As the time for New Year’s Resolutions quickly approaches, you may be wondering, how can I be more carbon friendly? Whether you already follow a sustainable lifestyle or have only just begun your eco journey, all of us can take steps in reducing the carbon footprint of our households, consumption practices, and routines. To help, we’ve come up with 10 ways you can reduce your carbon footprint.
What Reduces Your Carbon Footprint the Most?
There are countless ways to reduce a carbon footprint, and perhaps the most impactful is to do as much as you can, depending on your lifestyle. It’s critical that we reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere—and this won’t be possible with a single quick fix.
This means that we should all take the time to first understand our carbon footprint (by using a carbon footprint calculator like this one, for example). This will allow you to assess the areas in your life associated with the most greenhouse gas emissions so that you can make changes that will have the biggest impact.
Perhaps you eat meat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Cutting animal protein out of your diet—even just some of it—can have a significant positive impact.
Maybe you’re a regular jetsetter and fly to new locations several times a year. Swapping air travel for a car or train can help you make reductions. If you find yourself hitting the “add to cart” button nearly daily, maybe you can cut down on carbon emissions (and plastic waste) by curbing your consumption or making the switch to a more sustainable shop.
What Has the Biggest Impact on Carbon Footprint?
To further assist you with your carbon footprint reduction, know that nearly all of our human activities have an environmental impact. The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions for people in the U.S., however, is from burning fossil fuels for transportation, electricity, and heat. So, if you can trade the bike for the car, install solar panels, or adjust your thermostat settings it can support the health of our planet.
Perhaps you’ve also heard that veganism has been deemed “the singest biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth.” A 2019 study found that eating a plant-based diet not only reduces greenhouse gases, but also curbs eutrophication and acidification and reduces land use changes and water consumption. Even just participating in Meatless Monday can reduce the carbon footprint of your diet!
While these are some of the biggest ways you can reduce your carbon footprint, there are countless opportunities for you to curb your environmental impact. And most of them aren’t even that difficult to implement! We’ve come up with 10 carbon footprint reduction strategies to get you started.
What Are 10 Ways to Reduce Carbon Footprint?
1. Practice the 5 Rs
Bea Johnson, of Zero Waste Home, popularized the idea of a “trash jar.” In addition to encouraging people to measure their annual trash production by trying to minimize it to a jar’s worth, she also developed the 5 Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot.
Saying “no” to new things and unnecessary consumption practices is one of the best things we can do for our planet. When we do consume something, it’s best to try to get an extra life out of it by reusing it. Similarly, stocking up on reusable items like a water bottle, safety razor, and refillable shampoo and conditioner can cut out packaging—which in most cases means fossil fuels.
When you can’t refuse, reduce, and reuse, be sure to rot (compost) and recycle (more on this later) your waste.
2. Make your home more energy efficient
Between leaky windows and doors, and unnecessary cooling and heating, many of our homes can use an efficiency rehaul. Even adjusting the thermostat just a few degrees in the summer and winter can have a significant impact on energy uses—and monthly bills! Do your best to ensure that heat isn’t escaping through doors and windows and consider using shade to keep the sun’s heat out in summer.
Similarly, consider making the switch to energy-efficient appliances, or use them in a more efficient way. This can include only running the dishwasher and washing machine when full, or washing with cold water.
3. Support the sustainable fashion movement
Fast fashion may be associated with cheaper price tags—but our planet is picking up the cost. We’re producing and consuming clothes like never before, which has a hefty carbon footprint when you consider all that goes into an average outfit.
Synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon make up more than 60% of what we wear. These synthetic fabrics are derived from fossil fuels and require them at nearly every stage of the supply chain—from processing the fabrics, to shipping them to retailers, to incinerating them when they don’t sell.
As a more sustainable alternative, you can shop secondhand for all of your wardrobe needs, learn how to better maintain and repair clothes so they last longer, and support sustainable brands that make clothes with natural and organic fabrics.
4. Divest your money
The world’s 60 largest banks have supported the fossil fuel industry with more than $3.8 trillion since the Paris agreement was signed. Worse, most of them use your investments to fund the weapons, tobacco, gambling, and other “sin” industries.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Consider making the switch to socially responsible investment firms that support sustainability initiatives or those that promote social justice.
5. Eat less animals, more plants
We touched on this earlier but it’s worth it to emphasize the impact of our hamburgers and steak dinners. Raising livestock to meet animal protein demands produces methane, a greenhouse gas that’s 80x more heat-trapping than carbon dioxide!
In order to raise cows, chickens, lambs, and pigs for consumption, we also need to clear land for farming. This means cutting down carbon-sequestering trees that capture and store CO2 in the atmosphere—thus contributing to even more emissions.
Beans, lentils, meat alternative products, chickpeas, tofu, and tempeh are all good protein-rich plant sources that can be substituted for animal protein.
6. Make the move to other modes of transportation
Every year, driving a car produces around 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, in addition to contribution to smog and air pollution. Fortunately, there’s never been a better time to switch to a greener way to get around. Walking, cycling, and public transportation are all ways to reduce your transportation footprint, but for a more convenient method there’s electric cars and bikes.
7. Travel wisely
Air travel has undoubtedly made our lives easier and more fulfilling, but it accounts for about 4% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions—and is expected to triple by 2050. You don’t necessarily need to spend every summer at home, but you should reconsider your travels and choose destinations closer to home or opt for trains or cars over planes.
If you do fly, a more direct flight (i.e. less layovers) isn’t just better for you, but it’s a greener choice, too. Taking off and landing is associated with the most fuel consumption, so avoiding this can cut down on the footprint of your flight. Similarly, because of the smaller, lighter seats, economy class is a more eco-friendly choice, too.
8. Adopt a low-waste lifestyle
Going zero waste overnight may be impossible, but steadily taking steps to live a more low-waste lifestyle is a good choice for you, and our planet. Plastic packaging isn’t just polluting our oceans, harming wildlife, and ending up in our bodies as microplastics—it also has a significant greenhouse gas footprint.
Of the 360 million metric tons of plastic produced in 2021, more than 1.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions were generated. So, when shopping be sure to bring your reusable tote bags and consider ditching ziploc bags for reusable silicone bags. You can also cut plastic out of your daily routines by using shampoo and conditioner bars and toothpaste tabs.
9. Know how to properly recycle
When packaging is unavoidable, take the time to learn how to recycle like a pro. When done properly, recycling has the potential to reduce global emissions by 5.5 to 6.02 gigatons CO2 over a 30-year period. That’s equivalent to taking more than 1 billion cars off the road for a year!
10. Purchase carbon offsets
For all of the carbon emissions you’re unable to avoid, you can compensate by purchasing carbon offsets. These support climate protection projects, like reforestation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy projects.
Reducing the Carbon Footprint of Our World: We Can All Play a Role
There’s an opportunity for every single one of us to curb our emissions footprints to support a healthier, more habitable planet. At Green Eco Dream, we reduce our footprint by avoiding plastic packaging, supporting the environmental organization 1% for the Planet, and offsetting our footprint with Carbonfund.org.
We encourage you to do the same and make carbon footprint reductions wherever you can.
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