How can I decarbonise my life?

The question

What can we, as a family, do to reduce our carbon footprint and have a more ecologically sound lifestyle in general?

I know there are a lot of resources out there but I don’t have any particular expertise or the time to research everything, so I need a step-by-step or a handbook.

A related question – a lot of the difficulty is inertia. Any advice on how to get momentum turning away from the consumerist vortex of middle class American life (give me convenience or give me death) towards a more sustainable lifestyle?

This excellent question was posted to an online forum recently. It received some very good answers so I thought that I would treat it like a similar question on ethical investing a year ago and turn the discussion into a blog post.

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Put Solar On It! (2)

Solar power has been going gangbusters since my previous post under this title (2014) and an update of it is well overdue. This isn’t it, however. What I want to do here is talk about domestic solar power, and specifically its advantages here in North Queensland, via four small projects which came out of our own move from one suburban Townsville house to another two years ago.

I will go from smallest to largest.

Hall Lighting

The new house is a low-set, 1950-ish cement block home pleasantly surrounded by trees. That makes it much darker than our old high-set home, and its double-fronted layout means that the central hallway gets no direct natural light at all.

We had to choose between running lights all day, every day, and putting in a small skylight. Initial quotes for a skylight (Solatube, basic model) were around $750 with, of course zero running costs for about 10 hrs/day of adequate light, 365 days/yr. Could we do better?

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Au revoir, ReefHQ

reef HQ building noticeReef HQ Aquarium is about to close for a year for an extensive rebuilding project.

The whole structure is thirty years old and is looking tired; quite apart from that, its surrounding have changed: a building which was a great use of the site when it was shared by the Magnetic Island ferry terminal and the Omnimax theatre is now awkward, almost dysfunctional. The big reef and predator tanks will stay where they are, for obvious reasons, but everything else will move. It will take at least a year, and it starts in February.

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The story of Plastic Free July

Plastic Free coverPlastic Free is a warmly personal narrative by the founder of Plastic Free July, a sustainability initiative which began less than ten years ago, almost by accident, in Perth.

Prince-Ruiz was working at the time as a community educator in waste management so she was well equipped to support the programme when it unexpectedly took off – and that was all it needed.

Her emphasis was always on community, on shared learning, and on doing what’s possible right now rather than aiming higher and missing the goal. It made Plastic Free July an achievable and therefore engaging challenge, which then became a gateway to engagement with other sustainability issues – avoiding other single-use products, reducing food waste, joining food co-ops, and so on.
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Citizen Science – iNaturalist

The internet and digital photography have opened up wonderful opportunities for ordinary people to get involved in citizen science as observers of the natural world. Online meeting places and forums come and go but the best at the moment seems to be iNaturalist – https://www.inaturalist.org.

It’s a global project and the numbers are huge: 54 million observations by 1.4 million observers from nearly every country in the world when I looked recently. That presents a management problem, of course, which is solved by having countries run independent branches, e.g. https://inaturalist.ala.org.au/

Anyone at all can browse the content of the site but people have to sign up to participate. When that’s done (at no cost and very little trouble) they can upload their observations, help with identifying others’ observations, and join the discussion forums.  It’s a big and complex site but not too difficult to negotiate because it is exceptionally well planned and because there is no need to use most of its functions until you want to. (I have to admit there are some that I haven’t bothered with in the year I have been a member.)

And ordinary people can make very useful contributions to the project, especially if they (we) are outside the big cities.

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