Curb your carbon

2011-02-08 00:00

DO you know how much you and your lifestyle contribute to global warming and climate change every day?

If you did, you’d probably be surprised and start doing things differently.

Using a locally developed resource, a carbon-footprint booklet and toolkit called My Carbon Footprint, 85 Grade 8 geography pupils at St Anne’s Diocesan College in Hilton worked out their daily carbon footprint last year.

As a result, many became “converted greenies”, said their geography teacher, Rory Pennefather. “I taught the girls about global warming and climate change, but they felt powerless to do anything about it. My Carbon Footprint had a huge impact on them and they bought into the need to cut down their carbon emissions. They felt empowered to make a difference by changing the way they live. They are now conscious of needing to live more frugally and do things like flying and driving less, recycling waste and using less electricity.”

Pennefather is using My Carbon Footprint for the Grade 8 class again this year.

Although many gases contribute to global warming and climate change, the most common is carbon dioxide (CO2). This is released into the atmosphere as a result of day-to-day activities such as travelling in a vehicle, using electricity, using clean water and creating waste, said Liz Taylor, who has been visiting midlands schools to promote the idea of measuring your carbon footprint.

She works in association with WESSA, Eco-schools, Duzi-Umngeni Conservation Trust, Wildlands Trust, 350.org and the Project 90 by 2030 campaign (see box).

“Climate change is a complex and contested issue, and appropriate responses to it change continually,” said Taylor.

Through her interactions with local schools, she found that few people, including teachers, pupils and the general public, understood the concept of their carbon footprint. To counter this and help people make informed lifestyle choices aimed at cutting down the amount of CO2 they generate, Taylor and two Hochland High School teachers, Liina Nantinda and Sweetie Masiku, wrote My Carbon Footprint for schools.

About 450 pupils in eight schools have used the resource: Nocqaza Primary, Howick High, Mpophomeni High, Epworth, St Anne’s, Michaelhouse, Clifton Nottingham Road and The Wykeham Collegiate. Using the tool kit, pupils can work out their carbon emission for one day in kilograms of CO2 in terms of transport, electricity, water usage, waste and food.

St Anne’s launched its environmental club in 2009. Through carbon-cutting and energy-saving strategies, the school has cut its electricity consumption by 10%. Last year, Project 90 by 2030 awarded the school a R10 000 prize in recognition of the work of the club, the use of the carbon footprint booklet and their energy saving. It was the only school in the province to win a prize.

Jess ter Wolbeek, science teacher and founder of the environmental club at St Anne’s, said: “It is great that the girls are so enthusiastic about making changes and doing positive things for the environment.”

• For more about My Carbon Footprint, contact Liz Taylor at 033 330 3931.

What is a carbon footprint?

THIS is the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of our actions. This includes the food we eat, energy we use and waste we create. Carbon dioxide is one of the major contributors to climate change. Released CO2 and other gases form a layer around the Earth that traps reflected heat or longwave radiation. This is heating up the Earth’s atmosphere (global warming) as we release more and more CO2 as a result of our lifestyles. — My Carbon Footprint.

What is Project 90 by 2030?

PROJECT 90 by 2030’s mission is “to mobilise South Africans to reduce their impact on climate change”. They work extensively with schools and other organisations to help them reduce their environmental impact.

The project has launched a Climate Change Pledge that encourages people to commit to taking greater action to tackle climate change. The organisation is asking all South Africans to sign this pledge.

Pledge to reduce your carbon footprint

I HAVE signed this pledge because I am convinced that we must act quickly and decisively to change the way we live and to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions dramatically if we are to have a realistic chance of avoiding catastrophicimpacts on humanity and all other life on Earth. The scientific evidence is incontrovertible. I pledge that from today onwards I will:

1. consciously change my attitudes, values and actions that contribute to climate change;

2. prioritise reducing my contribution to greenhouse gas emissions as quickly aspossible;

3. raise awareness of climate change and the need to change the way we live;

4. support calls to governments to commit urgently to emission-reduction targets, provide incentives for renewable energy development and implement measures that protect the most vulnerable from the repercussions of climate change; and

5. support calls on business leaders to reduce industrial emissions boldly, invest in renewable energy development and make the switch to a low-carbon economy.

Visit www.90x2030.org.za

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