Retrofitting the Suburbs, One Little Step at a Time
Our entire world and all we do is about energy; think about it: we human beings eat at least three times a day (if we are lucky) to gain energy and nutrients so we can grow or reproduce the cells we lose everyday. This is the same process with any form of life on Earth: animals may eat other animals, insects or plants; plants may “eat” CO2 and other nutrients, and so on…
If you follow any lead, all the energy that sustains life on Earth comes ultimately from the sun.
We also need and use energy to move, heat and transform stuff, we have been catching and using energy for millennia…
What has changed was the source of the energy and how we use (or misuse) it: roughly 150 years ago we “discovered” that we could use oil (petroleum) and then gas, before that, we also discovered how to use coal, and even that came after we were using (and misusing) wood
The industrial revolution was all about how to maximize the use of coal (first) and then oil and gas…now oil, gas and coal (i.e. “fossil fuels”) are present on almost anything we do, directly or indirectly: as a fuel to get our cars, planes and ships moving, heating our homes, cooking our food, etc., as a raw resource to make plastic stuff that we throw away after using once and even behind the mining, manufacturing and transportation of wind turbines, solar panels and bikes.
There are two main problems with those sources of energy and raw materials: 1) they are finite (they do not reproduce or grow again) and 2) their mining, use and waste pollute the planet and are creating a potentially catastrophic situation through climate change, water and soil pollution and biodiversity loss.
However, there is no escape: we need energy to continue moving and changing or manufacturing things and we also need raw materials…the only sensible response to this challenge is to keep these fossil fuels in the ground while radically changing our attitudes towards the source, use and disposal of both energy and raw materials.
What can you do:
Learn about how energy is used in your community and then household, workplace or school: what’s the source of that energy, can it be changed? Are there alternatives? What is the status of any plans for the future?
Radically reduce your own dependence on fossil fuels and energy in general
Consider changes in your lifestyle such as changing your working/studying hours, location or nature of your work/study so you don’t need to drive/commute
Reject, reduce, reuse, repair, re-distribute or upcycle, compost and finally if nothing else is possible, recycle…
Buy local and seasonal food: this reduces the need for energy to transport and keep the food fresh
Grow as much food or spices as you can
Reduce your use of clothing and stuff: buy on thrifts or second hand stores so less new stuff needs to be sourced, manufactured, transported and sold
Move to a smaller home or share your home with another people or family: big houses with many empty rooms use more energy for heating and require more products for cleaning, more furniture to be filled and more air conditioner during summer time. Sharing will not reduce the overall use of cost, but will use energy more efficiently and will be cheaper for each one of you
Consider ditching at least one family car and using more public transportation, biking, carpooling or walking
Buy stuff in bulk and with a friend, to reduce your trips to the grocery store
Consider cheaper ways to preserve your food, such as fermenting and pickling or building a small root cellar instead of freezing or canning. Use sun and real heat for dehydrating during summer time instead of the oven or an electric dehydrator
Research, work and implement alternative sources of energy in your home, such as different ways to keep your family warm without the regular heating; ways to cook without your stove; ways to dispose pee and humanure without using the regular toilet all the time; ways to have light without using electricity, etc.
Have a low-energy or zero-energy party with family, friends or neighbours and play games to see how each comes up with newer ways to reduce energy or find alternatives that are less damaging to the environment
Hold a zero-energy evening or holiday a month to help your family and friends to find ways to eat, keep warm, entertain and share without the use of “regular” energy and devices
Share any other ideas of what you and your family/friends do to reduce and change energy dependence