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100-Day Sprint to a Smaller Environmental Footprint


GaryD
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Inspired by Ande's post on Earth Overshoot Day I decided to get personal about reducing my environmental footprint.

We can change and become part of the solution...or leave things as they are...and remain part of the problem...and suffer the consequences.

For the next 100 consecutive days, I will change something within my span of control that will reduce my personal impact on the planet.

Each day, I'll undertake an action....to reduce, re-use and recycle...and I'll report it here.

Like so many people, I'm 'interested' in the environment, but I fall down on the little things...the incremental changes that would make a practical difference.  While I've been loosely engaged in reducing my own footprint for years, I still find I'm starting off from a low base.

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Day 1 of the 100-Day Environmental Sprint - Weed Control

Outcome:  Reduced fossil fuel use - reduced labour.

Our small 1/4 acre microfarm has no shortage of fencelines and edges that are a great place for weeds to prosper.  

I'm not unduly concerned about weeds as such, but being a good neighbour is about doing one's share to keep the cobbler's pegs and other obnoxious plants from migrating through the fencelines.  The even bigger issue is the amount of time that it takes to remove weed seeds from the fur of my Maltese Terrier.

I don't use synthetic herbicides so I'll usually use a brushcutter to knock these weeds over.   In our peak growing season the weeds will re-emerge within a week or two, so that means plenty of two-stroke fuel, the consumables (like the cutter cord and replacement cutter heads) and buzzing ears.  

My proposed solution is an interim one...to use an LPG weed burner to control the weeds.  While the burner still requires fossil fuel, it will use much less - and the emissions are less noxious - than those coming out of the brushcutter.  I hope to get to the point where, having got them under control, I can easily manage much of the weed control with a hoe.

This is not the full answer but it is an acceptable interim measure.

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This is the weedburner.  It sounds like the afterburner of a jet fighter when it's at full throttle.  It works by applying such intense heat that the cells of the weeds  burst - and they die.

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The weed kill was good - this is just 12 hours later.   I'll re-do it in a week or two - just to kill off any new shoots.

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Day 2 of the 100-Day Environmental Sprint - Turn the lights off!

Outcome:  Reduced energy use - reduced expense - better sleep.

I'm like most other people...moving from room to room...leaving the lights on in my wake.  I leave chargers plugged in and, once I go to bed, my living space looks like a nighttime cityscape with all manner of coloured lights from the various appliances and digital devices.

It's not just the lights.  All night (for as much as I am conscious), there's a cacophony of beeps, chimes and clicks as I receive dozens of notifications of nothing important.  For as much as all of this digital activity interrupts sleep, it should stop, too.

This strategy begins immediately with a renewed effort to switch lights off as I move around.  

Some years ago, I bought a remote control socket arrangement that allows me to switch off power points remotely.  Instead of crawling around my space trying to find all of the power points, I can switch three of them remotely.  That means that the microwave, all of my computer gear (including chargers) and anything else that is live (even when not operating) will get switched off with the press of a button.

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These changes aren't going to produce enormous savings but I'm looking for incremental change across many fronts.  Collectively, they'll move me out of the environmental armchair and into the practical realm.

Update - 11th August 2021...While I've owned the remote control socket kit for over two years, it had never been out of the packet.  I spent more than two hours trying to set it up - without success - before a bit of Googling confirmed that the device had a known fault (it conflicts with other radio devices).  Not surprisingly, neither the retailer nor the wholesaler carry the product anymore.  I'm about $40.00 down for the whole experience...and I'm back to switching off the lights manually...a more appropriate solution anyway.  It's another reminder that technology won't resolve every issue.

 

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Day 3 of the 100-day Environmental Challenge - Shop less.

Outcomes:  Lower consumption - reduced expense - reduced fuel consumption

This strategy is, given the COVID-19 pandemic, something of a gift.  To large measure, the limits to our movements brought about by the pandemic means that reduced consumption is almost automatic...but I'm going to struggle toward the end of the 100 days so I'm going to grab this quick win anyway.

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Living on an island is helpful when it comes to reducing consumption...particularly since it requires some effort and a barge trip to get to the shopping centre.   We buy on the island where possible but things are naturally more expensive...all of which is a disincentive to spending.

Aside from restricting mainlaind trips to the essential, I'm reducing the frequency of local shopping trips.  Rather than just go out and buy something, I'm now making a greater effort to check to see that I don't already have what I need (I have a 6-metre shipping container full of the surplus of bygone days) before spending the money.

Reduced consumption is the key to sustainability.

 

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Day 4 of the 100-day Environmental Challenge - Use handkerchiefs and old cloth in place of tissues and paper towel

Outcomes:  Recycling, reduced expense - reduced consumption of forest products.

This is another area where I had lapsed but I'm re-affirming my commitment to change.  I have a growing collection of old cotton tea towels that I use for cleaning but, for some inexplicable reason, paper towel has re-appeared in my place.  It's a similar thing with handkerchiefs...I have plenty yet a box of tissues sits on my bedside table.

Old cotton gets softer with use so my old tea towels make great cleaning and polishing rags...and I handkerchiefs provide a more satisfying nose-blowing experience - in addition to other uses like wiping the sweat from one's brow and cleaning my glasses.  Of course, when using handkerchiefs these thing are done in reverse order.

This strategy demonstrates that self-discipline - and a real desire for change - are necessary if I'm to be successful in my quest for greater sustainability.

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Day 5 of the 100-day Environmental Challenge - Don't replace my dead computer printer.

Outcomes:  Save money - Reduced waste stream - Reduced paper use.

My printer died a few weeks ago and I hadn't got around to replacing it.

Computer printers are representative of all that's wrong with our hyper-consuming society.  They are so cheap (and the consumables so expensive) that when the ink cartridges run out, it's often cheaper to replace the printer.  As such, they have a huge waste stream associated with them.

In the spirit of this challenge, I won't be replacing the printer.  I have a friend who lives adjacent to me and she has a printer/scanner so I'll use that on the rare occasion that I need a printer.

Update - 11th August 2021...I went to the local post office agency yesterday and they had my old printer for sale for $89.00.  A black and colour ink cartridge were priced at $49.00 and $60.00 respectively...for a total of $109.00.  Why would you buy replacement cartridges when you could throw away a perfectly functional computer - and save $20.00 - by buying a new one.

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Day 6 of the 100-day Environmental Challenge - Stop accepting disposable cutlery and napkins.

Outcomes:  Reduced waste stream

When travelling to the mainland, I succumb to the lure of the occasional takeaway meal.   The food inevitably comes with a disturbing amount of paper packaging and plastic cutlery and cups/bottles.  I've assembled a small kit of real cutlery and drinkware that I'll keep in my truck.

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Day 7 of the Environmental Challenge - Buy pre-loved books rather than new ones.  Buy audiobooks rather than regular books.

Outcomes:  Recycling - Reduced paper consumption - Reduced expense - 

I've stopped looking at screens after 7:00pm so I read fiction prior to going to sleep.  I walk for an hour each day and I listen to audiobooks (usually non-fiction) while I do it.

I sleep better - and the further I walk, the more informed I become.

 

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Day 8 of the Environmental Challenge - Donate old clothes to the local charity shop.

Outcomes:  Recycling (Re-use) - Less Clutter - Extends the life of the clothing - More space for me.

My wardrobes and cupboards contain clothes across a weight range of 90kg - 113kg.  To keep the larger sizes suggests that I might achieve the top weight again - a notion that I reject...so a couple of bags of my overweight past went to the community goodwill store.   The wardrobe is already looking better.

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Day 9 of the Environmental Challenge - Use my torch when moving about at night - rather than leaving outside lights on.

Outcomes:  Save energy - Save Money.

I move between three buildings at night - the house (occupied by someone else), my space and the workshop.  To avoid stumbling or stepping on a carpet python (or dog poop) I've fallen into the habit of switching three outside lights on.  This wasteful and unnecessary and can be avoided by the use of my rechargeable torch.

Note:  If I appear to be picking the low-hanging fruit in the early stages of this challenge it's because, in the past few days, I've researched green living strategies and getting to 100 of them is going to be a struggle.  While I found a couple of such '100 strategies' lists, they were directed specifically at women (like using cup tampons) or otherwise impractical for me (like buying an electric car).

 

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Hi Gary

2 hours ago, GaryD said:

Note:  If I appear to be picking the low-hanging fruit in the early stages of this challenge it's because, in the past few days, I've researched green living stragies and getting to 100 of them is going to be a struggle.  While I found a couple of such '100 strategies' lists, they were directed specifically at women (like using cup tampons) or otherwise impractical for me (like buying an electric car).

 

I belive picking all those "low-hanging fruits" are really important and to often overseen:thumbsu:

We have a saying here in Norway :  "Mange bekker små, gjør en stor å"  

directly translated  "Many small streams, make one big river"

I think it's real cool to see how you in fact make a difference, in your over all environmental footprint :goodjob:

cheers

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Hi Gary,

Intersting article Ande put up

I've been intersted in this type of thing for a long time.

I've been following your progress

I'm doing it somewhat differently with a big investment in my solar panels and solar battery, which, By The Way, is paying me back in spades. This investment has "forced" me to change the way I do some things. For instance I now put the dishwasher on during the day, preferably just before or after lunch when the solar panels are working full tilt and the battery is charging. This is your thread so I wont list all the different things I do but sustainability does cause one to think differently about the way they do things.

The weed burner thing you have...They work well, I would keep a keen eye it for the fire it may cause. I can tell you from experience they are good at lighting fires.

You are smart picking the low hanging fruit first, remember, we advise people starting off in food production to start small first, it's no different here IMO.

Cheers.

Edited by bigdaddy
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Thank you Ande and BD.  

I'm gradually building a list of sustainability strategies of my own.  I'm up to about 90 that are relevant to me.  The last 40 have required a fair bit of searching...so the last 10 will be a drag.

BD...feel free to create your own list of actions.  It will no doubt provide me with more ideas even if you decide not to go the full 100 (which was probably a dumb idea anyway).   Aside from chronicling my own sustainability challenge, it encourages me to put fresh content into this old forum of ours...every day!

 

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Day 10 of the Environmental Challenge - Do more slow-cooking.

Outcomes....Save energy - Save money (cheaper cuts of meat)- Save time.

I've had a slow-cooker for a long time but, like so many kitchen appliances, it's rarely used.  I love foods like lamb shanks, beef cheeks and oxtail - the tougher cuts of meat that really benefit from slow cooking.  A few minutes of preparation...chopping the vegetables and browning the meat...is all that is required before putting the meal into the slow cooker.  Four to eight hours later and I have a delicious meal...or two.

 

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Day 11 of the Environmental Challege - Set up a worm farm.

Outcomes:  More effective use of kitchen wastes - Worms and Worm Castings

This is another area where I had been doing something - and then lapsed.

My emerging health regime has me eating very little in the way of processed food so I have lots of kitchen wastes.  I've been feeding all of those to the chickens but, from now on, I'll separate ou the vegetable residues and they can now go to the worms...and any protein or carbohydrates (stale bread, meat trimmings, etc) will be for the chickens.

I need a regular supply of castings for a project  - and the worms will be useful, too - so yesterday I visited our local worm man and bought a parcel of worms.  Today, I started up the worm farm again.

 

 

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Day 12 of the Environmental Challenge - Pick up trash when I walk.

Outcomes:  A cleaner environment

Yesterday, while on my daily walk, I passed a woman who was gathering trash as she walked.  It occurred to me that I could do the same thing.  I began to pick up litter, too.

Here's the result of my first day as a garbage collector...not a lot but a beginning.

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Day 13 of the Environmental Challenge - Recycle surplus IKEA shelving unit

Outcomes:  Re-use of existing product to extend its useful life.

This shelving unit was surplus to requirements and I had the choice of selling it online - or re-purposing it.

Past attempts to sell things through Gumtree or Ebay left me mentally scarred from having to answer a thousand inane questions - so finding another use for the unit was an easy decision.  Anyway, it now sits on top of one of my workshop benches (for which my old back is not remotely grateful) where it will accommodate all of my workshop sundries.

 

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Days 14 and 15 of the Environmental Challenge....Water loss prevention.

Outcome:  Save water...improved loss prevention

My apology for my failure to report on time for yesterday.  

As it happens, yesterday's strategy - and today's...were linked.

I'm notorious for leaving taps on....generallly with hoses connected to them.  As they get older, the hoses and fittings become prone to failure....and wasted water is the inevitable outcome.   My other periodic lapse is filling tanks...and getting led off by the mad monkey....only to forget that I was filling the tanks...with the inevitable outcome.

While I acknowledge that I'm responsible for my own mental lapses...re-training myself is a longer term proposition.   The short term solutions will pre-empt the problem.

I've deployed mechanical timers on both of the outside taps...to remind me that I'm forgetful and to prompt me to select a time that is suited to the task.

I'm half deaf.  If I'm not wearing hearing aids I don't hear certain things...like running water.  If I turn my back on a running shower or filling a kitchen sink it runs until someone else finds it or I wander back in there with full surround sound.  Fortunately, in both cases it only happened for lomg enough for it to be witnessed by the sort of person that you wou always hope would not know about it...but not long enough to waste too much water or flood the house.Anyway, I've ordered a couple of clip-on digital egg timers...and each time I work at the sinks and showers, I set timers.

I'll update this as soon as I've experienced the seamless integration that happens between Mac devices and my photos return from some far flung piece of carbon from out back of Volcanus.

 

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Days 16 of the Environmental Challenge....Take shorter showers

Outcome:  Save water

For this strategy, I plan to use one of the small kitchen timers that I purchased a few days ago.   Once I establish how long it takes to take a regular shower, I'll choose a shorter duration work to that for future showers.

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Day 17 of Environmental Challenge - Postpone the proposed air conditioner

Outcome:  Save energy - save money

I had planned to install a smal split system air conditioner in advance of this summer.  I've decided to postpone the purchase for at least the coming year.

 

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Day 18 of Environmental Challenge - Reduce the frequency with which I wash my clothes.

Outcome:  Save energy, Save water, save wear on clothing.

I don't do heavy work any more and I work and live alone.  I do some light construction and maintenance.  On those occasions when my clothing gets muddy or dusty I'll wash them otherwise I'll start to extend the intervals between changes.  As a former submariner this is no problem...so long as you remember the cardinal rule....Never go to bed with a dirty bum.  Anyway, I'll report back on how it''s all going in a few weeks.

 

 

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Day 19 of the Environmental Challenge - Turn water taps off when lathering hands and brushing my teeth,

Outcome:  Save water

We live in a country where potable water is pretty much available to everyone...and we waste far too much of it.

Day 20 of the Environmental Challenge -Take a packed lunch and a thermos full of tea...whenever we go to the mainland.

Outcome:  Save money - Eat healthier food.

On a recent trip to the mainlaind, we decided to treat ourselves to lunch at our favourite fish cafe...and we paid over $40.00.  We usually eat fast food of some type or the other...and that's not cheap either these days.  The proposed change will see us save money and eat better.

 

Note: Apologies again for the late report for Day 19.

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Day 21 of the Environmental Challenge - Stop giving gifts...unless they are handmade.

Outcomes:  Save money - Reduced consumption - Reduced packaging

I opted out of the gift market a couple of decades ago...kids excepted.  The big marketing celebrations of Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day, Halloween and the other similar opportunities to spend money on baubles and bad food have huge impact on the environment...as the products wash ashore...get sold...and the find their way back into the drains and creeks.

It's the little lapses that speak to the the extent of our commitment.  When you look at a list of thirty or so green-living strategies and you see how many you've already committed to at some point or the other...but not having actioned in recent days or weeks...well challenges like this can help to keep us focused on the job.

If we cut ourselves out of this waste cycle we not only save lots of money but we avoid piling up the  paper, Styrofoam, single-use plastic and all of the  packaging that goes with the big outpourings of fealings that giving the garbage.

 

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Day 22 of the Environmental Challenge - Use natural light – open up your blinds or curtains and let the light in before turning on lights.

Outcomes:  Saves energy - 

I write a lot so I like a dimly light environment but it uses energy to power the fittings which I have already directed elsewhere in the room to get the light at the level where I want it.  This is a definite shift for me...but I'll save energy if I can cope with it.

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Day 23 of the Environmental Challenge - Watch 'The Story of Suff" by Annie Leonard.

Outcome:  A renewed sense of the nature and consequence of consumption.

I'd seen it before but I was overdue for an examination of my perspective on consumption, so I've just watched it again.  It's a reminder to us all of what happens every time we buy something.  We can't watch this and still claim ignorance of our personal responsbiiilties as a consumer.

 

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