World Zero Emissions Day — What is it and how can you take part

World Zero Emissions Day

21 September is World Zero Emissions Day (ZeDay), a one-day moratorium on the use of fossil fuels. Or simply put, a day to turn off all your lights, take your bike to work, use no electrical appliances, and give the planet a day off.

One measly day is hardly the holiday that our earth deserves, you might be thinking. And that is true. But in just 24 hours, a successful effort could save over 90 megatons of carbon dioxide. Beyond this simple directive though, the point of World Zero Emissions Day is not just to make one day’s worth of change but to raise awareness about our energy usage and keep that awareness in mind as we live our lives. 

A good place to start when participating in ZeDay is to consider your carbon footprint and reduce it drastically. How much energy are you spending and on what? Your carbon footprint, in simple terms, is the amount of greenhouse gas you produce in units of CO2. 

The size of your carbon footprint is determined by all the actions you take and the lifestyle choices you make in terms of how and how much you travel, what products and services you consume, the foods you eat, and your electrical consumption.

There are a ton of websites you can use to easily do the calculation. 

Keep in mind that carbon footprint calculators can be inconsistent and inaccurate so don’t get too bogged down by exact numbers. Rather than hyper fixating on the specific number that comes from each activity, use this as an exercise in reflection. You may find that aspects of your lifestyle produce more carbon than you expected or that you can make small changes that make a surprisingly big difference. For example, you may think that forgetting to turn off your geyser between uses or leaving your lights on when you go to work are far more egregious errors than eating a meat-heavy diet but this is not necessarily the case. And you don’t have to be all vegan all the time if that is just too much for you. According to this source, one vegetarian day per week can save nearly 100kgs of CO2 per year. One vegan day per week can save nearly 143kgs of CO2 per year.  If you have some friends over for dinner, consider making a delicious vegetarian meal to show them that meat-free food doesn’t have to be tasteless or boring. That way you can create a small ripple of change. We’ve all heard about the butterfly effect! Use ZeDay to make some of these calculations and find actionable ways to reduce your output. 

All this being said, it is important to remember that you are not the cause of global warming. Don’t buy into the green guilt. As I argued in this article, placing too much focus on the actions of individuals detracts from the more pressing need to address the main culprits of environmental destruction and degeneration of the climate: namely, large corporations and toxic industries. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t work within your own sphere of influence, no matter how small, to make a positive change. And this positive change can be from spreading awareness about the nefarious actions of exactly these corporations and industries. 

Get ready for ZeDay

This ZeDay, get creative and have fun with it. Instead of watching TV and ordering a beef burger on UberEats, make a chickpea curry and play a candlelit game of chess (although it’ll probably be candlelit anyway, thanks Eskom). Turn off your sound system and pick up that guitar that’s been collecting dust in the corner. Take a retail therapy trip to a thrift store and buy some secondhand jerseys and jeans, saving you your next splurge on a fast-fashion purchase on Superbalist. Go to a refillery and fill some jars with lentils and quinoa, instead of spending far too much on Woolies’ heavily packaged versions. This may all sound a bit silly, but you just might find that these switches aren’t too hard to make and could be incorporated into your daily life instead of only once a year.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Josie is a writer and researcher who wants to do her bit to make the world a little greener. She holds an MA in Philosophy from Stellenbosch University and is currently working on her doctoral proposal.

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