A carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that come from a product. This includes the production, use, and waste of each product. A person or business’s carbon footprint is how much greenhouse gas emissions they are creating by the use of all the products they use. You can calculate your own carbon footprint here.
When you think about each little thing you use or do every day that can affect the Earth, it can be overwhelming. Where do I start? What products make the biggest impact? How can I make a difference without a huge time investment? These are all questions you are probably asking yourself. Luckily, there are a lot of easy and cheap ways to reduce your carbon footprint.
Going vegan or vegetarian
Fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans create much less waste in their production, use, and disposal than animal products. 14.5% of manmade global greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to the meat and dairy industry. This is production and processing, which produced methane. Each day you can go without meat or dairy reduces your carbon footprint by 8 pounds! You don’t have to go completely vegetarian or vegan, you can just join in on Meatless Mondays, or limit your meat and dairy intake throughout the week.
Buy local and organic
By choosing to shop locally, you will eliminate the need to transport food from far away, which causes gas emissions. You are also limiting your selection to foods that are in season, which reduces the number of chemicals that are used to keep your food good. Plus, you’ll be supporting your local farmer!
Buy in bulk
When shopping for nonperishable items, buying in bulk reduces the amount of packaging as well as the number of emissions used to transport the item. There are even stores that allow you to use your own container for bulk items. Using a reusable container to store these items reduces waste even further by eliminating the need for a disposable plastic or cardboard container.
Don’t waste food
Maybe you remember your mom and dad telling you that “a child in Africa is starving” when you went to throw out your Brussels sprouts. But, they were right in more than one way! When food is thrown away, it must be transported to a landfill in a truck – which causes emissions! Planning your meals ahead of time, freezing any excess, and eating leftovers will help to reduce food waste in your home.
Composting your food waste eliminates the need to transport it to another facility to decompose. Plus, you can use your compost in a garden which even further eliminates emissions!
Buy well-made, quality clothing
Oftentimes clothing that is cheap and trendy tend to go out of style quickly and end up in landfills. These items usually come from China or India which means they need to be shipped via boat or plane to make it to your closet. Once you toss these items, they produce methane as they are decomposing.
Give used clothing a new life by purchasing from a consignment store. Learning to do small repairs with a needle and thread or sewing machine is a great investment of your time.
Wash your clothing properly
Reduce the chances that your clothing will wear quickly or become ruined by regular washes by washing your clothes according to the label. If you aren’t sure cold water is always better! Doing two loads of laundry per week in cold water can save up to 500 pounds of carbon dioxide per year.
Only purchase items you need. When possible, purchase items second-hand to reduce production and transport emissions.
Bring your own bags
Plastic shopping bags are one of the worst contributors to today’s garbage problem. By using your own reusable bags, you’ll make a dent in the issue.
Research the company
Make sure that you are giving your money to companies that are making an effort to be environmentally responsible and sustainable. While families and households can help to reduce the overall carbon footprint of a country, the biggest impact will be made by businesses.
Assess energy waste in your home and make changes
Take a look around your house for potential energy waste and eliminate as much as you can. Unplug small appliances when they aren’t being used. Turn off lights when no one is using them. Properly seal all windows and doors to keep cool or hot air indoors. Switch to LED lightbulbs, which waste less energy on heat and last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs. Turn your water heater down to 120°F and install low-flow shower-heads to save around 900 pounds of CO2 per year.
Consider switching over to a clean energy solution. Many local utility companies offer a renewable energy program. If they don’t, you can contact a certified renewable energy provider. There are even scholarships to help with any initial investments like getting solar panels installed on your roof.
Transportation is the biggest cause of CO2 emissions in the U.S. By taking a pledge to bike to work or take public transport, you can save about 3 tons of CO2 each year. But there are many other ways to reduce your carbon emissions by changing how you think about transportation.
Whether you’re going to the grocery store, work, or a night out, think about alternative ways to get there. Walk, public transport, bike, carpool, or rideshare will all help to decrease carbon emissions.
Avoid extraneous braking and accelerating. Aggressive driving has been shown to cause a 40% uptick in fuel consumption when compared to calm, consistent driving. Use your air conditioning sparingly. Turn on cruise control on long trips. Download traffic apps like Waze to help you navigate around traffic.
Maintain your vehicle
Making sure your tires are inflated properly and your vehicle in maintenance regularly can increase your fuel efficiency by 7%. Keeping any extra weight out of your vehicle will also help to save on gas.
Get the right car
Think about buying a hybrid or electric vehicle if you are in the market for a new car. However, if your current car gets decent gas mileage and is still in good condition, hold off until you really need a new car. Production emissions of electric cars still count.
If you are a regular air traveler make sure you are flying responsibly since air travel produces even more carbon emissions than driving. If your trip is short enough to drive rather than fly, you should take the road trip. Flying nonstop will also help to reduce carbon emissions since landing and takeoffs produce more CO2 and use more fuel.