Take Action Now: Reduce your Carbon Footprint

It’s not for you to finish the work, but neither are you free to exempt your self from doing it.” (Pirkei Avot.)

Tackling climate change is a huge task. Judaism teaches that real change starts with individuals’ choices. It’s not just governments and industries that need to be more climate-friendly, each person has an impact on his or her environment. Energy decisions that we make in our day-to-day lives can affect the climate.

Many of these choices flow from basic Jewish ethics of consumption

Things you can do today at no cost:

  • Turn off lights when you leave a room
  • Only boil the amount of water you need in your kettle
  • Turn off and unplug televisions, videos, stereos and computers when they are not in use – they can use between 10 and 60% of the power they use when on.
  • Don’t leave fridge doors open for longer than necessary, let food cool down fully before putting in the fridge or freezer, defrost regularly and keep at the right temperature
  • Close curtains at dusk to keep in heat
  • Let your clothes dry naturally rather than using a tumble drier
  • Turning down the thermostat for your heating by 1 degree could cut your heating bill by 10%
  • Set your water thermostat for 60 degrees – this is plenty warm enough for bathing and washing and will save money too
  • Use economy programs on dishwashers or washing machines
  • Where possible don’t stand cookers and fridges/freezers next to each other

Things you can do in the future or with an initial cost:

  • Put foil behind radiators fitted on external walls
  • Use energy saving lightbulbs – they use a quarter of the electricity and last much longer
  • Insulate your hot water tank and pipes
  • Speak to your energy provider about switching to “green energy” from renewable sources.
  • Fit seals to externals doors and floor boards to reduce heat loss – 15% of heat is lost through draughts and 15% through the floor
  • Make your windows draught proof or fit double glazing – this cuts heat loss in half – up to 10% of heat is lost through uninsulated windows
    (NB ventilation is essential in rooms with gas, oil or solid fuel appliances so don’t block of ventilation in rooms with these types of appliances.)
  • Fit loft insulation – which should be at least 200mm thick to be most effective – 25% of heat is lost through an uninsulated roof
  • Fit wall insulation – up to 33% of heat is lost through uninsulated walls
  • Replace old inefficient boilers
  • Fit solar panels or solar tiles to your roof

Transport

  • Don’t use your car for short journeys – these are most polluting – walk or cycle
  • Use public transport as much as possible
  • Share car journeys with work colleagues or friends – up to a third of all car mileage is accounted for by the drive to work
  • Walk your children to school or share a run with their friends – up to 20% of rush hour traffic is due to children being driven to school
  • Choose a fuel-efficient / environmentally friendly car.
  • Turn off your engine when waiting in your car
  • Make sure that your tyres are inflated correctly – this can save you 5% on the cost of your petrol
  • Take off your roof rack / remove heavy objects from the boot when not in use
  • Avoid accelerating (or braking) sharply as this uses fuel more quickly. Use lead-free petrol

Water:

Water shortages are a looming consequence of climate change. Also, using less hot water saves energy.

Inside:

  • Use the plug in your basin or sink – don’t leave water running unnecessarily
  • Always wash a full load in your washing machine or in your dishwasher
  • Fix dripping taps and make sure that they are turned off fully – in one week a dripping tap can waste a bathful of water
  • Have a shower instead of a bath – an ordinary shower uses two-fifths of the water in a bath but power showers use 4 times as much water as a normal shower
  • Fit a water saving device in your toilet cistern or fit an Eco-flush toilet

Outside:

  • Collect rainwater for watering plants
  • Water plants in the early evening – less water will evaporate
  • Water plants at their roots
  • Avoid using sprinklers – they can use up to 1000 litres of water an hour!
  • Select plants that don’t need constant watering.
  • Don’t use a hose pipe to wash your car – use a bucket instead

Waste

  • Reuse as much as possible – envelopes, carrier bags…
  • Sell unwanted things or donate them to charity shops
  • Recycle as much as possible (glass, cans, paper, plastics…)
  • Recycle organic waste by making a composter and use it on your own garden – up to 20% of household rubbish can be turned into compost.
  • Stop excessive junk mail up to 60% of what comes through our letter boxes is never read.
  • Rather than have your bank and credit card statements sent to you by post – check them online instead
  • Cut down on the number of brochures that you send off for.

Shopping:

  • Eat less meat.
  • Buy goods with minimal packaging.
  • Avoid buying goods that have flown thousands of miles.
  • Don’t buy disposable / throw away goods when it is possible to buy goods that are durable.
  • Reuse shopping bags or take your own.
  • Cut down on visits to shops by shopping more efficiently when you go.
  • Buy recycled paper or wood from sustainable forests.

(Adapted from the BBC’s Climate Change Resources.)