Challenge #51 ~ Materials

Read the blog post on the February Theme – THINK GLOBALLY, ACT LOCALLY

Photo by Katrin Scholz-Barth

Stuff. We consume so much stuff! And the materials the stuff is made from, matters! There are also building materials, packaging materials, and fuel for heating and cooling that impact global warming. What matters for our own wellbeing and ecological health is whether materials are from renewable or non-renewable sources and what we do to them and with them from extraction to disposal, or keeping materials in a circular economy. 

Project Drawdown, the world’s leading resource for climate solutions, identifies existing solutions to reverse global warming. The material sector spans from water saving to household recycling to refrigerant management – outlining individual actions around material management as impactful solutions to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the atmosphere.  

This week’s challenge is all about scaling the Power-of-One, the actions we, you and I can take to be a positive force and a change maker to reduce GHG emissions. We can choose to be part of the Think Globally – Act Locally movement and to accelerate implementation of climate solutions.

Refrigerant Management

Project Drawdown Number 1 most impactful solution for reversing global warming

The impact on climate change comes from hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), heavily used to replace chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) after they were determined to be causing degradation of the ozone hole in earth’s atmosphere. Unfortunately, while not ozone-depleting, HFCs are powerful greenhouse gases. In October 2016, 170 countries agreed to phase out HFCs, used in foam production as well as refrigeration, in an amendment to the Montreal Protocol. Substitutes are already available.

The potential impact of this solution is huge, avoiding additional emissions equivalent to 25 to 78 gigatons of carbon dioxide.

Did it surprise you to learn that refrigeration is an area where huge strides can be made in drawing down atmospheric carbon? And did you think that’s an area where you have no control, no impact? As we saw in our recent Refrigerants Challenge, there are definitely things we can do to reduce the amount of refrigeration (including air conditioning) we used without sacrificing comfort. Many options are automatic, like smart thermostats discussed in the Buildings and Cities Challenge

Have you noticed grocery stores in Doha enclosing refrigerated cases, keeping the chilled air in? This is an example of businesses making changes to reduce carbon emissions and electricity and hence operational expenses, a win-win situation. We can do our part with our home refrigerators. By right-sizing our refrigerator to our needs, choosing refrigerators with freezers at the bottom (cold air sinks), and not buying additional refrigerators, we can reduce the amount of CO2-equivalent gases used that require careful handling when disposed of to keep these gases from entering the atmosphere.

Water Saving – Home

Project Drawdown Number 46 most impactful solution for reversing global warming

You may not consider water when you’re thinking of saving energy. But using water does consume energy: to clean and transport it, to heat it, to pump and treat wastewater, and in Qatar, desalinating it. A quarter of residential energy use is due to hot water. Project Drawdown confirms our ability to personally have an impact here by saying “Efficiency can be improved household-by-household and tap-by-tap.”

We can take water saving actions by installing low-flush toilets and using efficient washing machines and dishwashers. Installing low-flow faucets and showerheads reduces energy consumption for heating wasted water.

Outdoor water use is also important to consider. As discussed in our Leaky Fixtures Challenge, repairing leaks, including in outdoor watering systems, can help, as can switching to drip irrigation. As we discussed in our Proper Plant Selection Challenge, taking care to landscape our gardens with plants that are adapted to Qatar’s climate is an extremely important and impactful action we can take. And revisit our Smart Gardening Challenge (our very first one) for more ideas on saving water in our gardens.

Check out our Every Drop Counts Challenge for even more ideas on how you can personally have an impact with this solution.

Household Recycling

Project Drawdown Number 55 most impactful solution for reversing global warming

Project Drawdown has found that “Waste production multiplied tenfold over the last century and will likely double again by 2025… Though the mix varies widely from place to place, in high-income countries paper, plastic, glass, and metal comprise more than 50 percent of the waste stream—all prime candidates for recycling.”

As pointed out in our Beyond Recycling Challenge, the real solution is to not produce and use so much single-use material. Qatar has been making strides in reducing single-use materials by encouraging reusable shopping bags, tagging produce directly onto it (so much of our produce comes with its own protective packaging anyway), and with Farmers Markets such as Torba selling unpackaged produce. However, in the current environment, it’s important to responsibly recycle what you must use. Recycling opportunities are increasing as well (check the existing recycling bins in Qatar here) including recycling machines at Al Meera markets.

The impact of recycling on climate change is in reducing emissions by creating new products from old materials, saving energy. For example, using recycled aluminum for new products uses 95 percent less energy than creating them from new materials.

Recycled Paper

Project Drawdown Number 70 most impactful solution for reversing global warming

We keep using more and more paper, particularly with the popularity of online ordering and home delivery. Roughly half the paper is used once and then discarded. The other half is recovered and repurposed. By increasing that percentage to 75% worldwide, it is possible to significantly reduce emissions in the paper industry.

According to Project Drawdown’s research, “Over thirty years, recycled paper can deliver .9 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions reductions.”

SustainableQATAR discusses paper recycling in our Beyond Recycling Challenge, and tips for reducing the amount of paper used altogether in our Paper-less? Challenge. Take this opportunity to review them.

By considering these strategies related to Materials use, we help to reduce carbon emissions from the atmosphere and contribute to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) #6: Clean Water and Sanitation, #12: Responsible Consumption and Production and #13: Climate Action