Have you ever thought about the hidden impact of your activities on the environment? It’s easy to think that we are being eco-friendly by turning off the lights, reducing our water usage and recycling our waste. But if you really want to limit your carbon footprint and contribute to a greener planet, it’s important to learn about the hidden carbon impact - and how to reduce it - as well.
Babette Porcelijn, an industrial designer living in Amsterdam, has done extensive research on the environmental impact of our stuff and our activities. Her book, The Hidden Impact, is full of surprising and interesting facts about how we can positively influence the current consumer system.
Based on her Impact Top 10 of an average Dutch person, we give you 10 ways to reduce your hidden carbon impact
You have the power to change the world. It all comes down to the choices you make. Whether those choices are made in the supermarket, during an election, at work or at home.
1. Stuff: Buy secondhand or refurbished
The thing that has the biggest negative impact on our environment is the stuff we use. And around 92% of this impact is hidden. What comes to mind for most people, is the electricity that our devices use. But the hidden impact is found in the manufacturing, transport, construction, and groundwork that is associated with your stuff.
An easy way to reduce this impact is by simply buying less new stuff or buying secondhand and refurbished. You can even rent equipment ranging from blenders to grass-mowers.
2. Meat: Eat less meat or no meat at all
Cows are one of the biggest contributors to global warming. They release between 70 and 120 kg Methane per year, which is a greenhouse gas like CO2, only 23 times stronger. The meat industry is more damaging to the planet than cars!
Try to eat less meat or go without meat for a week. There are plenty of tasty substitutes nowadays like fake meats, seitan, mushrooms, eggplant, or lentils.
3. Home: Sustainable living & sharing
There are a million ways to make your home more eco-friendly and sustainable. It all starts with the construction of your house. Even if you’re rebuilding your house, think about the material that’s being used, about the design, about using natural ventilation / heating, about solar panels or boilers you can install, about proper isolation, about using green electricity and about how you recycle waste.
Another great way to reduce the environmental impact of your house, is to share it. Do you have a room to spare? Find a tenant! It also gives you some extra cash, which is always nice.
4. Car: Hop on a train or consider carpooling
If you are not able to take a train, then consider carpooling. Carpooling is a fun and eco-friendly way to get to work or to an event. There are plenty of car-sharing apps available such as Uber, Blablacar, Car2Go, and Drive Now.
5. Vegan food & fish: Eat local, and cut back on soy products and fish
Overfishing completely disrupts the food chain and destroys the marine ecology. That we all know. But if you think that it’s safer to eat soy products, think again. Soy production leads to deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, which is responsible for 15% of all the global greenhouse gas emissions caused by people.
Substitutes for fish and soy products are leafy green vegetables, walnuts, flaxseed oil, spirulina, and seaweed.
Extra tip: try to eat locally produced foods. This way you reduce food miles, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions because the food doesn’t have to be flown halfway across the world.
6. Aviation: Don’t take the plane or use FlyGRN to offset your CO2-emissions
Try to fly as little as you can, but if you do need to fly, use FlyGRN to offset your CO2-emissions for free. For every ticket you buy, FlyGRN invests in solar panel and tree planting projects in India. We do this by using the fees we receive from airlines, so there are no extra costs for you.
7. Bathroom: Set a timer and don’t wash your hair every day
Oh, how we love to shower! It’s easy to get lost in all of the creative thoughts that we tend to have while the water pours over our head, and before you know it, 15 minutes have gone by. That’s 120 litres of water! While you really only need to have a couple of minutes to wash your body and maybe your hair.
Set a timer for 5 minutes before you enter your shower and drag yourself out of there as soon as it goes off. Or even better; get yourself a low-flow or water-saving shower head. Some of these shower heads save up to 26 litres of water per 7-minute shower. This equals 9,000 litres of water per person per year.
Extra tip: don’t wash your hair every day. Your scalp produces oil more frequent when you wash your hair every day. You can change that by washing it twice a week. It’s a bit awkward in the beginning as your scalp needs time to adjust, but your hair will be way healthier after a week or two.
8. Clothing: Buy clothes from eco-friendly brands
After the oil industry, the fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world. It has a major negative impact on our environment. Think about water pollution and untreated toxic waste waters, water contamination and all the textile waste.
If you’re a fashionista and can’t help but go shopping every week, consider buying recycled clothes or clothes made from organic cotton, or shop at a thrift store. You can also organise clothing swap parties with friends!
But the best thing you can do is to hold on to your clothes a bit longer and stop buying that much new stuff.
9. Dairy & eggs: Find alternatives for dairy & eggs
Did you know that livestock takes up 83% of the farmland, but provides only 18% of calories? Avoiding or reducing dairy and eggs can significantly reduce your environmental impact. And it may be better for your body as well.
Some healthy alternatives for cow milk are:
- Almond milk
- Coconut milk
- Rice milk
- Cashew milk
And some substitutes for eggs are:
- Mashed banana
- Ground flaxseeds or chia seeds
If you decide to quit eating all animal products and go vegan all the way, you need to inform yourself about necessary supplements. There are certain minerals and vitamins (e.g. vitamin B12) that only exist in animal products.
10. Public transport: Take the bike, an electric train or a hydrogen-powered bus
In most European countries, including the Netherlands, public transport is quite eco-friendly. Many buses run on hydrogen fuel-cells. Buses or trains that run on conventional fuel or coal are best to avoid. Do you think you can take your bike to work? Even better. You’re not only helping the environment, but you’ll also be improving your fitness level and your health
What choice do you make to reduce your hidden carbon impact? Do you have a great tip to add to this list? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you!