Michael Nabert is a Canadian sustainability educator. He’s also very charismatic. His maxim, ‘help our footprint shrink to fit’ encompasses a wide range of causes, which he is more than happy to help spread the word about, for the benefit of the earth and all of its inhabitants. Nabert believes that the differences between men and women in many professions in the western world desperately need rectifying. He also looks a bit like a magician. So, is there anything not to like about Nabert?
Below he outlines a few ways we can all look at our daily impact on the planet- and live a healthier lifestyle in the process. The facts may relate to North America, but in terms of culture and ideas of ‘necessity’, Australia is in the very same boat. While some may look at this and just think ‘too hard basket’, a change in just one or two areas of the average Australian’s lifestyle is a step in the right direction.
While lists of ways to ‘go green’ abound, most of them are trivial at best: we’re not going to functionally improve tomorrow by making sure our tires are properly inflated. In terms of personal behaviours, for the typical first world citizen, there are only six basic behaviours that make a difference to reducing the size of one’s ecological footprint. For every bag at the curb on trash day, there’s another 70 or so bags from the manufacturing process that made all that stuff, so when we focus on recycling, we’re missing the point that it’s not the tail end of the snake that bites us.
Buy Fewer Nonessentials
Most of our retail purchases are completely unimportant to the goal of living sustainably, or indeed happily. We can’t eat status symbols, and research proves it isn’t our possessions that genuinely bring us joy. We need to live within our means, not only in terms of credit card debt but also in resource availability, and that requires taking a hard look at things.
Support your local economy, frequent local craftspeople, eat local food, and get to know your neighbours. It won’t only reduce the emissions we create with long distance shipping. It also grows more skills, resources, and opportunities close to you, improving the available quality of life where you live.
Eat Lower On The Food Chain
In 1965, there were 3.3 billion humans on the planet and they ate 10 billion livestock. In 2011 the 7 billionth human being was born, but we now slaughter more than 56 billion livestock annually, so that’s the real population bomb. Livestock grazing already uses one quarter of the ice-free terrestrial surface of the planet, and India and China now want to eat meat like we do. Not to mention that lower impact diets also mean significant health gains.
Go Low Tech
High tech solutions use complex and rare materials, commonly have unexpected side effects, and are expensive. High tech gets replaced, while low tech can be repaired, with fewer parts to go wrong. Security and confidence comes from knowing that in a pinch you might be able to fix something yourself.
For the average North American, one year of driving creates 2.2 tons of emissions, and one year of eating represents 3 tons. One return airfare from Toronto to Rome can be 5.5 tons, the largest spike in emissions many of us aspire to. Road trips are greener, and the train more so. Better still, spend those dollars greening your home, which is where you’ll spend most of your time, and it will pay you back.
Give Up Your Car
Telecommute, use public transit, walk, bicycle. Bicycles are the most efficient transportation ever invented, and we could clearly use the exercise. Many cities now have car share programs you can join, so that if you have to move something heavy across town you can get wheels for the day without the ongoing expense, maintenance, temptation, and danger that car represents in your driveway.
Extra credit: Demand Collective Action
Individual changes aren’t enough by themselves. Call out climate change denial wherever you see it. Educate others about what their choices mean (no, you won’t get popular doing it, sorry, but it needs doing). Pressure local, regional and national governments with all of your might.
We’d need six planets to provide the world a North American lifestyle, and there is perpetual pressure to keep the economy growing indefinitely, but ecology is the true wealth of our planet. Today’s children have a shorter life expectancy than their parents for the first time in many centuries.
I’ve not only slashed my budget and my carbon footprint, I’m healthier, more relaxed, and having more fun in doing it. The shift to sustainability is inevitable. We will either do it voluntarily, which is difficult and inconvenient, or collapsing resources and environmental degradation are going to do it for us. When you make sustainable choices, be proud.
Tell your friends. If we genuinely want to make tomorrow a better place, that’s how we are going to do it.