With heightened awareness of global warming, many of us are looking to governments and corporations to change their policies and practices, and they are struggling to make the necessary changes. While it is easy to point the finger at them, what about us? What is our level of awareness of the carbon footprint we create? What are the changes we are willing to make in our consumption behavior? Rich or poor, we can all improve our awareness of the effects our actions have on the environment.
Ask yourself, “Am I leading a life that will leave the Earth a better place than when I found it when I was born? How am I mitigating the risks and uncertainty of my own future and that of my children and grandchildren?”1
“The average carbon footprint of a person in the US is 16 tons per year, one of the highest in the world. Globally, the average carbon footprint is around 4 tons. To have a chance of avoiding a 2˚Crise in global temperatures, the average global carbon footprint needs to drop to under 2 tons per year by 2050.”2
Since nations like the US have a larger carbon footprint than others, those of us living in these nations have more responsibility to lower our carbon footprint.
One way to reduce our footprint is to reduce food waste. The US Environmental Agency calculates that an average American wastes a total of 4.9 pounds of solid waste a day.3 Even a small reduction in this waste would help greatly. By eating less meat, taking fewer connecting flights, taking reusable bags to the shops, and reducing food waste, we can lower our individual carbon footprints from 16 tons per year to less than 14 tons.
In the world today, there are still significant levels of childhood hunger and malnutrition stunting children’s growth. About 11 million children suffer food insecurity in the US alone, and according to World Vision, about 690 million children around the globe go to bed hungry.5 This is heart wrenching. A conscious lifestyle, reducing carbon footprint by reducing food waste, will help to mitigate hunger for others.
Saving on food waste also has a multiplier effect. The less we purchase, the less refrigeration we need, both before and after cooking. Raw unprocessed food can be stored easily, and any excess can be given to food relief organizations. We can also urge manufacturers of food products to consider longer shelf lives, based on storage conditions at home. Many companies insert food expiration dates and best sell by dates as a way to increase their sales. WebMD states that dairy products are good for a week later than sell-by dates.6
Arresting global warming is everyone’s responsibility. Compared with other excesses, those of our consumption-based lifestyles affect our future disproportionately. Spiritual teachers have always said, “Waste is immoral.” Waste happens because of ignorance. How can we flourish spiritually without dispelling our ignorance of over-consumption and waste?
The Earth and its inhabitants have been constantly ravaged over time, because of the tumultuous nature of existence and the evolution of life. However, life in general is resilient. It regenerates after destruction. Chaos begets order. Order decays into chaos. Thus goes the cycle.
As human beings, we are conscious of our actions, and suffer the consequences. We make choices every day. If we are ignorant in the choices we make, the pain and suffering that follow can become agents of self-knowledge and transformation. The demand for real self-transformation has never been greater.
Heartfulness has ten guidelines for charting a good life. Three of these can specifically help us reduce our carbon footprint.
Nature recycles and replenishes constantly. It gives as it takes. It keeps itself in balance. Nature is simple and purposeful in its working. Similarly, if we lead a simple life, we will only take what we need, and we will give back to Nature. When human-generated consumption and excess waste affect Nature, Nature will adjust and rebalance. This rebalancing of Nature creates havoc. An example of such an adjustment is what we call Climate Change. Similarly, when we as individuals consume much more than we need or can afford, our body also behaves like Nature. It starts aching and paining all over.
The idea of being happy and content is consistent with simplifying life. Happiness is possible when we make the money we need by proper means. A life of contentment is a simple life, arousing a feeling of love and calmness in others. It does not evoke jealousy in others. It does not evoke competition or one-upmanship. These simple guidelines help in reducing our carbon footprint, while making us happy, content, and responsible global citizens.
As we simplify our life to live optimally, we contribute to the reversal of Climate Change – not only the Earth’s climate, but also the social and emotional climate of our family, friends, and neighbors. Gandhi spoke about simple living and high thinking. The above guidelines all help in high thinking and noble living, creating a positive climate at all levels.