There are many approaches to tackling the overall task of footprint reduction. Here are some approaches I’ve found to be effective and personally beneficial:
— Riot for Austerity (90% Reduction Challenge): Set out to cut your footprint to 10% of the U.S. average in as many areas as possible (water consumption, electricity usage, gasoline, food footprint etc.)
— Journey to Zero Waste: Strive for zero waste (or as close to zero as possible) in various areas such as water usage, product packaging, etc.
— Tackle categories that are “big” for you personally. Travel might be a big area for one person; food or home energy usage could be big for another.
For wine lovers (like me!), a good example of the third approach is this article in the New York Times which brings up good questions to ask in determining the footprint of wine.
“Do producers plow or till the rows between the vines, which releases carbon to the atmosphere? Or do they plant and maintain a cover crop, whether grasses, legumes or something else? An organic or biodynamic grower could do either. But maintaining a cover crop creates a lower carbon footprint.
Do they mow the cover crop? Or simply roll it? Rolling it releases less carbon from the soil.
“Using organic compost is good for vineyards. But do producers make it themselves? Or do they buy it and ship it, possibly from a distance?
“Do they use electric or hybrid vehicles? Or standard combustion engines?
“Are they practicing regenerative agriculture by minimizing use of chemical sprays and acting to promote biodiversity and soil life?
“Have they converted to renewable fuels? Do they practice carbon sequestration, in which carbon is captured and stored rather than released into the atmosphere?
“Where does their electricity come from? How do they manage their use of water?”
Excellent questions all! If you aren’t sure of the answers, or can’t find them out, there are other things you can do. One is to choose wine that comes in lighter-weight bottles. (According to the article, over the past 20 years heavy bottles have been used as a marketing ploy, to create the perception of better wine.) You could also try making your own wine from local fruit in season.
We can choose to ask similarly probing questions about any product we consume, service we use, etc. Just take care not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. As a fellow member of the Journey to Zero Waste group (Facebook group) says, “We don’t need a few people doing zero-waste perfectly. We need millions of us doing it imperfectly.”