Change your Mind
The first step to doing your bit for the climate is to change your mind. There's no single solution or magic bullet, but there is a whole range of easy, creative and innovative ways you can help. Basically, we all need to reduce our emissions. Every small step helps.
Change all your light bulbs
You can now buy energy-efficient light bulbs from the supermarket, and many retailers run special offers that make them pretty much the same price as regular bulbs. The energy efficient bulbs use about one fifth the power of normal (incandescent) bulbs, and they last about ten times longer. They produce more-or-less the same light so there's really no question: they're better. Each light bulb will save you money and collectively, the impact on climate is significant. If 1.2 million traditional bulbs were replaced with mini fluoros, and used for an average of 3 hours daily, the long term saving of greenhouse gases would be 6,000 tonnes a year! (1) This is due to the reduction in fossil-fuel-generated electricity used to power them.
Take it off standby
It's estimated New Zealanders burn up $100 million worth of electricity every year by leaving appliances on standby.(2) A hundred million dollars! Every year!
Switch it off at the wall
You know how when you shut down your computer and it's still got heaps of little lights blinking all over it? That's electricity and it's more than likely that some of it has come from a non-renewable, climate-polluting source such as coal or gas. Turn it off at the wall.
Set your washing machine to use cold water- it'll use seven times less energy than a hot wash and face it, your clothes just don't care. There are plenty of cold water detergents available, and your clothes will probably last longer as a result. Water heating is one of the biggest users of energy in the home....cut back where you can.
Draw the curtains
Windows let the heat out. Drawing a curtain over them slows this process down dramatically because it creates an insulating air pocket. You will feel warmer, you'll spend less on heating, and somewhere - perhaps hundreds of miles away - a pile of coal will not be turned into CO2 as a result.
Line your house with insulation materials. If you rent, talk to your landlord about it, cut a deal.. Start with the ceiling, then the floors and walls. For those with serious inclinations toward home improvement, double glaze the windows. Make northern (sun facing) windows in shared living spaces big, and southern windows in private rooms small.
Eat less animal products
Meat and dairy production is resource-intensive and a huge contributor to greenhouse gases, particularly methane. Eating less of these products aids the climate and is better for your body too.
Assuming all else is equal - the thing that's produced closest to the place you buy it requires the least amount of transportation to market, therefore incurs the least amount of 'carbon miles', and is therefore better for the climate.
Take the train
About 40% of New Zealand's greenhouse gases are thanks to transport, mostly private cars. Cars cost heaps to buy, heaps to run, heaps to maintain and they cook the climate. With signs aplenty that the world's running out of oil, the price of fuel can only go up. So you should be thinking about alternative public transport options. Trains are good. In Auckland, the rail service has recently had a revamp, but wherever you are, check out the timetables for your area:
Take the bus
It's going anyway, plus on busy routes you'll get there quicker thanks to special bus lanes. Bus routes connect most suburbs and towns around the country and it's not just an urban myth, the world really is more fascinating out of a bus window!
Palmerston North: www.horizons.govt.nz
Christchurch : www.metroinfo.org.nz
Get a bike (or fix that old one)
Not only will you increase your fitness and health, but concentration improves for over four hours after exercise, so you'll work better and - as if that wasn't enough to earn your boss's admiration - you'll take up less space on the road and in the office car park.
See if you can do the following: stop at the red light with minimal braking; maintain smooth and constant rev's per minute; coast in neutral when driving down hill (manual cars only); keep to the speed limit, and when you replace your car get one that uses less gas. None of these make as much difference as ditching the car for public transport, but they will save you money on gas (and help save the climate).
Talk to important people about it
By "important" we mean anyone who carries influence over other people. It could be your boss, your MP (remember, their job is to represent YOU) or your Mayor. Or ring your electricity supplier and ask for their policy on renewable energy. If they don't have one or won't go there, tell them you're going to switch to a company that does.
Talk to everyone else about it too
Tell people that you've changed your light bulbs or decided to take the bus, because you're doing your bit for the climate. You can inspire your friends and neighbours and encourage them to get involved too.
(1) Regarding lightbulbs: According to analysts at Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) and Greenpeace NZ. Calculation factors include differences in electrical resistance (75w - 15w) and the corresponding difference in electricity required, which is 78 gigawatt hours (enough for about 10,000 homes for a year). Some of these gigawatt hours are supplied by fossil fueled power stations.
(2) (Christchurch Press, 5/6/2007)