13 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Green carbon footprint

There is a large body of data and informed opinions from scientists of many different disciplines that all say the same thing: Global Climate Change is real, and humans are the cause.  More specifically anthropogenic (meaning “originating from humans”) climate change is largely thought to have been caused by our ever increasing use of fossil fuels to produce and fuel just about everything that you come into daily contact with. Though there are many other kinds of greenhouse gasses that cause climate change, CO2 is one that is frequently referenced. By reducing your carbon footprint, you are reducing the amount of carbon your lifestyle is releasing into the atmosphere, thus slowing down global climate change. If this is something you haven’t given much thought, take a look at these ways to help your fellow earthlings out:

1. Seal Up Your Home

Many homes come with a level of insulation that is acceptable according to industry standards. However these standards leave lots of room for improvement. Seal up your home by caulking around windows, adding insulation to your attic, and installing triple pane windows. There are many ways for even the beginner to make your home more insulated, so if you have no construction or remodeling experience, don’t worry.

2. Go Vegan

Going vegan is a great way to reduce your impact on the environment. How? The way that developed countries currently produce animal products is not so friendly to the environment and not so friendly to the animals themselves. Meat processing, refrigeration, and growing food for livestock all uses fossil fuels. Going vegan according to this source would cut the amount of carbon emissions your diet cause by sevenfold, or the equivalent of driving  629km.

3. Reduce the Amount You Drive

Driving is a way most everyone contributes to the amount of carbon in our atmosphere. If where you live makes this possible, consider walking or biking to work. If not, try carpooling. If you’re moving sometime soon, consider moving to a biker friendly city. Biking to work not only helps the earth and its citizens, but it makes you healthier.

4. Get a Fuel Efficient Vehicle

Most people would have quite a hard time completely quitting driving. Getting a hybrid or another fuel efficient vehicle is a great day to pare down your carbon emissions. It saves you money too!

5. Phantom Load

Phantom load is a term used that refers to electricity that is used by electronic devices even though they are switched off. Many people intuitively think that if their BluRay player is switched off or on standby, it does not use any electricity. However, this is not true. Electronics will always draw a small amount of electricity if they’re plugged in. There are power strips being sold that will detect when a device is plugged in but turned off and automatically shut off power to it, or you can do it for free by unplugging your electronics when they’re not in use.

6. Temperature Control

There are many devices that allow us some control over  their temperature, all of which can be tweaked a bit to reduce fossil fuel consumption and save you money. These devices include your water heater, refrigerator, thermostat, and washer. If the temperature of your water heater is above 50 degrees Celsius or about 120 degrees Fahrenheit, turn it down.  Wash your clothes on a cold cycle if at all possible.

Programmable thermostats are another great way to  reduce energy consumption (and thereby lower carbon footprint). They make it so that you thermostat will automatically turn down your furnace or A/C when you don’t need it, such as when you’re sleeping, at work, or not at home.

7. Change Your Light Bulbs

Incandescent light bulbs are certainly an amazing invention that have allowed humans to no longer rely on candles or gas lights to see past sunset. However, it has also been said of incandescent bulbs that they are efficient heaters that have a byproduct of light. 95% or more of the energy that goes into an incandescent light bulb is turned into heat, making them rather inefficient. Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) are about 3 times more efficient. It is estimated that if all the inefficient lighting in the world were replaced with CFLs, there would be a savings of 409 terawatt hours, or about 2.5% of the worlds electricity consumption.

8. Buy Solar Panels

While this may be above many people’s reach due to the cost of solar panels, they can be a way to harness the greatest source of renewable energy we have: the sun. If you can afford to buy some and install them on your roof, you may very well be able to produce all your electricity and even make money by selling electric to back your power company. You will at the very least be saving money each month on your electric bill, all the while making the earth’s atmosphere a bit cleaner.

9. Use Sustainably Harvested Lumber

If you’re thinking about making an addition to your home, or building most anything out of wood, purchase wood that has been certified as being sustainably harvested. While this will cost more, this wood is harvested in a way that does not tax the forest from which it comes. Loggers using this method use a formula to calculate the number of cubic feet that will grow in a year on a  tract of land and then harvest less than that. They also do not use ecologically damaging timber harvesting methods such as large scale clear cutting and these loggers work to ensure that the biodiversity of an area remains after their work is done. Look for a stamp or a label on the lumber, such as one from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC)

10. Sequestration

While “sequestration” doesn’t actually reduce the amount of carbon your lifestyle puts into the atmosphere, it does reduce your footprint because your footprint is formula that looks something like this: Footprint = Carbon released – carbon sequestered. How do you do this? Try planting trees, either on your own land or with a group that might be reclaiming old mining sites or planting them on illegal logging sites. If you live near endangered wetlands, volunteer to help restore them. Wetlands contain 14.5% of the worlds carbon, while only taking up 6% of the world’s total land mass making them an important carbon sink.

11. Don’t Fly

Flying will seriously increase the size of your carbon footprint. There aren’t too many ways to get around it either, except sequestration, but it takes a lot of trees to make up for one flight. If you really need to travel a very long distance, get creative. Try taking a train if you don’t have to cross any large bodies of water. If you do have to cross a large body of water, try going on board a cargo ship. While this may end up costing you more than a flight would have, you can rest easy knowing that your weight accounted for a very small amount of the ships carbon emissions. Above all, embrace slower travel. The journey is one of the best parts of traveling anyhow.

12. Buy Local

Buying goods locally will boost your local economy because when you buy from a local business, your dollars are kept in your area longer than if you bought the same goods from a large corporation. Buying locally also lowers you carbon footprint because your goods do not need to travel very far to get to you. Buying a five pound package and having it air shipped to your door releases about five pounds of carbon into the atmosphere. It’s hard to say exactly how much buying locally releases, but compared to 5  pounds, it’s negligible. This is especially true for perishable foods, as they often must be shipped in refrigerated trucks and ships, further increasing their associated carbon emissions.

13. The Three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

While you’ve probably heard this phrase multiple times, it’s a great way to live your life if you’d like to lessen your impact on the earth and its inhabitants. These three words sum up everything there is about living a sustainable lifestyle, albeit in a rather broad manner. While this is a dead horse that’s been knocked about quite a bit, remember that manufacturing products produces 4-8 pounds of CO2 for every pound of goods produced (on average).

In the oftentimes divisive world that we live in, cleaning up the earth and our lifestyles is an activity that can unite us all. This is something that transcends geography, race, socioeconomic status, gender, you name it, anyone can do this. Not only can everyone do something about climate change, but unless you’re a sociopath, it’s something you should do. Do it so that your children will have a stable world to live their lives through. Do it because you should always clean up after yourself. Do it because it’s the right thing to do. You don’t have to live like a hermit in order to reduce your impact on climate change. You just have to be mindful of the consequences of your actions.