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5 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

What is a carbon footprint, and why is it important?

You’ve probably heard of the term “carbon footprint”. But what does it really mean, and why is it important for us to understand?

A carbon footprint is a calculated value that makes it possible to compare the total amount of greenhouse gasses that an activity, product, company or country adds to the atmosphere. Carbon footprints are usually reported in tons of emissions per unit of comparison. The average carbon footprint for a person in the United States is 16 tons, one of the highest rates in the world.

Carbon emissions cause the Earth’s atmosphere to increase in temperature, rising sea levels that destroy coastal habitats, the melting of sea ice, ocean acidification, and increased intensity of extreme weather events. Due to carbon emissions' negative impact on the environment and contribution to climate change, reducing our carbon footprint is more important than ever before. 

Simple ways we can reduce our carbon footprint

1. Travel Sustainably 

According to the EPA, the transportation sector generates the largest percentage of greenhouse gas emissions, primarily from burning fossil fuel for our vehicles, ships, trains, and airplanes. The good news is, there are ways to combat the high emissions caused by the way we transport.

Alternatives to driving

Walking, biking, carpooling, and taking a train are all ways you can travel more sustainably and reduce carbon emissions.

If you must drive, avoid aggressive driving (such as breaking and accelerating excessively) as it has been shown to result in 40% more fuel consumption. Using cruise control on the highway can also help reduce emissions released from constantly changing your speed. 

When possible, combine your errands and plan your outings to make fewer stops. You may be thinking, a few extra stops won’t make that big of a difference, right? Actually, it will! The less we drive gas-operated vehicles, the less greenhouse gasses we emit. Every mile counts!

Fly less

When air travel is required, choose a direct flight instead of one with a layover if you have the option, and pack light to reduce the amount of fuel needed to haul your luggage.

Some airlines also offer options to purchase carbon offsets to help reduce the impact of your travel. Carbon offsetting is a way for airline passengers to compensate for their emissions by supporting projects or initiatives that reduce, remove, or capture emissions from the atmosphere. Common examples include initiatives related to reforestation, renewable energy projects, and carbon capture technologies.

Learn more about sustainable travel

2. Conserve Energy at Home

If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, decreasing energy usage in your own home is a practical step you can take, with several simple ways to do so. 

Turn it off 

Turn off lights when you’re not in the room or are leaving the house, and unplug/power down electronics when you’re not using them. A computer powered off uses over 65% less energy than a computer left on or idle on a screen saver.

You can also shut off the air conditioning and open your windows on nice weather days to conserve energy. Not only do fresh air and natural sunlight help reduce emissions, but you’d be amazed at their impact on your mood and energy. 

Choose energy-efficient appliances

When purchasing appliances for your home, consider ENERGY STAR® products. The ENERGY STAR® program was launched in 1992 by The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In addition to selling a variety of energy-efficient products, their partnerships and initiatives help conserve energy in new and existing homes, commercial buildings, and industrial plants.

Another easy way you can conserve energy in your home is by swapping incandescent light bulbs for LED ones, using 75% less energy and lasting 25 times longer. 

Insulate and seal your home

For further energy efficiency, ensure your windows and doors are sealed well so cool air or heat is not coming into the home, causing your air conditioning unit to work even harder. You can do this by adding weatherstripping or draft snakes around the edges of your doors or windows where air leaks. Window coverings such as blackout curtains and cellular shades can also be effective in blocking out heat from the sun. 

3. Consume Responsibly 

Buy less

In a world of heavy influencing and consumerism, we are always after the newest and next best items. Whether it’s tech, fashion, or homegoods, overconsumption has serious effects on our planet. 

Avoid purchasing extra items you don’t need, or trendy things that you won’t use after a few months. When you do buy new things, look for sustainable or eco-conscious brands and items with recycled or limited packaging. And don’t forget to bring your reusable shopping bags!

The convenience and popularity of online shopping has also become detrimental to our environment. Emissions from shipping goods across the globe is responsible for a huge portion of carbon emissions, accounting for 37% of total greenhouse gasses in 2020. Purchasing from local businesses when possible can help reduce the number of delivery trucks on the roads, reducing your carbon footprint.

Thrift shop and upcycle 

Buying second hand is a great way to reduce the demand for manufacturing new clothing or products and lower your carbon footprint (plus save yourself some serious cash). You can reuse and upcycle clothing, furniture, containers, books, pots and pans; the options are endless, especially for a creative mind. 

By purchasing used items, you not only help lower new product demand, but also are finding purpose for items that may have otherwise ended up in a landfill. Upcycling and thrifting is a practical way to consume more responsibly, and can be a fun hobby, too!

Avoid fast fashion

Low-priced clothing that moves quickly from design to retail stores in order to meet trends is fast fashion. The problem that comes with fast fashion is the transportation of these goods from other countries and the carbon footprint they leave (not to mention, the low quality items seem practically disposable to consumers, often ending up in a landfill). Fast fashion contributes to 1.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year.

4. Eco-Conscious Eating Habits

Eat less meat

Eating mostly fruits, vegetables, and grains can help lessen man-made greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture production. While not everyone wants to fully commit to vegetarianism or veganism, reducing your meat consumption in any capacity is still an effective way to reduce your carbon footprint. 

Buy local

Purchasing groceries from a local grocery store or farmers’ market can limit the demand of transporting goods from other areas. Food that is transported by truck, ship, plane, or rail not only uses a ton of fuel to operate, but also for cooling systems to keep the food fresh. 

Reduce food waste

You can reduce food waste by planning meals, freezing excess, and eating leftovers. To limit plastic waste, use reusable containers when storing your leftovers. 

Another way to shrink your carbon footprint is by composting your food waste. Composting converts your waste into a useful soil amendment by adding organic matter and upping the nutrient content and biodiversity of microbes in the soil. 

5. Plant Trees

Did you know that planting trees helps slow climate change? During photosynthesis, trees soak up carbon dioxide and water, and with the help of the sun, produce food (a chemical compound) for the tree to grow. In turn, the “tree food” produces oxygen and releases it into the atmosphere.

Support reforestation

You can also help reduce climate change by supporting reforestation efforts and projects. Reforestation is the large-scale planting of trees (naturally or intentionally), in an area that has been deforested.

Remember, small changes make a big difference

Whether you’re new or seasoned in making sustainable habit swaps, these tips are simple enough that practically anyone can adopt them and reduce their carbon footprint. While the changes you make may seem small, imagine if we all made these small changes? That’s a big impact!

We hope with the help of these easy, yet effective tips, you can feel good about reducing your carbon footprint and encourage those around you to do it too. 



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