The following is a reflection written by Sarah Jones, WKU Communication Studies major. Sarah describes how the voyage changed her and gives us her action plan for reducing her carbon footprint.
How I Have Climate Changed
During the Toppers at Sea voyage studying climate change, I realized how much I have taken for granted in my life. I learned that if everyone had the habits I did before the voyage, there would have to be 3.97 Earths to sustain the people of the world. With the information of the ecological footprint calculator, there will only need to be 1.36 Earth(s) to sustain the people of the world if I made some changes. The seven most important factors humans take for granted and are oblivious to how much they use them: Water, food, transportation, shelter, energy, clothing, and the things we use. I have come up with a plan to be more aware of what I use and for how long I use something.
Water: Instead of taking a long shower, I now time myself for fifteen minutes from the time I turn the water on until the time I turn it off. I also do not leave the water running while brushing my teeth. Water is a huge factor many Americans take for granted. I have purchased a Brita to go under my faucet. Instead of buying bottled water, I have access to purified water right in my own home. I can easily store the water in a personal water jug or bottle. This also helps reduce the use of plastic. I have also made the change to only run the dishwasher once a week to cut down on the use.
Food: I have purchased my own compost bucket now. The local Farmer’s Market is on Tuesday’s and Saturday’s in Bowling Green and I go with my friends and by fruits there. The Farmer’s Market in Stockholm, Sweden was the first one I had ever been too. I have passed by several before the one in Sweden but I had never stopped at any. My best friend just moved into a house downtown. Before she really unpacked anything, her and her boyfriend started a garden out front. They grow their own vegetables. They have encouraged me enough to start my own vegetable garden in my backyard.
Transportation: I have limited myself to only driving thirty minutes a day. I have retrieved my dusty old bicycle from storage. 50% of the residents in Copenhagen, Denmark ride bicycles and 30% still rides in the winter! If they can do it then I can do it. After my class’s three-hour bicycle tour around Copenhagen, I now feel comfortable riding my bike in traffic and around campus.
Shelter: Nine months out of the year I live in a residence hall on campus. I literally bring everything but my furniture to my room. So during nine months out of the year I am pretty conservative about my space. During the summer when I go home, I share a three-bedroom house with my sister and a cat. Our father gave us the house so we have a lot of things here that are not ours and we do not use. Since I have been home from the voyage, we have gone through many items we do not use and they will be donated to Goodwill.
Energy: According to my ecological footprint, I do not conserve energy very well. I dry most of my clothes in the dryer and do not hang them out to dry and I do not have an energy efficient refrigerator. Some of the changes I have made since I’ve been home are buying compact fluorescent light bulbs and turning off all lights and most appliances when not in use.
Clothing: The best part about being 5’0” tall is that you can still fit into the same clothes that you did when you were in middle school. I wear a lot of old clothes and I do not usually go shopping unless for a special occasion. When I can’t fit into something anymore, I usually give it to someone, donate it to Goodwill, or sell it at Plato’s Closet.
Stuff I use: I recycle everything that I possibly can and encourage others to do so. I do not tolerate anyone littering items in front of me and especially if they are in my car. Seeing Copenhagen and the University of Akureyri’s recycling program makes me so appreciative of people who implement those kinds of programs and actions. I noticed while on the ship that the guests used so much plastic and Styrofoam. I always try to drink out of glasses, my coffee mug, or my water bottle. I do have several electronics but I use all of them often except for my television.
During the voyage, I recorded my carbon footprint every night. I am still recording a carbon footprint each day. By doing this I realize how much I use, waste, and what can be conserved. Since the voyage, my transportation use has cut down a lot. It seemed very ironic that the Toppers at Sea group were on the ship studying Climate Change and learning about carbon footprints while we are making a huge carbon footprint traveling. The ship’s heavy fuel oil was approximately 640.37 MT and the Marine fuel oil 50.26 MT; now, think about the airplane flights all of us had and all of the different routes. Dr. Strenecky told the group multiple times before leaving for the trip that when we come we will be completely different people. I was very confused how during that time but I can honestly say that I am not the same person. I’ve witnessed all of the beautiful things Mother Nature gave to us and now it’s time to give back and help her.