Ending our addiction to fossil fuels:

The fight to keep fossil fuels in the ground and out of our everyday products & lifestyles

Feb15,2019

INTRO

Carbon loaded fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas have been hundreds of millions of years in the making. Yet human plundering has meant that in just 250 years of industrialisation we have reduced the global store to less than 115 years. The environmental consequences of fossil fuel extraction have been, and will continue to be for centuries to come, profound.

Take a look at the interactive tool below. You may be shocked to find out how much fossil fuel has been extracted in your lifetime.

Embed Interactive Tool from the Guardian Keep It In The Ground Climate Change Campaign

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/ng-interactive/2015/apr/10/how-much-fossil-fuel-are-we-using-right-now

Don’t get us wrong, fossil fuels have enabled many wonderful human inventions from computers and refrigerators to anaesthetics and life-saving devices like MRI scanners.

But now it’s clear we got the balance wrong. Nature created and entrusted to us a delicately balanced carbon cycle which humans have, almost absent-mindedly, disrupted. Mankind has taken abundantly and greedily from nature’s carbon store, using it for energy and production, and in so doing created the greatest challenge of our time: climate change.

Show interactive image below highlighting severity of climate change problem. This tool is available for re-use as long as appropriately credited. See link below.

http://www.climate-lab-book.ac.uk/spirals/

And what do the experts predict climate change will bring? Changes to our water systems with more flooding and more droughts and increased pressure on already delicate water supplies. Changes to our ecosystems putting 20-30% of wildlife species at risk of extinction. The destruction of our coral reefs. The melting of our glaciers and ice sheets, causing sea level rises (we have seen a 20cm rise since 1870, of which 8cm has occurred since 1995). The list goes worryingly on. Some impacts we are seeing already, but many have yet to come.

It’s time to stop. Experts have warned that burning all known fossil fuels could directly result in more than 2C of global warming. 80% of our remaining carbon reserves must be left untouched and unburned in the ground. 

Otherwise look what we risk:

Image sourced from the World Resources Institute :

https://www.wri.org/blog/2018/10/half-degree-and-world-apart-difference-climate-impacts-between-15-c-and-2-c-warming

HOW DID WE BECOME SO DEPENDENT ON FOSSIL FUELS?

Some estimates suggest that as much as 96% of the everyday items we use contain fossil fuel, from clothing, perfume and nail polish to boats, roofing and toilet seats. Fossil fuel has become a wide-spread industry norm. How did we not spot earlier that a finite resource so long in the making was not intended to be guzzled at a rate of knots?  

Few people realise that conventional laundry detergents are made from synthetic petrochemicals. Research has shown that the average U.S. laundry detergent is made with 78% ingredients derived from petrol. Seventh Generation, amongst others, has proven it doesn’t need to be this way. We have choices. Non-fossil fuel dependent alternatives exist. Let’s get using them!

ALTERNATIVES TO FOSSIL FUELS

Seventh Generation has been able to minimise its demand for fossil fuel by focusing on plant-based ingredients. It’s not been an easy journey (something worthwhile rarely is!) but we are super proud to be able to say that Seventh Generation is 97% plant-based (Stat to be confirmed with R&D). Our biodegradable plant-based ingredients mean we borrow carbon from the carbon cycle and then return it for re-use, just as nature intended. Now our challenge is to close that 3% gap to be 100% bio-based and renewable, by finding a safe and effective plant-based preservative (R&D to confirm if we can say 100% plant-based instead of bio-based). Watch this space. We’re on the case.

Algae is another exciting alternative to fossil fuel, and one which doesn’t compete with the food industry for resources. Yes, algae! These small aquatic organisms convert sunlight into energy and store it in the form of oil. Scientists believe that in the future anything that runs on petrol or diesel could instead run on an algae-based biofuel. Microalgae have already been successfully used to make bioasphalt to pave roads. 

MORE PROGRESS NEEDED FASTER

The upside is that we are making progress. The UK’s total consumption of fossil-fuel is at its lowest level in 50 years. Per capita fossil fuel consumption in the UK peaked in 1973 and held relatively steady through into the early 2000s. The breakthrough has come in the last decade with a 30% drop in consumption between 2005 and 2015. 

Still, we need more. Especially when we consider global population has doubled in the last 50 years  and is predicted to almost double again from 7.6 billion today to 11.2 billion by 2100. 

Need guidance from Legal on usage rights of image. Source: Our World in Data 

Annotate chart to show -30% drop from 2005 to 2015

WHAT WE ARE DOING

Our dogged determination to leave fossil fuels where they belong in the ground, has taken Seventh Generation into plant-based products and beyond.

In 2015 we launched a self-imposed carbon tax, with the aim of offsetting 100% of the carbon emissions we create. Yes, that’s right!  We penalise ourselves for the greenhouse gases generated through employee commuting, keeping our offices open and through manufacturing and product distribution. We have significantly increased the amount of the carbon fee from $6 (around £4,50) per ton in 2016 to $11 (around £8,30) in 2018 so that in just two years, we have invested $306,000 (around £233,000) of carbon fund into agroforestry. Climate change is the biggest challenge we face today so we have to take serious action to reduce it.

In 2018, we joined forces with the Sierra Club in the Ready for 100 Campaign, which is inspiring U.S. cities to switch away from fossil fuels to 100% clean, renewable energy. Over 80 cities have already taken the pledge and more are joining every day.

For Reference: Image taken from Seventh Gen US website: https://www.seventhgeneration.com/blog/rise-climate-inspires-clean-energy-activism-across-nation

WHAT CAN YOU DO

The good news is there is so much that you can do to get involved and help leave fossil fuels where they belong, in the ground. Here are just a few ideas to get you started. If you’re already well on your way to a low-carbon lifestyle, please share your ideas with us in the comments section so we can all work together to live fossil fuel free faster.

Creative to supply a symbol by each idea eg electricity bulb by idea number 3

  1. Check Sources & Ingredients (Image of a laundry bottle silhouette with label showing): Understanding that 96% of the items we use every day include fossil fuel  means we need to use less and choose smartly. Check product labels for more info on what they’re made from and if it doesn’t say, ask. Manufacturers will only change their ways if they know it’s what their consumers want. So demand it!
  2. Be Plastic Smart (image of plastic packaging): Conventional plastic is made from petroleum, primarily oil. Try and spot when you might be using single use or disposable plastic and ask if you could have skipped or swapped it. Easy targets include plastic straws, cutlery, pre-cut fruit packaging, crisp packets, bags, water bottles and more. The plastic you do use, recycle!  Don’t be afraid to get googling so you recycle the right stuff in the right places. Check if plastic you have used is Post Consumer Recycled (PCR) and if it isn’t ask why not. Let’s make sure the plastic we do use gets as many lives as possible to keep it out of landfill and the oceans as long as possible. 
  3. Renewable Energy (Lightbulb image): Ask your energy supplier where your electricity is coming from (some companies post this on their website or include it in your statement). Currently only 29% of UK electricity comes from renewables  yet there are more and more suppliers offering 100% renewable energy deals at competitive market rates. Could you be just a few clicks away from supplying your home with 100% renewable electricity? 
  4. Power Off Mindset (Power switch / plug image): In work, at home and when you’re out and about keep asking yourself how you can help ‘Power Off’. From switching off the light as you leave a meeting room at work, to using the public hand dryer or your personal hairdryer for 25% less time and switching off at the plug to avoid wasted energy on standby. It’s a mindset change that can really make a difference.
  5. More Energy Efficient Workplaces (Office building image): Let’s be honest, many of us spend more of our waking hours in work than we do at home so we can have a big impact on energy efficiency in our workplace as well as homes. Start with taking your good home habits to work with you and spreading the word. If you’re feeling powerful, try sharing your ideas with the bosses. Even if it doesn’t change overnight, you will be part of the change that eventually comes.
  6. Healthy Transport Habits (bus & bike image to highlight healthier options): Many of us rely on cars to go about our everyday busy lives but put a monkey on your shoulder to keep prodding you to look for those opportunities to walk or cycle instead of drive, share a lift instead of 2 cars or hop on public transport instead of private.
  7. Low Emission Vehicles (car image): The UK government outlined in July 2018 its ‘Road to Zero’ plan aiming to end sales of conventional petrol and diesel cars by 2040. By 2030 its expected that at least 50% of new cars will be ultra-low emission electric, hybrid or hydrogen. Will yours be one of them?

‘THE MOUNTAIN IN FRONT OF US IS VERY HIGH. BUT IT IS NOT INSURMOUNTABLE.’

Now is not the time for doom and gloom but the time for action. The time for all of us to act. Not to wean ourselves off fossil fuels but to go full on cold turkey.

Borrowing from the inspirational words of the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaking at the UN Headquarters in New York in September 2018 on the ‘direct existential threat of climate change’: 

“The mountain in front of us is very high. But it is not insurmountable. We know how to scale it. Put simply, we need to put the brake on deadly greenhouse gas emissions and drive climate action. We need to rapidly shift away from our dependence on fossil fuels.” 

Let’s work together to end this global addiction to fossil fuels and take action now on climate change for the sake of the next seven generations.

Hannah Ritchie / Our World in Data (2017) How long before we run out of fossil fuels? Available at: https://ourworldindata.org/how-long-before-we-run-out-of-fossil-fuels (Accessed: 24 October 2018)

Duncan Clark / The Guardian (2015) How much fossil fuel has been used in your lifetime?  Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/ng-interactive/2015/apr/10/how-much-fossil-fuel-are-we-using-right-now (Accessed: 30 October 2018)

WWF (no date) The Effects of Climate Change. Available at: https://www.wwf.org.uk/effectsofclimatechange (Accessed: 30 October 2018)

Campaign Against Climate Change (2016) Impacts of climate change: our changed world. Available at: https://www.campaigncc.org/currentimpacts (Accessed: 30 October 2018)

Carbon Tracker Initiative (2011) Terms List: Unburnable Carbon. Available at: https://www.carbontracker.org/refs-and-resources/terms-list/#unburnable-carbon (Accessed: 24 October 2018)

Kelly Levin / World Resources Institute (2018) Half a Degree and a World Apart: The Difference in Climate Impacts Between 1.5C and 2C of Warming. Available at: https://www.wri.org/blog/2018/10/half-degree-and-world-apart-difference-climate-impacts-between-15-c-and-2-c-warming (Accessed: 30 October 2018)

International Association of Geophysical Contractors. (2018) Importance of Fossil Fuels. Fossil fuels are found in almost every product we use daily. Available at: https://www.iagc.org/importance-of-fossil-fuels.html (Accessed: 18 October 2018)

Kirk Chrisholm / Innovative Advisory Group (2015) 144 Products Made From Petroleum And 4 That May Shock You. Available at: https://www.innovativewealth.com/inflation-monitor/what-products-made-from-petroleum-outside-of-gasoline/ (Accessed: 24 October 2018)

Energy.Gov. (date unknown) Energy 101: Algae-to-Fuel. Available at: https://www.energy.gov/eere/videos/energy-101-algae-fuel (Accessed: 18 October 2018)

Science Daily (2015) Bioasphalt: From microalgae to ‘green roads’? Available at: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150420084751.htm  (Accessed: 24 Octobaer 2018)

Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser / Our World in Data (2017) Fossil Fuels. Available at: https://ourworldindata.org/fossil-fuels (Accessed: 24 Octobert 2018)

Lulu Morris / National Geographic (2017) Will Earth’s Population Decline? Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com.au/people/will-earths-population-decline.aspx (Accessed: 24 October 2018)

UK (2017) World population projected to reach 9.8 billion in 2050, and 11.2 billion in 2100. Available at: https://www.un.org/development/desa/en/news/population/world-population-prospects-2017.html (Accessed: 24 October 2018)

Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser / Our World in Data (2017) Fossil Fuels. Available at: https://ourworldindata.org/fossil-fuels (Accessed: 24 Octobert 2018)

International Association of Geophysical Contractors. (2018) Importance of Fossil Fuels. Fossil fuels are found in almost every product we use daily. Available at: https://www.iagc.org/importance-of-fossil-fuels.html (Accessed: 18 October 2018)

“Plastic has fibres that shorten each time it is recycled. This means plastic can be recycled 7-9 times before it is no longer recyclable.” Sourced from: Our Auckland / Auckland Council. (2016) How many times can it be recycled? Available at: http://ourauckland.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/articles/news/2016/08/how-many-times-can-it-be-recycled/ (Accessed: 18 October 2018)

British Gas. Data refers to the period 01/04/2017 to 31/03/2018

Leslie Hook, Jim Packard & Anjil Raval / Financial Times. (2018) UK stops short of 2040 ban on petrol and diesel vehicles. Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/30f7e328-8372-11e8-96dd-fa565ec55929 (Accessed: 18 October 2018)

Antonio Guterres / United Nations (2018) Addressing Climate Change, Secretary-General Says World’s Fate Is In Our Hands, Requires Rising to Challenge Before It’s Too Late. Available at: https://www.un.org/press/en/2018/sgsm19205.doc.htm (Accessed: 18 October 2018)

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