Whether we are aware of it or not, we all invariably contribute to the world’s carbon footprint. Defined by Oxford Dictionaries as “the amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds emitted due to the consumption of fossil fuels by a particular person, group, etc.,” carbon footprint comes from day-to-day activities that require energy. Energy is produced by the burning of fossil fuels such as petroleum, coal, and natural gas, which then result in greenhouse gas emissions that keep the heat trapped within the earth’s atmosphere.
Be an everyday hero by following 20 of our suggestions below to lessen your carbon footprint!
1. Walk or ride a bicycle.
Did you know that 15% of manmade carbon dioxide comes from cars, trucks, planes, and other transportation vehicles? If you are going somewhere nearby, opt to take a stroll or ride your bicycle to get to your destination. Not only are you helping prevent global warming, but you’re also getting in some much-needed exercise for the day!
2. Take care of your car.
A well-maintained vehicle benefits you and the planet. By regularly having your engine tuned, checking your oxygen sensors, and inflating your tires, your car emits fewer toxic fumes and improves its fuel use by up to 40%.
3. Drive smart.
To help you avoid traffic jams, use a GPS navigation app such as Waze or Google Maps that shows you the quickest route you can take. Also, refrain from unnecessarily stepping on the acceleration pedal and remove excess cargo (whether it’s on the roof or in your trunk) to increase fuel economy.
4. Combine trips.
Schedule a day to do all of your errands with other family members, or take turns carpooling with officemates. Air pollution will be undoubtedly less with fewer cars out on the streets. Plus, you get to save money on gas and parking fees!
5. Lessen air travel.
On average, a commercial plane produces 53.3 pounds of carbon dioxide for every mile flown. Compare that to a tree that can only absorb as much as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. That’s a doozy! If you travel for work, why not schedule video chat conferences instead of face-to-face meetings? But if you really need to fly, select non-stop flights (so you have less takeoffs/landings that use up more fuel energy) and economy seats (more seats mean more passengers sharing the plane’s carbon emissions).
6. Fix air leaks.
Create a more energy-efficient house by sealing air leaks around doors, windows, vents, and electrical outlets and improving your overall insulation. Doing so can help you save up to 25% of heating costs and maintain a comfortable indoor temperature.
7. Regulate your thermostat.
Lower your electricity bill while fighting global warming by keeping your thermostat lower during winter time and higher during the summer season. To stay warm, wear extra layers indoors and invest in rugs and carpets that create a soft barrier against the cold. To stay cool, wear breathable clothes and install ceiling fans that use less electricity (55 to 100 watts) compared to air conditioners (500 to 1,500 watts).
8. Choose energy-efficient appliances.
From refrigerators to washing machines to water heaters, climate-conscious companies like ENERGY Star produce slightly expensive yet highly effective appliances that use less energy to complete a required task. Having them at home or at work will result in an overall lowered electricity bill.
9. Change your light bulbs.
Replace incandescent and halogen light bulbs with low-energy LED or CFL ones that shine brighter, last 15 times longer, and use only one-fifth of the energy of a conventional bulb.
10. Unplug and turn off.
The easiest way to reduce your carbon footprint is by switching off the lights (open the windows and let natural sunlight in!) and turning off and unplugging appliances when they’re not not in use.
11. Wash in cold water and air dry your clothes.
The Guardian surprisingly reveals that “washing and drying a load every two days creates around 440 kg of CO2e each year, which is equivalent to flying from London to Glasgow and back with 15-mile taxi rides to and from the airports.” That said, be responsible about washing your clothes. Only wash when you have enough for a full load, choose a cold wash cycle (a 10-degree temperature increase impacts the environment), use concentrated detergent, and skip the fabric softener. When you’re done, hang your clothes to dry on a line or rack instead of using a dryer, which is said to be the third most energy-hungry home appliance.
12. Be a kitchen energy saver.
Plan all the meals you want to prepare before you start cooking. Always choose to cook your food on a stove top rather than an oven. Not only does an oven use the most energy, it also raises the temperature of the entire room. And while cooking, cover your pan with a lid to trap the heat. This lessens the amount of energy and time needed to cook your food.
13. Shop conscientiously.
Buy organic and sustainable food that has been harvested from your local farms and fisheries instead of picking imported produce. This provides much-needed support to your agricultural community and eliminates unnecessary transportation of food. Also, choose products with less packaging and bring big, reusable carrier bags whenever you shop!
When shopping for clothes, skip the trends and pick classic styles and durable pieces that you can use for longer periods of time.
14. Only buy what you need.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports that 8% of greenhouse gases are caused by food waste, with 20 to 50% of the food we buy just ending up in landfills. Do the planet a favor by purchasing only what you need and storing leftovers in the freezer so they don’t spoil immediately.
15. Go the meatless and dairy-free route.
Meat and dairy products are known to create higher carbon footprints because of the more complicated process it takes to make them—from farming and processing the animals to packaging and shipping them. Consuming produce that are low on the food chain such as vegetables, fruits, beans, and nuts reduces your carbon footprint.
16. Go paperless.
Choose to receive your utility bills, tickets, and other paper documents through email. Aside from preventing a stack of papers to grow on your desk, it eliminates the need to print the document and have someone deliver it to you. Plus, it makes it easier to search for your files just by typing in the right keywords.
17. Recycle your things.
Prevent landfills from growing by reusing what you have at home and recycling paper, plastic, glass, steel, and aluminium products. In the US alone, it is said that 29% of greenhouse emissions come from the extraction of resources, manufacturing, transport, and disposal of goods.
18. Try alternative energy sources.
Solar, wind, and geothermal energy are just some of the cleaner alternatives to fossil fuels. Do your research and see if there are companies that can provide these in your area. Or if you have the means and time, why not try making your own solar panels?
19. Reduce water use.
There are so many ways in which you can save water. From skipping long hot baths to collecting rainwater for your plants to limiting the number of times you wash the car, you save gallons of this precious resource that can be used for other, more important purposes.
20. Take your reusables with you.
Say no to plastic! Stash your recyclable drinking bottle and reusable utensils (straw, fork, spoon, and knife) in a tote bag and bring them wherever you go.
Your carbon footprint greatly impacts the environment. Calculate your carbon footprint by logging how much energy your home uses, the car rides and plane flights you take, as well as what you purchase. We all need to do our part in protecting and caring for our planet because it’s the only one we’ve got!
Cover photo by Markus Spiske/Unsplash