Reducing our carbon footprint

By Patricia Kasten | The Compass | March 19, 2015

Find ways to care for God’s creation

Next Saturday, March 28, the lights will go out. No, it’s not the Easter Vigil — that comes a week later.

Earth Hour 2015 will be March 28, from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. local time. A global event, Earth Hour started in Australia in 2007. Initiated by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, Earth Hour is a Lights Off event raising awareness about climate change. Last year, 162 nations, territories, and even groups like the International Tourism Partnership took part. The Eiffel Tower and China’s Great Wall went dark.

People differ over climate change, what causes it and how to change it, but most realize that earth’s climate is changing. Most also realize that we could be more responsible with resource use.

For example, the average person, worldwide, produces four tons of CO2-equivalent emissions each year, according to the Encyclopedia of Earth. CO2 emissions, measured in carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas), are caused by such things as heating, transportation, energy use and, secondarily, by food production, fertilizers and recycling.

Four tons sounds like a lot. However, some countries produce more, others less. Not surprisingly, low income nations like Nigeria and the Philippines produce less greenhouse gas. First World nations produce more. According to the EPA, the average U.S. household of two produces nearly 21 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

CO2 emissions are sometimes called “a carbon footprint.” How big is yours?

The car you drive, size of your house, how well you recycle and use energy efficient lighting all affect your footprint. There are ways to measure it. Online calculators can be found at www.epa.gov and the Nature Conservancy’s website: www.nature.org. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself above average.

By early summer, Pope Francis will unveil his encyclical on the environment. The pope, who took his papal name for St. Francis of Assisi, has already spoken about exploitation of earth’s resources. Last summer, in unprepared remarks at the University of Molise in southern Italy, he said. “This is one of the greatest challenges of our time: to convert ourselves to a type of development that knows how to respect creation. … This is our sin, exploiting the earth and not allowing her to her give us what she has within her.”

How do we meet that challenge? This Lent, many church groups across the U.S. are on the “Lent Carbon Fast.” The Wisconsin Council of Churches called the fast “a wake-up call to be mindful of the ways that our daily choices respect everyone, especially our neighbors in poverty … and help preserve God’s great gift of creation.”

For those on the carbon fast, a calendar of ideas help reduce their footprint: from having a pesticide-free lawn (the March 23 suggestion) to buying fair trade chocolate for your Easter baskets (March 21st’s). For more, visit www.wichurches.org and scroll to the “Lent Carbon Fast” link.

One theme of Catholic social teaching is “care for God’s creation.” The U.S. bishops explain this as “not just an Earth Day slogan, it is a requirement of our faith. We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God’s creation.”

There are many ways to do this: some simple, some complex. It doesn’t matter so much “what” you do as it does that you commit to doing something.

One could be turning off lights for one hour (or one day, as the Carbon Fast suggests for Sunday, March 22.) According to the Energy Federation, Inc. (which has an office in Kaukauna), you don’t even have to turn off a light. Replacing one 60 watt light bulb with a 9.5 watt LED will reduce your carbon footprint by 79 pounds a year. It’s a start.

Then, when the Easter Candle burns anew at the Easter vigil April 4, it will shine on you, a person doing something to bring new life to the earth.

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