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Your carbon footprint refers to the amount of greenhouse gases you produce through your behavior. While the vast majority of carbon emissions are produced by corporations, you can still help to make the world a better place.  Reducing your carbon footprint may sound daunting, but it’s actually fairly easy. Many of the most important changes you can make boil down to really minor lifestyle changes and adopting cleaner technologies. By reducing your carbon footprint, you can rest easy knowing that you’re doing your part to keep our world as healthy and happy as possible.
1. Drive less often
Take public transit, walk or bike whenever possible. Even if it takes a few extra minutes to get where you need to go, you’re doing the planet a huge favor by keeping that car in the garage. Walking to a bus stop or riding a bike is also good for you, so you’re killing two birds with one stone by leaving your vehicle at home. The average vehicle emits 404 grams of carbon dioxide per mile, so this is one of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint!
If 404 grams of carbon dioxide per mile doesn’t sound like a lot, remember that (on average) this adds up to roughly 2.4 tons a year!
If you do have to drive, how you drive matters a great deal. Don’t accelerate or slam on the brakes unnecessarily. Drive smooth, slow, and calm. It’s safer, and you’ll consume less fuel.
If you’re in the market for a new vehicle and you can afford it, buy an energy-efficient electric vehicle.
Purchase a carbon offset for your vehicle. Carbonfund offers offsets based on the fuel efficiency of your car.
2. Cut back on how often you fly
Air travel is actually a huge source of greenhouse gas pollution. All of that jet fuel and energy really takes a toll on the environment. Try taking local vacations instead of flying regularly. Whenever possible, opt for rail travel. The occasional flight may not seem like a huge deal, but air travel is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
If you run a business, cut back on unnecessary travel meetings by setting up video conferences or conference calls. This is much cheaper, so you’ll save some money, too!
Purchase a carbon offset for your air milage. Carbonfund offers offsets based on the number of miles you fly.
3. Use less water
Take shorter showers and skip your weekly car washes. If possible, install a low-flow showerhead to avoid wasting excess water while you wash. Aim to keep your showers roughly 5-10 minutes. Turn the tap at your sink off when you’re brushing your teeth or after you’ve gotten your hands wet to wash them. Don’t use your toilet as a waste bin to avoid flushing it unnecessarily.
If you have a choice between hot water and cold water, go for cold water. This is especially key when it comes to washing clothes, since you normally don’t need hot water to get moderately-dirty clothes clean.
If you’re into gardening, opt for a garden full of native plants that won’t require additional water.
This is one of the easiest ways to conserve natural resources. Almost anything made of paper, metal, or plastic can be recycled. Keep in mind, food residue and contaminants often make it impossible to recycle some goods. A pizza box, for example, can’t be processed if it’s covered in grease or dried cheese; however, check your local rules, as some recycling programs do accept pizza boxes for recycling. Wash or rinse plastic recyclables before putting them in the bin and discard contaminated paper products in the garbage or compost/organics bin (whichever your program instructs you to do).
If you want an eco-friendly way to get rid of food waste, start a compost pile in your yard.
5. Swap out your lightbulbs
Replace any incandescent lights with LED bulbs. LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, are much better for the environment than incandescent bulbs. LEDs require less energy to light up a room and they last much longer, so take a walk around your home and make a list of the bulbs you need to replace. Then, buy LED replacements for each light you need to upgrade!
If you don’t want to go for LED lightbulbs, at least get CFLs. CFLs are also much better for the environment than the traditional incandescent bulb. However, they must be disposed of at a specified recycling facility because they contain mercury. In many countries, IKEA also offers recycling for non-fluorescent lighting and batteries.
6. Be efficient with your heat and AC usage
Running AC or heat requires a lot of energy, usually sourced from fossil fuels, so cut back where you can. Open your windows when it’s hot and use air conditioning conservatively. Keep blinds open in the winter so sunlight gets in through the windows, and wear long sleeves inside to keep warm. At night or when you’re leaving home, shut the thermostat off entirely.
If your home gets a little drafty when it’s cold out, re-seal your windows and install weather stripping on any exterior doors. This will keep cold air from getting in while trapping hot air inside your home. Alternately, replace your windows and reap the savings in your bills!
Upgrading your home thermostat to a smart thermostat can help the environment as well. With a smart thermostat, you can turn the heat or air off when you aren’t home.
7. Get solar panels installed
If you own your home, going solar is a great way to cut emissions. Harnessing solar energy produces no greenhouse gases, making them better for the environment than traditional fossil fuel-generated electricity. You may have to pay a large cost up front, but it’s going to save you a lot of money in the future since you won’t need to pay expensive utility bills.
Many municipalities and countries offer tax discounts and credits for converting to solar energy!
High-end storage systems like the Tesla Powerwall can store the generated energy for periods of low sunlight (e.g. overnight).
8. Replace your old appliances
Old appliances are rarely efficient, so upgrade as they break down. In the United States, look for appliances with the Energy Star Label. Any appliance with this certification will be consume much less energy than their uncertified competitors. This is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint since you don’t actually need to do anything yourself. Once the old appliance is gone, you’ve done your part!
Energy efficient appliances may cost a little more up front, but you’ll save money in the long run from the discount on your utility bills.
When you buy a new appliance, you can typically get the delivery crew to take your old one with them if you pay for that service (sometimes it’s free, though the fees are often low). Otherwise, you can call a waste and recycling company to come grab your old appliance. Never place appliances in the garbage. They must be disposed of at designated appliance/electronic waste recycling facilities.
9. Eat less meat
Meat production is extremely harmful for the planet, so cut back. Methane is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to greenhouse gases, and cows are the biggest producer. Minimizing the amount of meat you consume will help contribute to a lower demand for meat-based products. Opt for veggie burgers over beef patties, and cut back on how often you eat steak. The less meat you consume, the smaller your carbon footprint will be.
If you’re really looking to make the biggest impact possible, a vegan diet is going to be the best for the environment.
Soy and almond milk are great alternatives to traditional dairy!
If you do get the urge for meat, opt for chicken or fish instead of eating beef or lamb. It requires a lot less energy to produce fish or chicken. It’s also better for you!
10. Buy secondhand goods
It takes a lot of energy to produce brand new products. If you’re looking to upgrade your wardrobe, swing by a thrift or resale shop. If you want new furniture, head to a local consignment shop. Repurposing perfectly usable products instead of buying brand-new goods is a simple way to cut back on your carbon footprint.
Look online for local “buy nothing” social media pages, or scour Craigslist to find used goods. Everything from auto parts to cutlery can be repurposed and reused.
When it’s time to do some spring cleaning, donate or give away old stuff you don’t need instead of tossing it in the trash.
11. Support sustainable businesses
Giving your money to local, green companies encourages others to do the same. If you buy something online, that product may need to be flown or driven hundreds of miles to reach your doorsteps. You can save those greenhouse gases from being emitted by purchasing products in your local area. Additionally, if there’s a store in your area spreading environmental awareness or using sustainable products, supporting them will help them continue to do good work!
By voting with your wallet, you’ll encourage other businesses in the area to put some effort into saving the environment.
Remember, it may cost a little more to purchase goods from sustainable businesses.
12. Opt for reusable bags
Using reusable canvas bags will minimize the need for plastic bags. Plastic bags are not a particularly sustainable product, and they’re extremely unnecessary. Keep a few reusable bags in your trunk when you drive so that you’ll always have them. If you don’t drive, bring a reusable bag with you whenever you go out to do some shopping. It seems like a little thing, but the impact will add up over time!
Keeping a canvas bag near the front door in a highly-visible location will make it much easier to remember to grab it on your way out.
13. Purchase a carbon offset
Carbon offsets are an excellent way to neutralize your carbon emissions. Even after following all of these tips, you’re unlikely to ever be able to reduce your entire carbon footprint. That is where carbon offsets coime in, you can purchase a carbon offset for your lifetyle, vehicle, home, air travel, and more.
Carbonfund makes it easy to calcualte your carbon footprint and then purchase a carbon offset to mitigate your impact on the planet.
While other forms of travel also have their downsides, air travel isn’t particularly good for the environment.
If you have a choice when it comes to your utility supplier, opt for a company who is actively investing in renewable sources.
If you’re curious about your personal carbon footprint, use a carbon footprint calculator to see how you stack up to others. Go to https://carbonfund.org/individual_carbon_footprint_calculator/ and answer a few survey questions about your habits and lifestyle to get more insight into the amount of greenhouse gases you produce a year.
You almost never need water hotter than 120 °F (49 °C). If you can adjust your water heater, turn it down to 120 °F (49 °C) to save some energy.
↑ April Jordan. Sustainability Specialist. Expert Interview. 22 September 2020.
↑ April Jordan. Sustainability Specialist. Expert Interview. 22 September 2020.
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