Climate change is our new reality. Polar ice caps are melting faster than ever, and oceans are getting warmer, creating stronger hurricanes. It’s possible that global environmental phenomena like these can be traced to our carbon dioxide emissions. Therefore, it’s our responsibility to give back to our planet and create thoughtful changes to reduce our carbon footprint.
Carbon footprint refers to the overall amount of greenhouse gas emissions, which mostly consists of carbon dioxide caused by industry and individual emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions are the primary cause of climate change. It takes some due diligence to make conscious decisions that positively impact the environment.
Here we list 10 realistic and very doable ways to help you reduce your carbon footprint:
1. Drive a Fuel-Efficient Vehicle
If you are in the market for a car, consider fuel-efficient electric car options. When buying or renting an electric car, make sure that you select one known to have reduced emissions. A good example is the Nissan Leaf—recipient of the World Green Car Award for 2018. Ninety-nine percent of the Leaf’s car parts are recyclable at the end of its lifecycle. The body uses recycled aluminum, and the used lithium batteries are being repurposed for power.
Quick tip: Not in the market for a new car? Try to reduce your carbon footprint by combining errands and making fewer trips.
2. Explore Driving Alternatives
Use your feet more often than motors. Walk or ride a bike as much as possible. Make a personal rule to walk to any destination within two miles. Stepping on the accelerator more than necessary increases your car mileage by 33%, and ultimately releases carbon emissions. You also spend more money on gas this way.
When driving, make sure all tires are inflated properly so as not to slow the car down and require more acceleration. Driving with inflated tires improves gas mileage by 3%. Also, remind yourself to keep the engine tuned and working properly.
3. Switch to a Renewable Energy Source
Consult energy providers to choose the best energy provider for your home or business. Some options could be between wind, solar, hydroelectric, and biofuels. Invest in solar panels that you can install on your roof to make your home a smart home as well.
Consider net metering, where your house or business is paid to generate your own power through sustainable sources like wind turbines and solar panels. Extra power made is sent back to the national grid, and you earn depending on how much power you produce and sell. There are numerous states that offer such alternatives: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, and West Virginia.
4. Reduce Energy Use in Your Home
Replace incandescent, halogen and fluorescent bulbs with LED lights. By making the switch to LED bulbs, you are saving significantly on energy (consuming up to 80% less). Not only does that save you money on your electric bill, but because LED bulbs last longer, you will be replacing them less often!
Try to purchase home appliances like air conditioning and water heaters that are energy-efficient. Seal heating and cooling ducts to reduce energy in tempering your home. Appliances still use energy even when on standby, so turn off and unplug them when not in use. Also, conduct regular maintenance to keep them functioning efficiently. You can also get an energy audit to find out which appliances consume the most energy.
Reduce your carbon footprint by washing clothes in cold water, or even by hand, and foregoing the dryer. Hang your clothes to dry instead.
5. Minimize Purchasing New Products
Fast fashion has detrimental effects on the environment. Companies use polyester, a non-biodegradable textile that requires massive amounts of crude oil to produce. Manufacturers also produce acres of genetically-modified cotton treated with pesticides, which are harmful to humans and animals. Dyes used to color fabrics can be dumped into rivers, poisoning bodies of water.
Reduce your carbon footprint by buying clothes from stores that have eco-friendly fabric. As much as possible, choose organic and recycled fabrics that have no toxic trails. Save money by simply repurposing clothes or making DIY designs to give them new life.
6. Be Thrifty
When buying clothes or furniture, check out thrift stores and other second-hand shops first. It may take more time and effort, but it will save you money and reduce garbage. This also applies to big-ticket items like cars or electronics. You can reduce waste by not spending money on brand names who invest in special packaging. Similarly, when dining out bring your own metal straws, spoons, forks, and refillable bottles, and containers. All those plastic materials end up in the trash and contribute to tons of food-related waste.
7. Declutter Your Home
Donate any unused clothes to charity. Try not to throw them away, and consider who would benefit from your old clothing. You can even have a yard sale, and make money from your old stuff. Decluttering can be good for your health and can also helps build more mindful shopping habits. You’ll realize how much you own, and what kind of things will be better for you and the environment. Decluttering will let you create a simpler lifestyle based on your past choices.
8. Eat Local
Purchase locally-produced foods sourced from local farmers, and sold at farmers’ markets. These sources grow organic, pesticide-free food. You also get to encourage and support local farming, consume healthy food, and protect the environment from unnecessary processing pollutants. Thirteen percent of US greenhouse gas emissions come from the production and transport of manufactured food. Knowing where your food comes from is a smart and safe way to consume food.
9. Reduce Water Usage
Buy low-flow shower and faucet heads with a minimum of 2.5 gallons per minute, and constantly check for leaks. This is an efficient method to save 25% to 60% on water. Try to use hot water less to lower utility bills. Use water-efficient toilets, dishwashers, and washing machines. Try to power-wash less when cleaning as this uses up a lot of water. Fill a bucket with water instead to regulate your consumption.
10. Recycle, Reuse, Repurpose
This is a tried and tested approach to reducing your carbon footprint. When you buy, think about how your purchase can be used for other things in the future. When shopping for groceries, bring reusable, eco-friendly bags to avoid using plastic bags. If you are really dedicated, make bringing reusable containers a habit when going out to restaurants to avoid throw-away take-home containers.
Buy products that come in recyclable or minimal packaging. Twenty-nine percent of US greenhouse gas emissions come from extracting, manufacturing, transporting, and disposing of packaging and other non-biodegradable waste.
The most important approach to reduce your carbon footprint is to be mindful of your purchases, habits, and actions. These guide you on how to better take care of the environment by producing less waste. There will be an adjustment period when adopting new habits, but it is well worth the time and effort. You’ll be creating awareness and setting an example for others on how to care for and give back to your community and the environment. And you can be proud that you are helping the planet.