ATLA News
Newsletter Issue 8 No 1, February 1999 N

Living Sustainably

By John le Harivel

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We should nowadays be aware of the environmental problems which result from our 'modern' urban lifestyle. Most urban areas have huge 'ecological footprints'. They draw on resources and water from enormous areas of land.

London, for example, is thought to require an area as large as the whole of the United Kingdom to support it. Some of that land is thousands of miles away in different continents. Urban areas produce mountains of solid waste and rivers of liquid waste. Urban transport systems pollute the air we breathe and their energy use is changing the global climate. Given the scale of these effects, most people conclude that they can do little to make a difference.

But individuals can make a difference by playing their part in moving toward a sustainable future. The environmental impact of urban areas is the sum of all the people who live in these areas. Together individuals create the problem; together individuals can help solve the problem.

Every one of us can do little things to help the environment.

· By collecting our own rainwater on our own sites for each family housing unit we can save probably in the order of 100,000 litres of water a year being extracted from rivers.

· Similarly, by dealing with our own storm water on site, we can reduce the amount of storm water from each family housing unit carrying waste and pollutants to the oceans.

· By recycling wastewater and dealing with our own sewage locally, we can probably prevent pollution of the sea by 100,000 litres a year for each family housing unit.

· By using site based point-of-use renewable technology we can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide for each family housing unit by some 8 tonnes a year.

· We could also each become net exporters of energy, if we produced our own power on site.

· We can increase the use of plants on and around our buildings, referred to as 'greening buildings'.

· As consumers, we can ensure we use energy efficient appliances.

· We can walk and cycle rather than use motor vehicles, and in the process become healthier.

· We can join 'green power' schemes for very little cost.

It is possible by these few examples to show that saving the world doesn't need to cost the earth.

We can't wait for governments to save the earth. If our planet is going to be saved it is going to be by the action of millions of individuals, each doing small things that are relevant to them. Where individuals lead, political leaders will follow. This is not just a noble goal but our individual responsibility to ourselves, and future generations.

Look out for future articles on the strategies outlined here. The next issue will deal with 'greening buildings'. - Ed.

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