Here are some technologies that we already are familiar with which make the most sense to use right now. If we adopt these on a large scale as quickly as possible, we will greatly reduce the damages caused by global warming. In a future post, I’ll show you some emerging sustainable technologies with lots of promise, but for now, I am excited because I get to show you the tools we already have.
BIKE AND PEDESTRIAN PATHS
If you have ever tried to commute by bike, you’ve probably noticed how dangerous and difficult it is in many areas. Creating bike and pedestrian paths, separate from roads for cars, that go everywhere in each city would require an investment in infrastructure short term, but long-term would help quite a bit with air pollution as well as reduction of CO2. Also, have you heard of electric bicycles? These are a form of transportation that can reach anywhere from 35 to 50 mph. They aren’t mopeds or motorcycles. They are bikes with a small motor. Some of them recharge their batteries by going downhill. It’s not exactly new tech either.
EFFICIENCY UPGRADES FOR ROADS
You may have seen merging stop signs on highway on-ramps. Those things that blink. They reduce traffic jams. Actually, roundabouts also reduce traffic by quite a lot. Replacing stoplights with roundabouts can help. Construction is also a huge issue, mainly because voting taxpayers tend to not elect representatives who are willing to invest more in the short term to prevent recurring construction costs in the future. Durable road materials that last for decades or centuries are expensive, and one major flaw of our democracy is that elected officials generally have to focus on creating short-term changes or they get no support from their constituents. Therefore, the wisest solution is actually to raise taxes in the short term to pay more for durable roads and infrastructure now so that we don’t have to pay more for them later. Or deal with the hassles and the traffic jams that recurring construction always creates.
INSULATION, INSULATION, INSULATION
This is a ridiculously simple solution to heating and cooling costs that is as yet still not adopted widely. You can fix this on your own. Caulk and Great Stuff can seal gaps in walls, windows, and floors. Polystyrene insulation panels, or flattened cardboard boxes, can be put in the windows at night during winter. Two layers of thick curtains can be installed over windows to vastly reduce heat loss. Or you can cram a fitted sheet up and around venetian blinds, then cover it with a tacked-up sheet. You can install special plastic film over windows during winter as well; this greatly reduces heating costs. Weatherstrip doors and windows. Install storm windows, and possibly shutters. Insulate attics with as much insulation as possible, since heat rises. Put an insulating blanket around the water heater. Insulate pipes. Insulate beneath floor joists if they are exposed in the basement. Make some draft blockers for the windows and doors, or use rolled-up towels. If you have a garage door, line it with insulation aplenty because those things are essentially not much better than an open door. If you can afford major remodeling, then install insulation with a very high R-value in the attic, floor, and walls. These investments will pay for themselves within a few months. Check out http://www.acehardware.com to see about local pick-up options, http://www.ebay.com and http://www.walmart.com for shipped-in items.
REDUCING HEAT TRANSFER
There is a thing called a door sweep that you can install on the bottom of any drafty exterior door. It’s about 10 bucks.
Plant deciduous trees where you would like your home to be shaded in summer. Plant a windbreak of evergreen trees where you’d like it to be sheltered from cold winds in winter. You can get these at http://www.arborday.org for very cheap prices.
If you are able, install small mudrooms at the front and back door, because these function as airlocks to reduce heat transfer between home and the outdoors.
There is a product that’s much like the tints on car windows which you can install on home windows to reduce how much heat gets in during summer. It’s good stuff.
You know those pop-up reflective sun shields that you can put on a car’s windshield to reduce how hot it gets in there? You can put that same product in the windows of your house if you want the same effect. Of course you won’t see, though, so that’s a problem.
Paint. The. Roof. White.
While you are at it, paint your car white, or select white cars. Dark colors absorb heat energy from sunlight.
Probably the simplest thing here is line-drying clothes. Get yourself one made of metal, bought online, that stands on its own and you’ll be able to dry your clothes on even a small porch.
Solar hot water heaters are suitable for climates that don’t freeze. They install on roofs and work very well during the daytime.
Skylights reduce daytime electricity usage. They may also improve mood, health, and productivity. Unfortunately, they also introduce more heat indoors due to the greenhouse effect, so they must be properly insulated with vacuum or with aerogel, or something similar. This may, however, be something you want in winter, so there’s the option of having the skylight open in winter during daytime and covering it when it gets too hot.
Some utility companies offer a solar, wind, and/or other renewable energy option. Contact yours and ask about it.
There are now a couple of companies that install grid-tie home solar panels, inverters, storage batteries, and even e-vehicle charging bays for you using a payment plan. Look into them. It might be worth the price tag.
EFFICIENCY UPGRADES IN GENERAL
Many public buildings, especially colleges, now have automatic motion-sensing lights that turn off when motion is not detected. Despite the annoyance factor, this really does improve efficiency.
A programmable thermostat is pretty great stuff in private and public buildings. You can program the thing to be warmer in the day and cooler at night, and it will automatically raise and lower the temperature to the proper set point.
Currently speaking, 100% electric vehicles are restricted to the rich. However, you can definitely find cheap transportation that is more efficient. I’m a huge fan of mopeds, because most of them get 70+ mpg. Used vehicles with high mpg, such as Hondas, are also my jam. While you’re going somewhere anyway, invite your friends so they can also get groceries or whatever.
Be sure to keep vehicle tires inflated to the proper psi.
Drive the speed limit. It saves gas.
Scotty Kilmer and ChrisFix have tutorials on car maintenance that can help you not only save money on car repair but can improve the efficiency of your vehicle.
Just a few years ago, super-efficient LED light fixtures had to be installed in specialized fixtures. Not anymore. You can now buy LED lightbulbs that screw into sockets just like regular ones. They save you a ton on electricity costs and don’t heat up nearly as much. Also, they can last longer.
Make a habit of unplugging what you are done using when you are done using it. Merely turning stuff off doesn’t actually stop the flow of electricity and that is a real waste.
Keep your fridge at 41 F or less, to prevent food waste. Also ensure the seals are tight and that there is a 4″ gap between fridge and the wall behind it, and that the coils are regularly cleaned. Vacuum them to get the dust off.
When buying new appliances, search for ones that are Energy Star rated, and the most efficient possible. It’ll save you money in the long run.
If you think I am going to talk about planting trees, yes, you are correct. It’s a tool available to us, right now, that we can all use. Simply find some available land, select tree species native to the area, plant a diverse bunch of them, and take care of them until they are able to survive on their own. It’s dead simple but if every one of us planted five trees, that’s more than 35 billion trees. Surely a heck of an impact. If every one of us planted a hundred trees, that’s more than 700 billion trees. And if you don’t have the capability to plant them yourself, you can donate to the Arbor Day Foundation and they will plant them for you. They have a carbon offset calculator that determines how much you should donate to offset your emissions. You can use that, and consider your donation an income tax to the Earth. That’s how I do it actually. I do this right after I do my taxes.
Another good tool for CO2 capture is to switch to using Ecosia.org as your main search engine. They plant trees in areas close to the equator from their ad revenue.
You can also consider planting vertical climbers on large structures, such as chain-link fence. Consider planting English ivy or a similar thing if you have somewhere it can grow. Added benefit: English ivy purifies air very well. NASA did a study on it as well as several other indoor plants.
Green roofs are another technology more used in Europe than in the US but unfortunately the technology hasn’t advanced enough to be cheap, reliable, leak-proof and light. Hopefully that will change soon.
Here is a thing called the Miyawaki Method. https://bengaluru.citizenmatters.in/how-to-make-mini-forest-miyawaki-method-34867
And there is also this guy. https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/man-plants-tree-every-day-for-40-years-on-barren-wasteland/
And there is also the Green Belt Movement https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Belt_Movement
LAND AND OCEAN MANAGEMENT
Wilderness places protect us from the adverse effects of climate change in a variety of ways: algae in large swathes of the ocean, estuaries, wetlands, forests, grasslands, basically anywhere that hasn’t been developed and is a green color all capture CO2 and provide havens for biodiversity. On top of these benefits, each has a unique benefit such as reducing erosion or reducing storm surges in hurricanes. Protecting these areas is more effective than planting new vegetation in most cases because well, green things take time to grow. If you’d like to help, donate what you can to the environmental charity of your choice but also buy as much undeveloped land as possible, just to keep it undeveloped.
If you happen to own land, take a look at the Miyawaki Method and at other ways to make your land a haven for biodiversity and CO2 capture. Existing lands often are degraded due to things like acid rain and invasive species. Consider contacting your local county extension office agent to ask about proper land management in your area.
REPLACING THROWAWAY STUFF WITH REUSABLE STUFF
This ties into the newfangled Zero Waste movement but it’s pretty simple stuff that requires an adjustment in mindset more than anything. Here’s the stuff that it recommends you invest in:
-Lunch box with individual containers
-Beeswax food wrap instead of plastic wrap
-Mason jars instead of plastic cups
-Nalgene or similar large water bottle instead of throwaway plastic bottles
-Cloth instead of paper napkins
-A spray-attachment bidet instead of excessive toilet paper
-Reusable cloth/durable shopping bags instead of plastic or paper shopping bags
-Reusable mesh produce bags instead of the filmy plastic produce bags
-Plastic containers or glass jars for buying bulk goods at the store
-Real forks, knives, plates, and spoons instead of plastic party utensils
-Face washcloths and similar washable products for makeup removal, application, and so on
-Washcloths for cleaning countertops and dusting instead of using paper towels
I draw the line at not using paper towels for cleaning the toilet. Same logic goes for toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, diapers, etc. – just NO. Instead, it makes sense to use organic and recycled products for the aforementioned whenever possible.
Recycling has been around since the 90s. It’s never going to be as good as simply reusing everything, but that’s absolutely impossible. In my experience, reducing waste in the US is not as easy as it is in say, Tokyo. You have to buy durable recycling bins or use Rubbermaid bins. You have to buy a compost bin that doesn’t allow bugs or vermin access, which fits on your porch, or dig out a pit in your backyard and chuck compost in there. You have to mail out your harder-to-recycle waste, such as e-waste, to companies and individuals who can use it, via USPS, and pay for shipping yourself. You have to drive your waste to places that will accept it, most notably Goodwill, and a recycling center 50+ miles away that only accepts like half the stuff, at which point you wonder “what’s the point?” Well, of course the point is to save the planet. If you’re looking at big stuff you’d like to throw out, such as furniture or appliances, you can always list it on the Craigslist “free” section, stick it on the curb, and it’ll probably be gone in two days. Also, if you’re looking at stuff that you can’t use but is still usable, don’t forget the old adage “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” and attempt to sell it via garage sale or eBay. Here is a resource that can explain more: https://www.sunshineguerrilla.com/2019/02/100-things-you-should-never-throw-in.html
Some info on composting: You can actually compost leaves from the yard, grass clippings, used coffee grounds from local shops, and even non-chemically-treated hair from haircuts, among many other things. Learn to compost properly and your plants will thank you because that stuff is known as “black gold” among gardeners. Simple guide – layer stuff high in carbon, such as sawdust, straw, dry grass, or leaves, with wet stuff high in nitrogen, such as coffee grounds, vegetable scraps, non-moldy garden clippings, and food waste. Layer it like a lasagna and let it sit for 3 years. Done.
WATER CONSERVATION AND REDIRECTION
For this, check out the work by Brad Lancaster. Unfortunately, I can’t find much other information on it for some reason. It’s helpful for ensuring that wells don’t run dry.
Instructables has many tutorials for diverting rooftop runoff to water storage tanks that can then be used to water gardens. In many places this is illegal due to water rights, for reasons unknown.
Greywater systems for watering gardens and trees are also incredible
Drip irrigation is the most efficient system for keeping plants healthy in desert conditions with a minimum of waste. It is better by far than sprinkler systems or soak hoses.
For the record, bidets are still good for the environment, because of the amount of resources it takes to produce toilet paper
You can install dual-flush systems for toilets, with one handle for flushing liquid waste and another for flushing solid waste
An aerated showerhead is cheap to install and reduces water usage, as does timing showers
Aerated or low-flow faucets are also cheap to install and reduce water usage
These are one maintenance measure proposed by the government to prevent another Dustbowl. They work well and provide food and shelter for habitat, plus other environmental benefits. https://www.hedgerows.co.uk/Biodiversity.htm https://www.tenthacrefarm.com/how-to-plant-a-hedgerow/ https://ptes.org/hedgerow/hedge-structure/
For more information on how to help the environment see http://macgyverrevolution.neocities.org/ecofriendly.html