It’s extremely important to be mindful of your carbon footprint so you don’t contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. It might not feel like you can do much, but there are tons of ways you can adjust your home life and reduce your impact on the environment. We’ll go over some easy changes for your daily routine and then cover a few expensive home improvement options to help make your home more eco-friendly!
Treating, pumping, and heating water creates tons of emissions. Only run water when you need to so you don’t let any go to waste. Turn off the faucet when you’re brushing your teeth or shaving, take shorter showers, and only run a dishwasher when it’s full. If you have any leaky fixtures, fix them as soon as you can to help conserve even more.
Switch to low-flow showerheads or faucets to use even less water.
When you’re washing your vehicle, use a bucket and sponge rather than keeping a hose running.
If you have to water plants in your yard, do it in the morning or evening when it’s cooler. Otherwise, the water might evaporate and go to waste during warmer times of the day.
Wash clothes with cold water.
Most of your washing machine’s energy goes to heating water. Check the temperature controls on your washing machine and change it to the coldest setting possible. If you’re only washing a few clothes, choose the smallest load option on your machine so you don’t use as much water. In addition, cold water helps prevent colors and dyes from bleeding so your clothes stay vibrant.
Washing 1 load of laundry in cold water every week rather than using hot water reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the air by about 50 pounds (23 kg).
If you have the space, hang your clothes to let them air-dry instead of using your dryer since it also wastes a lot of energy.
Wear second-hand clothes.
Manufacturing new clothing contributes a lot to pollution. There are so many perfectly good clothes that go to waste just because they’re “out of style.” Rather than going to the store and buying completely new outfits, check out consignment shops to see if they have any clothes you like. Try to make your clothes last for a few years instead of trashing them after a few months to reduce your carbon footprint by 5–10%.
A lot of clothes also have artificial materials that can contaminate water with microplastics when they’re thrown out.
Avoid products with excessive packaging.
Plastic packaging goes right in the trash and harms the environment. When you’re out buying new things, avoid single-use products or containers since they create a lot more waste in the environment. Instead, choose options that have minimal plastic packaging or are reusable, such as glass jars or Tupperware containers. Buy items in bulk rather than the smaller individual sizes. You should also start packing food and drinks in reusable containers so you don’t waste plastic bags or water bottles.
Just cutting out wasteful products can reduce your trash by about 10%.
If you do have to get single-use products, check if they’re recyclable so they get repurposed rather than going to a landfill.
For example, take reusable bags with you to the store so you don’t have to get plastic bags at the checkout.
Similarly, avoid prepackaged fruits and vegetables if you can buy them individually from the produce section.
Waste normally goes to landfills, but many products can be repurposed. If you throw items like plastic in with your regular garbage, it could go directly to landfills or incinerators, which pollute the environment and increase harmful emissions. Rather than tossing all of your waste in the trash, sort out the paper, batteries, plastic containers, and glass that have the triangular recycling symbol. If you don’t have a recycling collection service in your area, you can take your things to the closest recycling center.
For example, recycling 10 plastic water bottles saves enough energy to power a laptop for more than 1 day!
As another example, 1 ton of recycled aluminum cans conserves the equivalent of 21 barrels of oil.
Recyclables can be reused and manufactured into new products that are better for the environment. If you can, buy products that are made from recycled materials.
Some local recycling programs limit the types of plastic they accept. Check the item you’re throwing away for a triangle with a number inside and ask your local recycling center what they accept.
Eat locally-sourced food.
Local products don’t have to travel as much and cause fewer emissions. Look for local grocers and farmers’ markets, and check what types of food are in season. Otherwise, see if there’s a local food section at your grocery store. Try to buy products that were made or grown close to where you live since they don’t have to be flown in and won’t contribute as much to your carbon footprint. Only buy as much as you’re going to eat so it doesn’t go bad and go to waste.
Foods that are shipped by boat have a lower impact on the environment than food that’s flown in.
Cut back on red meat.
Meat production emits a lot of greenhouse gasses in the air. Animals like cows, sheep, and pigs can add a lot of methane to the air, which is a harmful greenhouse gas. If you normally have red meat with your meals, try to substitute it for a lighter meat like chicken or a plant-based alternative, such as tofu. Even just replacing 1 serving of beef every week can reduce the amount of greenhouse gases.
Save your food scraps to mix in with garden soil. Collect your vegetable and fruit waste, eggshells, coffee grounds, and tea bags and add them to a compost bin. Keep adding more of your waste into the bin and keep it moist with water. Keep adding and mixing your compost until it has a dark, rich color on the bottom, which usually takes a few months. After that, you can mix it in with soil to add nutrients to the ground and reduce your reliance on chemical fertilizers.
You can also compost leaves, grass clippings, wood chips, cardboard, and paper.
Avoid composting meat, dairy products, and pet waste since it can attract pests or create harmful bacteria.
Unplug electronics you’re not using.
Electronics draw power even when they aren’t turned on. A lot of electricity is produced with fossil fuels, so leaving your things plugged in uses up more power. Whenever you’re done using your devices, power them down and unplug them from the outlets. You can also try plugging into a smart power strip instead since it immediately cuts off power to the outlets after you turn off a device.
Remember to turn off lights and devices when you leave the room.
As an added bonus, unplugging things like your phone chargers, printers, TVs, and computers could save you about 20% off your energy bills.
Switch to LED bulbs.
Replace incandescent bulbs with these energy-efficient alternatives. Even if you can’t replace all of the bulbs in your house, focus on the 5 light fixtures that you use the most. Look for LED lights that have ENERGY STAR ratings since they’ll use about 75% less energy than your old bulbs. That way, you still keep your home nice and bright without wasting any additional energy.
LED bulbs also last 10–50 times longer than standard incandescent bulbs.
Install energy-efficient appliances.
Using old and outdated appliances wastes a lot of energy. A lot of newer products use 40–70% less energy than older models, so visit your local appliance store to see what they have available. Look for something that has an ENERGY STAR rating since it will have the most efficiency. Even if you can’t replace all of your appliances right away, shift to modern ones one at a time so you can start saving more money and using less energy.
Since appliances account for about 90% of your home’s energy use, even replacing a few can have a huge impact on your carbon footprint.
Set your thermostat closer to the outside temperature.
Heating and cooling your home uses about half your home’s energy. During the summer, turn your thermostat up 2°F warmer than you normally would. To stay cool, open windows to let in a breeze and close blinds to prevent the sun from coming in. In the winter, adjust it 2°F cooler. Dress in layers and let in natural sunlight to stay warmer without turning your heat up.
When you leave your home or go to sleep, adjust your thermostat by about 7–10°F to save even more on your energy bills.
Insulate your home.
Insulation reduces how much you have to heat and cool your home. Seal off any drafty windows or doorways since all of the hot or cool air in your home could easily leak out. If you don’t currently have insulation in your walls, hire an insulation service to inspect your home and add some. That way, your home will stay more temperature-controlled so you don’t rely on air conditioning or a heater.
It can be really difficult to add insulation yourself if you have finished walls. A professional service can install new insulation with minimal damage.
You may be able to find insulation that you can roll onto your walls like wallpaper to make it an easier DIY project.
Opt-in to green power.
Renewable energy sources are less harmful than fossil fuels. Green power comes from solar and wind farms rather than burning fossil fuels for energy. Contact your electricity provider and see if they have options for switching to renewable energy sources. You can usually get certain quantities of green power for a fixed monthly price, or specify what percentage of your power you want to be renewable.
You can also install solar panels on your home to generate electricity. While it can be an expensive investment initially, you’ll save money on your energy bill later on.
Calculate your estimated carbon footprint so you can see how well you’re doing. You can find an online calculator here: https://carbonfund.org/take-action/individuals/individual_carbon_footprint_calculator/.
Talk to your friends and family about how they can be more energy efficient so they can make the changes in their home too.
↑ [v161584_b01]. 22 September 2020.
↑ [v161584_b01]. 22 September 2020.