Sunday, 2 May 2010

A View from the Pew – Will you take the 10:10 Challenge?

This article appeared in the May 2010 edition of Newslink, the diocesan magazine of the diocese of Limerick & Killaloe.

As I noted last month, the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming are a consequence of the personal choices and decisions of countless individuals around the world – particularly those of us in rich countries. Perhaps it is because world leaders doubt they can get their peoples to change those choices and decisions that they failed so dismally to agree in Copenhagen last December what to do about it. Let’s hope and pray they do agree effective and just action soon, before it is too late. We now know for certain that unless we act quickly to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases, our descendents will face terrible problems in years to come.

But their failure to agree shows it’s now time for ordinary people to step in to defend our children’s futures. And as Christians we have a particular responsibility to take the lead. As the bishops of our Anglican Communion reflected at the last Lambeth Conference:

‘If we say that “The earth is the Lord’s…”, we must be prepared to live as if that is true! We can not misuse a gift from the Lord. If we are to call ourselves disciples of Jesus Christ, we must be prepared for radical discipleship by “living simply, so that others may simply live.” Safeguarding creation is a spiritual issue.’

The first step is for each one of us to take personal responsibility – if we don’t, no one else will. Just suppose each one of us made a pledge to cut 10% of our greenhouse gas emissions in 2010? What if we got everyone we know to do the same? And what if all this made governments sit up and take notice? That could be the first step towards a brighter future for us all.

Cutting 10% in one year is a bold target, but for most of us it’s achievable – and would save us money too! Here are some ideas for what you and your family can do.

1 Save on heating – and bills Turn down your thermostat - 1°C less can save 10% by itself! Turn off radiators in hallways and rooms you don’t use. If you need them, more jumpers and warm underwear all round. Fix those draughts. Then apply for a grant to insulate your loft and walls. You’ll be warm & cosy!

2 Drive less – be healthier Think before you make that short drive. Walk, cycle or take public transport when you can. Leave your car at home one day a week. Share the school run and car-pool with a colleague or two to get to work. Eco-driving guidelines can save 5-15% of fuel: drive smoothly, control your speed and stick to the limits (driving at 70 uses 15% more fuel than driving at 50, and cruising at 80 uses 25% more than at 70), change gear up as early as you can, and turn off heated rear windscreens, demister blowers and headlights when you don’t need them.

3 Save on electricity – be bright Change over to low-wattage light bulbs. Turn off unnecessary lights, and turn off TVs, computers, battery chargers etc when not in use. Consider replacing old inefficient fridges and freezers, and always buy appliances with a good energy rating.

4 Fly less - holiday more Swap the plane for boat and train, when you can. Holiday nearer to home and take fewer but longer trips – same tanning time, dramatically less carbon emissions.

5 Eat better In-season fruit & veg produce the least emissions – and the less processed the better. Buy locally produced food when you can, to support your neighbour and save food miles. Grow your own – nothing tastes like it!

6 Buy good stuff Less stuff made = less emissions = less climate change. So buy high-quality things that last, repair if possible rather than chucking, buy and sell second hand. Ignore pointless changes in fashion. And borrow your neighbour’s mower!

7 Dump less Avoid excess packaging and buying pointless stuff that goes straight in the bin. Recycle everything possible. Compost your scraps – the garden will love you!

8 Don’t waste food… The average Irish family throws away loads of food every month. So don’t buy or cook more than you need. And eat up those tasty leftovers with a smile on your face!

9 …or water Your tap water uses lots of energy – and heating it uses loads more – so take showers rather than baths, be careful watering plants and only run full dishwashers & washing machines.

10 Pass on the word! Monitor your carbon footprint (Google ‘Power of One’ to find a calculator). Persuade family and friends to join you in saving 10% in 2010. Take the 10:10 pledge. And get your parish to do the same!

For more information and to take the 10:10 pledge see

Here in Nenagh, the group that followed an ecumenical Lent course on climate change last year has formed Nenagh Carbon Watchers (see We aim both to support each other in our personal efforts to reduce emissions, and to promote transition to a sustainable life style in our local communities. As part of this, I have been monitoring my own household’s carbon emissions, and after 11 months I am confident that we will have saved around 25% of emissions with insignificant capital expenditure (that excludes the flights we have not taken).

After a false start last year, I am determined this year to invest in better home insulation and heating controls. This will not only reduce our emissions further, but by reducing heating bills provide a much better return on my money than I could get in any bank, as well as give employment to local tradespeople. And for 2011 I have my eye on one of those electric cars we are hearing about… I’ll keep you posted on how we get on!

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