An easy guide to have a positive impact
Reaching the Paris Agreement Goals is one of the most important objectives of our time. Still, what can WE do as individuals? We would like to welcome Viola who will tell us more about our personal impact on climate change and which actions we can take. Viola was LCP in Mannheim (2013/2014) and is now the proud COO & Co-Founder of worldwatchers. worldwatchers is an innovative Climate Tech Start-Up which enables companies, organizations, and individuals to measure, optimize and manage their own emissions.
- What is a personal CO2 Footprint?
In general, a CO2 footprint is the sum of all greenhouse gases emitted by direct (directly created by an individual) or indirect (which are the ones related to an individual) human activities. We are often referring to a CO2 footprint, meaning the CO2 equivalent. A CO2 equivalent is a metric used to compare the emissions of various greenhouse gases based on their global warming potential (GWP) by converting the amounts of other gases to the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide with the same global warming potential. Glossary: Carbon dioxide equivalent – Statistics Explained (europa.eu)
An individual carbon footprint is the total amount of all CO2 equivalents emitted by a country divided by its population. The European average is currently 6.7 tons CO2 equivalent per person per year (2018). That said, I would like to emphasize that firstly, “Climate change isn’t a problem caused by all people equally; it is caused mostly by the rich, and since we live in a capitalist world, the suffering will fall disproportionately on the poor.” Secondly, all stakeholders (politicians, businesses, investors, financial sector etc.) need to be the real change. How the 1% tricks you into thinking climate change is your fault | Salon.com
As the economist Peter Drucker once said, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure”. A good first step to become more aware of your own footprint is therefore to calculate it. You can calculate your current CO2eq footprint using our CO2 calculator (via the klimakompass/ climate compass, for now only applicable in Europe) or search for official websites on emissions reporting – these often have their own calculator (in Germany like UBA). Via the following link you may find the CO2eq/GHG per capita worldwide. https://edgar.jrc.ec.europa.eu/report_2021#emissions_table
- How can we reduce our Footprint?
According to the “1.5-Degree Lifestyles- technical Report” by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, Aalto University and D-mat ltd., each of us should reduce their average CO2 footprint per year to 2.5 tonnes by 2030.
To achieve this, policymakers need to establish the right roadmap for a successful coal exit by 2030 and provide the necessary support for a mobility turnaround. Beyond this, the greatest responsibility lies with businesses. Yet, to demonstrate to business leaders and politicians that we are open to change, we must start with ourselves.
“Be yourself the change you wish to see in this world.” Mahatma Gandhi
We have gathered some of the most effective and critical (behavioural) changes that can be done in several areas of our daily life. It might slightly differ depending on the place you live, but we believe it may already be enough to inspire the footprint reduction in your life.
Living: Tenants can install small solar panels on their own roof or balcony. As a landlord or property owner, you naturally have the most influence when it comes to renewable energy. In some countries such as Cyprus or Sweden, the photovoltaic investment is even state-subsidized. Additionally, you can save energy really easy with these hacks – and reducing energy-consumption means saving both money and CO2.
Mobility: If you currently drive your own car to work/ university, you might want to consider reducing your CO2 footprint in that area of daily life. Switching to public transportation, cycling, or simply participating in car sharing activities are the most effective ways to reduce your CO2 emissions. However, changing your behaviour is not always an easy task, especially since owning and using your own car increases your flexibility. I therefore recommend planning your week carefully, including accounting for people involved in your routine – find out about your train schedules, your colleagues’ weekly routines, how long it takes to walk to the grocery store, and so on.
Food & Drinks: According to a recent Oxford University study, people who eat meat are responsible for almost twice as many dietary greenhouse-gas emissions per day as vegetarians, and generate about 2.5 times as many emissions as vegans (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-014-1169-1). In other words, each day your diet does not include meat and/or dairy products, you reduce your CO2eq footprint. Particularly in “wealthier” countries, where plenty of meat alternatives exist and are commercialized. Now the market is full of meat or cheese alternatives (planted based meat etc.). However, creating new dishes without alternatives and the original offers an opportunity for diversifying and enriching your dietary habits.
Shopping: To improve our sustainability, following these three methods is essential: reduce, reuse, and recycle (upcycle). On average, there are 300,000 items in an American household (LA Times). So, a basic question to ask ourselves would be: do I really need this item (reduce), and if so, do I really need to buy it new (reuse)? There are plenty of refurbished items out there that would make the perfect fit. And regarding reducing, shopping at package-free shops or simply refraining from purchasing another plastic bag would already make a difference.
Free Time & Vacation: Value nature and nearby – this will naturally alter your behaviour for the sake of a more sustainable future. If you have a beautiful hiking area near your home, it would be the perfect place for an adventures weekend getaway. Although long holidays away help truly switch off from your daily life, planning short trips in your local area can help you overcome your inner wanderlust.
Financing: Don’t underestimate the impact of your money – investing in sustainable funds and saving at a sustainable bank makes an important difference. Without this multiplying effect through banks, we would not be able to invest in sustainable projects. Besides: Regardless of banks, there is always the option of offsetting one’s own carbon footprint. Even though the offsetting should not be considered a free pass for unsustainable behaviour, they are still supporting important projects.
- How can I inspire others?
Talk about your successes, share your experiences and your journey. Start conversations about it. In case fundamental topics are discussed, it is always helpful to know some important facts.
Here are some typical and unsubstantiated concerns you might encounter in your conversations:
“Living sustainably means I have to stop doing what I enjoy.”
Living in more sustainable manner means taking a hard look at your current lifestyle. It also implies asking the right questions about what you consume daily, what you do on vacation, and what your overall choices are. The main issue also lies in companies not yet offering fully sustainable products and services – leaving us with the difficult choices of whether to reduce our consumption or to overtake the extra ghg emissions to our individual footprint.
Even if we purchase “sustainable” products and services, green consumption will not be the sole measure to fight climate change. Which implies that changing our individual consumption patterns is crucial. So, if you are a fan of quick trips to another country, eat a steak every day, or really need new shoes every season, you probably won’t reduce your CO2 footprint anytime soon. But the truth is that you don’t have to be 100% sustainable and perfect – because once we all become more aware and strive to act and decide more sustainably, we’re already moving in the right direction as a society.
“Living sustainably is more expensive.”
Altogether, I would argue that a more sustainable lifestyle is cheaper than the other way around. Investing in new products like furniture and clothes can be more expensive in the short-term – but they often tend to have a longer product lifecycle. A longer lifespan also means that the product has the chance of living a second life via second-hand trading. Buying used products can help you save a considerable amount of money and reduce emissions. If you focus solely on certain areas of your life (e.g. organic and alternative food) and for a short period of time, living more sustainably will appear more expensive. If you follow the philosophy: reduce, reuse, and recycle, however, you can save a significant amount of both money and emissions.
How I try to involve my community.
As AIESECers, we know that part of the business model and vision is to give students around the world the opportunity to experience foreign cultures – this includes a great deal of air travelling. As the COO of worldwatchers, I would always try to travel by train as much as possible. However, I will be attending the Web Summit in Portugal in the beginning of November. Therefore, and because of time-constraint, I will have to take a flight to my destination and thus am planning to compensate my flight-emissions twice. Once by offsetting the flight through enyway (a worldwatchers partner), and a second time by encouraging my social community (friends and followers) to reduce their carbon footprint during that week by commuting mainly by train and adopting a vegan lifestyle for a week.
- What does worldwatchers do?
worldwatchers is a Climate Tech Start-up. We have two products – one is our publicly available app klimakompass – companies and communities can build teams and do together challenges to reduce their personal and business footprint. Secondly, we offer our technology and data to empower producing companies to measure, optimize and manage their Product Footprint including their supply chain. We are happy to also support your company with climate action. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.