mean having the choice to spend your resources in the local economy and on sustainability, choosing how and when to work, spending time in your garden rather than in an office funneling the wealth of your effort and your community into the hands of stockholders outside of your neighborhood. As the productiveness of the workforce has increased the benefits have not gone to the workers but to stockholders and CEO's salaries. The working poor consequently get paid less in inflation adjusted income and have to use credit cards and mortgages to meet their needs. Their problems are exacerbated by consumerism, the drive to own things that don't enhance their financial, environmental, or spiritual sustainability; in fact consumerism degrades sustainability.

What can I do?

As more of us discover the freedom of debt free living and tell our friends, families, and neighbors about it we will naturally have more time to re-connect with our communities,our neighbors and our families. This builds sustainability and resilience into our community. Reducing consumerism to help get out of debt has direct benefits to the sustainability of the planet because we consume less of it, whether in the resources needed to manufacture all the crap we normally fill our homes with, or the resources and pollution associated with transporting it to the market and the transport involved in shopping for it. There are also the waste streams involved in the manufacture and end of life disposal of all that tat, the implications of employing poor people in that effort rather than in sustainable employment which rebuilds their local economy rather than exporting it's resources up the food chain of corporate greed. The sooner that model is replaced with a more just and humane one the better. If we wait for peak oil and climate change to force the issue the suffering will be much worse. It is our choice.


If you are deeply in debt, find a way out. Get free credit counseling, cut up your credit cards, shift more of your resources to paying down the principle. My rule of thumb is if you must borrow, never borrow more than you can comfortably pay off in a year, never borrow again until you have paid that first loan off.

Home - Get off the property ladder. If you have a home and a mortgage, make the home as sustainable as possible to save money, pay off the mortgage ASAP and don't get another one until you can pay cash.

Transport - Do without a car if at all possible, don't even own one. If you must then don't buy it on credit, buy a used high mileage vehicle and drive it a little as possible.

Food - Grow as much of it as you can, get an allotment, grow on your windowsill if that is all you've got. Buy in bulk, cook from fresh ingredients, don't waste food as that is the same as putting money in the bin, use that money to pay off your debts.

Fashion - Avoid it, buy practical multipurpose clothing from thrift shops, wear everything until it wears out. Avoid jobs that require constant fashion upgrades.

Electronics - No subscription services that don't directly enhance your ability to increase your self sufficiency; no satellite or cable TV, no cell phone monthly contracts, no expensive software upgrades that also require hardware upgrades, use your electronics till they die. Don't buy time wasters like gaming consoles, home entertainment systems, giant TV's, or even cell phones. I would argue that an internet connection can be productive but that depends on how you use it.

Housewares - Prioritise your needs; for example, is a new kitchen, assuming you can afford it (see rule of thumb above), going to save you money or would that money be better spent on a solar hot water installation. Avoid luxuries, redefine luxury as anything that doesn't contribute to your sustainability.


For an article about studies linking depression in children to consumerism see:
For an articles about debt and the economy see:
For models of economic sustainability see:

Tuesday, 12 August 2008


This is the next post from my series on the Sheffield Star online Green Scene section.

In my last post I presented some recent climate science to help establish the context within which we face perhaps the most important and yet mundane choices we will make. Important in that our choices will resonate down the ages just as those our forefathers made in choosing to build an economy based on fossil fuels. Mundane in that they involve the most basic of choices we make on a daily basis but which could move us beyond our dependence on fossil fuels. Whether our forefathers are to be held to blame for their choices is not at issue, whether or not we will be held accountable is, because we know the consequences of our choice.

In our own lifetimes we are likely to see major changes in our planet come about just from the damage we have allowed to occur up to now. If we don’t make major changes in the way we go about the business of our lives we will induce far worse changes to come about after we are gone.

So do we choose to address this personally or do we leave it up to governments and corporations? Will governments and corporations choose to address this if we don’t address it on a personal level? I don’t think so. The scale of the change necessary requires both. This means that each and every one of us must make changes in the way we live. We’ve done it before in the face of catastrophe,namely WWII, we can do it again.

On BBC’s Countryfile I recently learned about the scallop fishery of Lyme Bay. 60nm2 of the bay are being closed to dredging in an attempt to restore the coral ecosystem of the bay upon which the fisheries depend. A fisherman was lamenting the loss of a way of life he and his family had pursued for many years but acknowledged that he could change to another type of fishing. It will cost money to do so and the government should help with that, after all they allowed the damage to continue for so long that such drastic action became necessary.

This one instance is a microcosm of the choices we face. If we get lost in trying preserve a way of life that is destroying the ecosystems that support us we will fail. This realisation must pervade our every decision. It is going to be difficult. It will be hard for the politicians to do the right thing if we aren’t willing to demonstrate that we understand the sacrifices necessary.

"It is no use saying 'We are doing our best' you have got to succeed at doing what is necessary" - Winston Churchill

For more about the Lyme Bay issue see:

Friday, 8 August 2008

Mitigate, adapt, or both?

One of the lecturers, Peter Harper, at my last module for my MSc stressed the importance of developing carbon capture and storage as a last ditch effort to mitigate anthropogenic climate change. Others discussed the looming need for planetary engineering proposals and a willingness to consider implementation of such schemes. This is scary stuff and is predicated on an understanding that the changes required to get our emissions levels down enough are so huge as to be seen as impossible in the consumerist cultures of the developed world and the increasingly consumerist developing world. And now one of the chief scientists in the UK has said we need to prepare for a 4ºC rise in global temperature in an article in the Guardian. He also recommends pursuing CCS more aggressively.

I recently heard a podcast entitled "METHANE BURPS AND TELE-EVERYTHING" over on Radio EcoShock of an interview with David M. Bushnell, Chief Scientist from NASA Langley Research Center, who stated we could see temperature increases of 12º to 14ºC by 2100 if the positive feedback loops currently kicking in, not included in the last IPCC reports, aren't brought to a halt. This would mean sea level rises of 75 to 80 meters which would submerge the current living area of 2.4 billion people. He states that we need to replace 80% the fossil carbon based energy we use with algae, halophytes, and cyanobacteria sourced biofuels grown on unused land, he calls it deserts and wasteland, with sea water. This would need to be accompanied by massive increases in conservation and huge deployment of drill geothermal, wind and solar capacity. All of these approaches have the capacity to far exceed the fossil carbon we are currently using. Dr. Bushnell thinks if we decide to do it we could have this capacity in 20 -25 years.

While all this sounds encouraging, I'm concerned about treating deserts as wasteland, this still means having the will, both personal and political, to proceed with these sustainability projects, both the conversion to renewable forms of energy, Al Gore reckons we could do it in 10 years, and carbon capture and storage. We need to leave oil, gas and coal in the ground starting now. Are you willing to do what is necessary on the home front? Is your representative in government willing to do what is necessary on the political front? What stands in the way?

It is time to remove the barriers to this sort of progress and make the change happen.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Still in doubt? Check this out.

There are still voices, getting a disproportionate amount of media coverage, that attempt to cast doubt on the truth of climate change caused by human induced global warming. The overwhelming consensus of scientific opinion seems to have no effect on these folks.

"Members of the public who are tempted to be swayed by the denier fringe should ask themselves how it is possible, if human-caused climate change is just a hoax, that:
  • The leaderships of the national academies of sciences of the United States, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, Russia, China, and India, among others, are on record saying that global climate change is real, caused mainly by humans, and reason for early, concerted action.
  • This is also the overwhelming majority view among the faculty members of the earth sciences departments at every first-rank university in the world."

  • Has the lure of special interest support, ie the oil industry, or momentary fame through media attention become of more importance than good citizenship? Check out this article by John Holden at the Boston Globe for more about this phenomena.

    Saturday, 2 August 2008

    WWF report- "Weathercocks and Signposts"

    Here is a quote from the foreword from the new report from the WWF that reinforces something I have believed for some time, that green consuming isn't going to cut it, we need less consuming, drastically less, as well as huge shifts in policy and a rethink of the very basis of our economy. Download the report here:

    Weathercocks and Signposts

    "A marketing approach to behavioural change, which this report begins by characterising, insists that we should ask people to take simple and painless steps. But the widening gulf between the cumulative impact if these behavioural changes and the scale of the challenges we confront is openly acknowledged" - David Norman, Director of Campaigns WWF-UK