Ten ways to tread a little lighter on the world

Eat less meat, try composting and use public transport, says Thea Ormerod

A group of Christians have joined a global effort to help address what they consider a “climate crisis” by aiming to tread more gently on the world. 

Thea Ormerod, president of the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change, says Christians gathered around the country to celebrate the “Living the Change: faithful choices for a flourishing world” initiative, after the UN released its IPCC Special Report on Global Warming earlier this month. The initiative challenges believers to make concrete commitments to living more simply, in line with their deeply held beliefs and values. Specifically, the changes they are making are in the areas of diet, transport and home energy use. 

Here, Thea offers Eternity readers some practical tips she believes all Christians should take in response to the growing emergency of climate change, especially in the wake of the recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

Which changes will be of most benefit for protecting the climate? Let me first acknowledge that these choices are not necessarily easy; nor would it be possible to take significant steps quickly. People normally take a while to develop the determination and perseverance to implement measures that they may understand are good but also require some restraint or personal sacrifice. The support of a community of like-minded people makes it more achievable, and Living the Change attempts to provide something of a global community to give this encouragement.

To replace red meat in the average Australian diet with chicken would drop your footprint by 640 kg CO2e. That’s like planting 4.5 trees.

A stepping stone can be to first make changes that are less demanding. Some of these are switching off lights, recycling, only boiling the water needed for your tea or coffee (rather than a whole jug) and drinking tap water rather than bottled water. Many conscientious people already do these.

Some changes that are generally more demanding but also more effective in helping create a safer climate are:

1.  Replacing incandescent bulbs with LEDs would save about 470kg Co2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) a year.

2.  Air conditioning (AC) is energy-hungry, so it’s wise to use fans in summer as much as possible and extra layers of clothing in winter. If an Australian who normally uses AC at about the national average level were to use it half as much, the carbon saving would be about 930kg CO2e in a year. That’s like planting seven trees! Of course, a first step could be to turn the thermostat up 1-2 degrees in summer and down 1-2 degrees in winter.

3.  Installing a 2kW solar array avoids around 2600kg of C02e per year.

4.  Switching to GreenPower, for a household of four, would avoid around 5900kg of CO2e p.a. This can be organised with your existing energy retailer, or you may shop around and find a cheaper provider. That would be like planting 42 trees.

5.  Hard as it may be, avoiding long-haul flights delivers massive carbon savings. To pass up an opportunity to travel between Melbourne and London return for the average passenger would save about 6000kg CO2e.

6.  For a household to sell a car and instead have its members walk, cycle or use public transport delivers a significant saving of about 1800kg CO2e.

7.  Similarly, to replace a fairly average car with a hybrid would save about 1730kg CO2e. If your car is an SUV, the drop in emissions would be even more: 2600kg CO2 p.a.

8.  Reducing meat consumption has significant environmental benefits. For anyone consuming the Australian national average of meat, to halve this would bring a saving of about 470kg CO2e p.a.

9.  The carbon footprint of eating chicken is far less than that of eating lamb or beef. To replace red meat in the average Australian diet with chicken would drop your footprint by 640kg CO2e. That’s like planting 4.5 trees.

10. Food waste in landfill creates potent methane. For an average household to compost non-meat food scraps instead would save about 170kg CO2e p.a.

People who follow these kinds of lifestyle choices usually report that there are enjoyable co-benefits as well as sacrifices. The two Christians who wrote Low Carbon and Loving It, Mark and Tom Delaney, testify that just as following Jesus brings fullness of life, moving towards plant-based diets, walking and cycling bring health benefits; using public transport and reducing air travel slows down the otherwise frenetic pace of life; more energy efficiency and renewable energy mean less pollution; congruence with personal values enhances self-worth.

We are Living the Change, and we invite all people of goodwill to join us.