How to make the transition to a sustainable everyday life

October 14, 2019

What happened?

To lead a lifestyle that is compatible with the 1.5 °C climate change target, we have a personal carbon budget of only 2.5 metric ton of CO2 per year. To put this into perspective, the average carbon footprint in Western Europe is more than 10 ton per year per person and a return flight from Amsterdam to New York equals 1.9 ton. While we can hope that technological innovation alone will lead to significant greenhouse gas reductions, i.e. by enabling more sustainable methods of production and distribution of goods and services, the 2.5 ton target will nevertheless require us to change our lifestyles considerably in the near future.

What does this mean?

In order to help individual consumers get a grip on their carbon footprint, several initiatives are emerging. Many of these initiatives entail raising awareness and offering feasible alternatives for everyday consumer practices. Platforms such as CO2Logic offer personal carbon footprint calculators, often with tips to “do better”. Seasonal calendars provide information as to which vegetables and fruits are best to consume when and from which country. With the aim of offering alternative travel destinations that do not require flying, Deutsche Bahn has made a promotional video in which exotic vacation pictures are contrasted by equally beautiful destinations that can be reached by train or car.

What's next?

As we wrote before, to reduce our global carbon footprint, political efforts are necessary along with changing consumer behavior. Policies, such as emissions norms, environmental taxes and subsidies for climate-friendly solutions can help consumers to change their habits as they provide incentives for companies to companies to offer sustainable alternatives to their existing products (although these policies may hurt low-income households disproportionally). Current efforts to raise awareness among consumers can help to inspire them to lead a more sustainable lifestyle and they can contribute to support for more drastic policies in the future.

Series 'AI Metaphors'

1. The Tool
Category: Objects
Humans shape tools.

We make them part of our body while we melt their essence with our intentions. They require some finesse to use but they never fool us or trick us. Humans use tools, tools never use humans.

We are the masters determining their course, integrating them gracefully into the minutiae of our everyday lives. Immovable and unyielding, they remain reliant on our guidance, devoid of desire and intent, they remain exactly where we leave them, their functionality unchanging over time.

We retain the ultimate authority, able to discard them at will or, in today's context, simply power them down. Though they may occasionally foster irritation, largely they stand steadfast, loyal allies in our daily toils.

Thus we place our faith in tools, acknowledging that they are mere reflections of our own capabilities. In them, there is no entity to venerate or fault but ourselves, for they are but inert extensions of our own being, inanimate and steadfast, awaiting our command.
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2. The Machine
Category: Objects
Unlike a mere tool, the machine does not need the guidance of our hand, operating autonomously through its intricate network of gears and wheels. It achieves feats of motion that surpass the wildest human imaginations, harboring a power reminiscent of a cavalry of horses. Though it demands maintenance to replace broken parts and fix malfunctions, it mostly acts independently, allowing us to retreat and become mere observers to its diligent performance. We interact with it through buttons and handles, guiding its operations with minor adjustments and feedback as it works tirelessly. Embodying relentless purpose, laboring in a cycle of infinite repetition, the machine is a testament to human ingenuity manifested in metal and motion.
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