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Carbon Reduction in Oneself, Carbon Reduction in the World

Binley Farm photos courtesy of Will Stephens

By Will Stephens

Reversing climate change seems a bit daunting, to say the least, but on further reflection we can see that it is possible. Our planet has the ability to absorb quite a lot of carbon dioxide and other warming gases—just not as much as we are producing! If we all just produce a lot less, then our Mother Earth will do the reversing process for us.

My journey to reduce my carbon footprint started in earnest when a visit to Plum Village in 2004 re-opened my eyes to the effects of my actions. I soon started working alongside various environmentalists, one of whom did a fantastic job of watering my positive carbon-cutting seeds. I had made a lot of money from entrepreneurial work, and when you have a lot of money, it’s all too easy to consume a lot; and of course, the more you consume, the higher your carbon footprint. My good “carbon friend” asked me about my lifestyle and the changes I had gone through over the previous year. When he found out that I had cut down my carbon footprint by over ten percent within the year, he lit up and said how well I had done! He helped me to understand that we can’t change our lifestyles overnight but just need to aim to reduce every year by a certain amount. Rather like with mindfulness practice, we can’t look for transformation overnight—it takes time and diligence to effect change. “Carbon reduction in oneself, carbon reduction in the world!”

Even though I became more and more aware of the effect I was having on climate change, it was really hard to stop the consumption and live more lightly on the planet. It’s hard to give all your money away when you have worked hard to earn it, so I was happy to eventually find a good solution. My family and I invested everything we had in an old farmhouse with land, renovating it in the most environmentally responsible way possible. Investing money in renewable energy, insulation, eco-improvements to your home, and sustainable ways of growing and harvesting food are win-win solutions, as you get the benefit for the planet, reduced living costs, and less available money to spend on high-carbon pursuits!

Now we live fairly lightly in a beautiful valley in Gloucestershire, UK, where we offer mindful living retreats to individuals, young adults, teachers, health care professionals, and businesspeople. All our water comes from the nearby spring and is heated by the sun or wood fires. All our space heating comes from burning wood, but we don’t need much, as the houses are south facing and benefit from solar-passive gain, as well as being super insulated and airtight. We grow as many of our vegetables as possible and have chickens providing eggs for us. Right now we are enjoying home-grown peaches, raspberries, and salad! We have planted over one thousand trees since we got here three years ago, for firewood, fruit, nuts, and of course just for the sake of planting trees. I have a commitment to myself to plant at least one tree every winter for the rest of my life.

I can definitely say that a low-carbon lifestyle is a more enjoyable lifestyle! Of course, I get the occasional craving for that new electric car or a holiday in the Carribean, and who knows—I might take the plunge if I save up enough for a carbon splurge!

Will Stephens, True Essential Truth, currently lives in Gloucestershire, England, with his wife, three children, chickens, bees, and other friends. Will worked as an entrepreneur in many areas before finding a new path that led him into environmental work, psychotherapy, mental health, prison work, stress reduction, heart-based living, and mindfulness.

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Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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