Sustainability Corner: Shopping to reduce your carbon footprint

by Margie Steffens
Riderwood Sustainability Committee Member

Overwhelming scientific evidence tells us that the gradual warming of our planet is due primarily to carbon dioxide emissions, to which each of us contributes. My display for Earth Day 2016 at Riderwood gave me an opportunity to explore my own grocery shopping experiences, and how my purchases could contribute to global warming.

I learned that palm oil is present in most of the commercial bakery mixes we use for cakes, cookies, pancakes, etc. Palm oil and palm products are imported from tropical climates and require the burning or cutting down of large acres of native forests to make room for planting palm trees. Extensive air pollution results from the practice as smoke from burning forests drifts over large land masses, causing respiratory and other illnesses. It is especially bad for children to breathe this air. Knowing this, I now look for mixes that use canola oil or corn oil instead.

I also am trying to incorporate more organic foods into my diet. Organically grown produce eliminates the use of pesticides that pollute our water and contaminate the soil and avoids using chemicals that can be harmful to beneficial insects. I try to buy produce that is grown locally or at farmer’s markets, cutting down on transportation costs requiring fossil fuel, which contributes to global warming. One scientific study showed that buying local food can reduce the amount of petroleum consumed to transport your dinner by a whopping 95%! I have also found that organic products are often cheaper than nonorganic ones, and they are fresher and longer lasting as well. We all visit our local grocery stores, and I notice that each has well-stocked areas for organic produce.

The preparation I did for the Earth Day display made me realize that almost every area of human activity can contribute to the generation of carbon dioxide and reducing this might seem like an overwhelming task. However, the good news is that this awareness presents us with many opportunities to reduce our carbon footprint in almost every aspect of our lives.

Upcoming opportunities for action:

  • National Clean Beaches Week – July 1-7
  • World Population Day – July 11
  • International Tiger Day – July 29
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