Sue Ennis, Victoria Regional Meeting
Rowe Morrow has asked me to write about the changes I have made to reduce my carbon footprint. I know many Quakers have done much more and for longer, but here goes! My hope is that the next few editions of the AF will include others’ journeys.
The dates below show when I made purposeful changes to reduce my footprint. The triggers for change are in bold and my learnings/current struggles are underlined. On reflection the timeline looks rational, but it is based on my spiritual beliefs in care for people and treading lightly on Earth.
In the 1980s the impetus and awareness. Nikki, a Quaker-like friend, had a car sticker “Live simply so others can simply live”. This was (and still is) quite different from my family background of high carbon usage. I now learn the sticker came from the Uniting Church. This sticker motivated me to live more simply. At this stage I didn’t know much about the science of climate change. I still don’t understand it fully, but do I need to? Rather I need to listen to those who do.
In 1985 I moved into my own home and began to practice simple living. For example, I started green cleaning my home, yet I still struggle to get my cleaner to green clean. I furnished simply, mostly with quality second-hand furniture. I still have two portable fans and, no air-conditioning but how much longer can I do this? I also installed gas heating because it was the most energy efficient then, but not now. I started my first compost bin; I now have three.
I taught in China in 1989 and started realising that the World – a speck of dust in the universe, would soon be in a huge environmental decline. Despite this I decided I needed to try to live more sustainably and become more aware of the impacts of how money is made, and what I buy. As a result, I started ethical super investments with a Melbourne company. Prior to this, for totally environmental reasons I bought Timber Corp shares. This company turned out to be an ethical and financial dud! I learnt there are sharks out there dressed as lambs.
In 1994 I met Rowe at the South Australia Yearly Meeting. We had long talks and quietly she taught me heaps, as since then she often stays with me in Melbourne. At that time, I inherited some furniture, so I recovered and resprung my grandparent’s couch. This cost about the same as a good quality new couch and I still use it! I employed someone to repaint the other second-hand furniture. I installed new wooden windows because the old ones were rotting. I should have saved more and double glazed, but I did not understand this would save energy
When the ALP agreed to mine uranium, I resigned my party membership!
Two years later I became aware transport was a big climate change issue. So, since then I have chosen jobs I could go to on public transport. I live in inner Melbourne, so it is easier than if I lived in outer Melbourne
From 2005 to 2007 I started sustainably retrofitting my house. I put the highest-level insulation into my house. Unfortunately, 1/3 of my house walls are lathe and plaster, so it is not possible to insulate. Also, the next year there was the government rebate! I could not insulate underneath because of white ant checks.
I bought a new dishwasher the most energy efficient for the space and a new washing machine because the old top loader used heaps of water in the drought. Choice magazine helped me choose these. Sometimes these appliances were more expensive but in the long run they used less carbon and so were cheaper.
After I attended a 2008 sustainability festival session in Melbourne. I have chosen to travel overseas with Intrepid, a low-impact, ethically responsible travel company; in 2010 they became carbon neutral. I also started carbon trading all my flights by giving donations to Quakers to plant trees and more recently to Greenfleet.com. Also, when overseas I travel as much as I can by train and bus even if it is more expensive.
A year later I replaced my gas heater with two new heaters that were more energy efficient, but again slightly more expensive. Gas was the most sustainable then, but not now!
1n 2010 I realised the earth was warming quickly so I made structural changes to my home as I needed to ‘walk the talk’. I recognise that I had sufficient money to do this, but not everyone can. So, I installed a long lasting 1.5-watt German solar power system; a bit more expensive. 1.5 watts was too small, but there were fewer options then. I also installed an evacuated-tube solar hot water system and gas back-up. I should have got electric back up. I put in a 3,000 litre water tank and drip irrigation system, but this tank is too small! All this cost me about $25,000 but I have paid minimal power bills since as I get 60c per Kw for the solar till 2025.
The next year I made changes to how I travel in Australia. I travelled more by bus and train but sometimes flew (e.g. to Queensland). I work part-time so slower travel is possible.
In 2012 the year I finished my PhD I had time to do more changes to my home. I put in double glazed wooden doors and a new deck extension – something Rowe had always suggested. I used recycled timber on the deck. I set up a vegetable garden. I used good quality steel beds for less maintenance. I now know I should have used wooden ones and employed people to replace them.
I also changed my financial advisor to Ethinvest (got a referral from Rowe) because the one I had in Melbourne was not green enough. I started sharing my car with people and mostly buying locally produced or Australian food to reduce food miles. I have had three laptops (two second hand) and, two printers. I purposely employ someone to upgrade rather than buy new.
Then in 2015 as I learnt more, I did more. I decided not to get another gas heater for a room. So, I bought Choice’s best energy rated electric heater. I bought green power so now all my electricity is green.
In 2017 I got involved with Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC) and their Living the Change (LtC) Initiative. As a result, I started to buy quality second-hand goods for my home and quality (don’t want to look daggy!) second-hand clothes. When I have to buy new clothing, I try to buy natural fibers. I started reducing eating beef and began to think about flying less.
After the 2018 election and reading a Climate Change statistic that we only have 12 years to hold back disaster I became more structurally/politically active. For example, I started donating some of my inheritance that I had planned to leave to Quakers to Market Forces (https://www.marketforces.org.au/ ) and ARRCC because climate action is needed NOW. I also bought Macquarie Bank Shares in a Market Forces shareholder green action which was successful. I also started some proactive super investments in new energy programs in one of my super funds.
This year I bought green gas one dollar a week. Would it have been better to give $50 to GreenFleet or to Alan Clayton’s environmental group? I travelled to Indonesia for Friends Peace Teams choosing the shortest carbon route rather than the cheapest ticket. But for YM 2019 I flew to Hobart. I should have gone by boat as less carbon, but I did not understand. I further reduced my driving using 6 tanks of petrol from January to September But I have excellent local public transport, I have no grandchildren and all my family live near me. My next car will be a hybrid or electric.
About 15 years ago I decided I needed to model living a ‘simple yet rich life’. So, a cultural routine in my life is attending for example national and local folk and jazz festivals, music events and art galleries. These bring me much joy and are less carbon intensive than flying. Thanks to Catherine Heywood who first took me to these.
About a third of the way into my PhD on spirituality/religion and refugees I became aware that many people will use their religious/spiritual meaning system to frame and cope with future and current climate disasters. Hence my nine-year involvement with Religions for Peace Australia (and more recently ARRCC and the LtC initiative) working with others to form networks so religious leaders/communities can ‘hold’ spiritually, socially and politically the enormous societal consequences of our current and continuing climate emergency.
My biggest regret in life is how much carbon I have used on air travel. So, I have decided to rarely fly for holidays and will discern with Quakers which RfP International meetings I need to attend. Currently I have few family members overseas, so I don’t have that struggle. But I will miss travelling in different cultures as I am an experiential learner. My biggest satisfaction in trying to reduce my carbon footprint is changing my financial advisor and getting involved with Market Forces. My edge is deeply understanding the non-human costs of climate change. My hope is that religious/spiritual people will work with environmental groups to save our Earth. Existentially it is a comfort to me that human environmental degradation of our Earth will not affect our amazing universe (but is this so?).
I wish to acknowledge, Nikki, Rowe, Catherine, some RfPA members and ARRCC assistance in my journey to date. I thank Adrian, Elizabeth and others for the excellent Quaker EarthCare Epistle on Climate Emergency & Species Extinction YM 2019, as it provides an excellent spiritual and action-oriented framework for Quakers as individuals and as a religious community.