Leaving Footprints

by Melissa Lockwood, Marine Biology with Sustainability minor ’12

“Rome was not built in a day.”

Have you ever wondered where that phrase came from?  According to Wikipedia, it’s the English translation of a 1910 French phrase. For being 100 years old, it still rings true.

Sustainability is like Rome.  We can’t expect to make a change here and there and see results by the end of the day.  Revamping how the world works takes time (and money and politics and arguing, and…well you see my point.)  However, there is a secret to get around all those time consuming tasks.  It starts with playing a little game.  Okay, so it’s more like a survey.  Answering all the questions will give you a rough estimate of your carbon footprint.

A carbon footprint accounts for every manufactured product you use, from the clothes in your closet to the gas used by the truck to ship food to the grocery store where you buy it.

Sometimes it is really hard to see how big of an impact our lives have on the planet.  For instance, it takes 16 global acres  to support my lifestyle.  I make an effort to buy locally grown food, car pool whenever I can, and recycle everything possible, yet I still have a sizable footprint. After playing with my answers, I found that a lot of my footprint comes from flying.  Sometimes you can’t change your lifestyle, but often times you can.  By making a few simple changes, I was able to reduce my footprint by almost 4 acres.

Change does not have to be inconvenient or scary, sometimes it can make all the difference in the world!

The wonderful thing, I don’t have to change my standard of living to make most of these changes.  It won’t kill me to cut out one meat based meal every week (it might even be healthy).  I never pay attention to what product packaging is made out of, and I should.  When I invest in a new coffee maker, I can pay a few extra bucks to get the Energy Star model.

The overall take home message is this: If every person made an effort to reduce their personal footprint by a few acres, we would be taking a big step towards creating a sustainable world, without having to get politics and money involved.

If you take the carbon footprint survey, please comment your results.

There are some great sustainable projects in the works on campus, so stay tuned.






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