Climate change, freshwater pollution, overflowing landfills, mass extinctions – it’s easy to look at the issues facing our environment and feel like they’re simply too big!
The reality is that together, we can make a difference. The younger generation is certainly taking that message on board. On 27 September they went on strike from school and headed to the streets to call for global action on climate change. If protesting isn’t your thing, there are a number of simple changes you can make to minimise your footprint. If everyone in New Zealand did the same, the net impact would be huge!
Here are five changes you can make that will help our environment the most:
Add a meat-free day – or two
It may surprise you to know that in New Zealand, agriculture is responsible for more than half of the greenhouse gasses produced. The bulk of that is generated by cattle – remember the fart tax? Methane, which is essentially what cows and sheep are letting go, is a greenhouse gas about 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide. So, the easy answer? Introduce one or two days a week where you don’t eat meat. This means you lower the demand for meat products and reduce the need to increase supply as our population grows. To start your vegetarian adventure, try Kiwi cooks Annabelle Langbein and Nadia Lim who both have plenty of mouthwatering, meat-free recipes on their websites.
In the States, personal vehicles account for nearly one-fifth of all emissions, with 3.5 litres of petrol producing nearly 11kg of global-warming gases. In New Zealand, much of our energy comes from renewable resources, so swapping petrol for electricity is a great way to reduce your carbon emissions.
The great news? Electric cars are becoming more and more affordable, and their range is extending. For example, the Nissan Leaf’s battery, when charged on a fast-charger, can go from 50 to 85 per cent capacity in 15 minutes. This extends the battery performance from 100 to 200 kilometres in about as long as you’d have spent at the petrol station filling up, getting a coffee and nipping to the loo. These fast-charging stations are popping up at main centres and highways all over the country. You can keep up to date with New Zealand’s move towards electric vehicles here.
Reduce air travel
Air travel is a big one when it comes to greenhouse gasses, so minimising how much you fly is an easy way to tread more lightly on the earth. The good news is that journeys by train or boat are often a lot more fun – you can relax onboard and watch the scenery go by. You might also like to think more carefully about the food you buy – if the product or its ingredients were produced overseas, it will almost certainly have been shipped by plane – so when you buy these products you’re contributing to air travel without realising it.
Plant some trees
We’re lucky in New Zealand – here our forests offset nearly 30% of our greenhouse gas emissions. Trees ‘breathe in’ carbon dioxide and expel oxygen, so a native forest can remove more than 8 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.
That means natives planted in your garden won’t just look beautiful, they’ll also reduce your footprint!
Buy fewer things
Everything you buy took energy to produce, some more than others. Your cheap t-shirt was probably made from cotton grown in India, with huge quantities of pesticides and water, manufactured in China using coal energy, packaged in plastics and shipped across the world using fossil fuels. A pair of jeans is responsible for the same amount of carbon dioxide as driving 125 kilometres! So if you have to buy new, get the best quality you can, so it will last. If you’re buying online, choose normal freight, rather than urgent delivery. The best option is to buy second-hand, or simply to not buy at all.
Switch to solar energy with solarZero
While much of NZ’s energy is renewable, there’s still coal being burned in power stations around the country. The government has set an ambitious target to be 100% renewable energy by 2035. If instead of building new plants to replace the coal-burning ones (at an estimated cost of $20 billion!), every householder had solar panels installed, we’d easily achieve that goal. solarZero makes it really easy and affordable to switch to solar energy. Instead of buying solar panels and paying to install them, you simply subscribe to solarZero, a solar energy ‘streaming’ service where the system is installed and maintained by solarcity. That means you pay no upfront costs and you see savings in your power bill from the first year. You simply pay a fixed monthly fee – starting from as little as $85+GST a month. solarcity takes care of regular maintenance, upgrades and repairs, while you enjoy cheaper power that’s kinder to the environment. Collectively to date, solarcity’s customers have saved enough greenhouse gas to equal removing 160 cars from the road, or planting 696,000 trees!
Small steps add up
While climate change seems like an impossible issue to solve, there are things you can do – and they’re not that hard! Reduce the meat and dairy you eat, switch to an electric car, and avoid buying new consumer items. Find space in your garden for an air-cleaning tree, aim for ground travel rather than flying, and choose locally produced food. Run your home with the power of the sun by signing up with solarZero, and enjoy the cost savings as well as doing your bit for the planet.
Ready to get started? Click here to see if you qualify for solarZero