Reducing your carbon footprint is a lot more approachable than you might think. Just by making small daily changes, you can not only reduce the carbon emissions from your habits but also help fight the climate crisis we currently face. Here are fifteen ways to reduce your personal carbon footprint and fight climate change right at home!
Why Reducing Your Carbon Footprint Matters
Reducing your carbon footprint helps mitigate the adverse effects of climate change. Carbon emissions, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas, are a significant contributor to the greenhouse gas effect. These gasses, including carbon dioxide (CO2), trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, leading to global warming and climate change. The excessive release of these gasses disrupts natural systems, causing extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and harm to ecosystems.
Fossil fuels are deeply integrated into everyday life, often in ways that aren’t immediately obvious. Here’s how they are commonly used, connecting them to products and services in your home:
- Electricity Generation: Many homes receive electricity from power plants that burn fossil fuels. This energy powers your lights, appliances, and electronic devices.
- Heating and Cooling: Natural gas is widely used for heating homes and water. Oil and gas are also used in furnaces and boilers for central heating, and in air conditioning units for cooling.
- Transportation: The gasoline or diesel in cars and public transport is derived from oil. Even if you don’t own a car, the public transportation you use and the delivery vehicles that bring goods to your area rely on fossil fuels.
- Plastics and Synthetic Materials: Many everyday items, from plastic containers to synthetic fabrics in clothing and furniture, are made from petrochemicals derived from oil and natural gas.
- Cooking: Gas stoves use natural gas, a fossil fuel, for cooking. Even electric stoves often rely on electricity generated from fossil fuels.
- Manufacturing and Products: Many products in your home, from electronics to furniture, involve fossil fuels in their manufacturing process, either as a raw material or as an energy source.
Understanding these connections highlights the pervasive role of fossil fuels in our daily lives and underscores the importance of transitioning to renewable energy sources and sustainable practices.
By reducing our carbon footprint, we can lessen our contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, slow the pace of climate change, and help preserve the planet for future generations. It’s not just an environmental responsibility; it’s a necessary step to ensure a sustainable and livable world.
How To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
It’s easy to feel like your impact doesn’t do anything, but it’s more than you think. Whether you start hunting for sustainable packaging to reduce waste or installing solar panels for clean energy, you’re making a step in the right direction. Here are 15 ways to reduce your carbon footprint:
Tip #1: Drive Less
Wanna hear something nuts? Transportation makes up more than 25% of all emissions. Sure, that counts planes, trains, and automobiles. But it also means that reducing your carbon footprint might start with… well, making some footprints!
- Walk or Bike: While this option isn’t possible for everyone, opting to ride your bike instead of driving a car can have a huge impact. While cars emit high levels of CO2, biking doesn’t emit anything. Riding a bike, skateboard, or other similar devices might be possible for kids who live near their school, for family bike rides to the park, or getting around town. Plus, biking is a great source of exercise and can keep you healthy, all while reducing your carbon impact!
- Carpool or Use Public Transportation: In 2017, transportation preceded power for the first time as the top source of CO2 emissions, coming in at a whopping 1.9 billion tons of CO2 annually. That means vehicles (planes, buses, cars, and boats) emitted more CO2 than all electricity used in the world for the first time ever. Sure, the number of people converting to electric or hybrid cars is increasing, but we can take that a step further by utilizing public transportation for the city folk out there, or enforcing neighborhood carpools. You can even catch a significantly cheaper fare with ride-share apps that allow you to share your ride with other users commuting to the same area.
Tip #2: Fly Sustainably (If You Must)
Let’s be real, you can’t always avoid flying. But, there are ways you can improve your impact with thoughtful travel plans.
- Choose Nonstop Flights: This one’s pretty simple. The more direct your route, the fewer emissions you cause. Switching flights can mean zigzagging back and forth, and going out of your way to get where you want.
- Fly Coach: Save your money and fly coach, because business-class fliers leave a much bigger carbon footprint. We could get into some math, but the long and short of it is that business, premium, and first-class tickets are as wasteful as they are expensive.
Tip #3: Adjust the Temperature
Energy waste at home doesn’t just raise your electric bill. It also increases your carbon footprint! If you like set-it-and-forget-it solutions, you’ll love these easy ways to reduce your carbon footprint at home.
- Set Your Water Heater to 120F: Hot showers are bad for your skin and the environment. Drop your water heater temp to 120F (48/49C) for a simple way to lower your carbon footprint.
- Lower the Thermostat in the Winter and Raise It in the Summer: The less your home needs to be heated or cooled, the lower your carbon footprint will be. That doesn’t mean you have to freeze! Air-source heat pumps are 3x more efficient than traditional heating systems.
Tip #4: Make Your Laundry Eco-Friendly
Laundry can have a large carbon footprint. Running your laundry and drying machines often can use a lot of energy, water, and soap. Here are a few tips to make your laundry habits a little more eco-friendly.
- Wash Less Often: Clothing doesn’t usually need to be washed very often, either – jeans, outer clothes, pajamas, and other clothing items can be worn several times before washing.
- Use Eco-Friendly Detergent: Eco-friendly detergent is also better for the environment, making your clothes clean without using toxic chemicals – extra points if it comes in reusable or sustainable packaging!
- Wash Clothes in Cold Water: Since most laundry detergents work in cold water, this switch won’t make a difference in the cleanliness of your clothes. But, it will lower your electricity bills.
- Air / Line Dry Clothes: If you want a change that packs a punch, try air-drying your clothes. Fabrics like cotton, linen, and wool love to be air-dried. Better yet, it won’t fade your old tees the way a dryer does!
Tip #5: Turn Electronics Off
If you’re looking for ways to reduce your carbon footprint, then don’t forget the passive ways you use electricity. Ever heard of ghost electricity? It’s power that devices are sucking on constantly when they’re plugged in, even when they aren’t on! Not cool.
- Turn Off Lights if You’re Not in the Room: We’re all guilty of it. But we can do better, for our electrical bills and our environment. Using less energy requires less fossil fuels, which slows the damage we’re doing to the planet.
- Unplug Appliances When Not in Use: Many electronics consume power even when they aren’t turned on. As long as they are plugged in, they’re constantly sucking up energy, running minuscule processes that don’t affect your usage at all. In fact, these idle devices account for 23% of power consumption in a household on average. The simplest solution is to unplug devices when you aren’t using them – computers, chargers, televisions, and other devices that are constantly connected to power can simply be unplugged when you aren’t using them, making this an easy way to not only reduce your carbon footprint, but lower the cost of your electric bill, too!
Tip #6: Use Energy-Efficient Bulbs And Appliances
Anything that uses electricity is taxing on the environment, but some things are better than others. With a little time and some thoughtful investments, you can reduce your average carbon footprint long-term!
- Change to LED or CFL Light Bulbs: We’ve all heard this one, but it’s another set-it-and-forget-it tip. Switch to energy-efficient bulbs and they’ll last you for years. Plus, you can usually get them for free or at a discount from your provider!
- Look for Energy Star(C) Products When Replacing / Buying New Appliances: If you do a home energy assessment, inefficient appliances will send up a huge red flag. When you’re ready to replace your fridge or stove, take time to find things that meet Energy Star standards.
Tip #7: Seal It Up
Isn’t there a saying about leaks and ships? Or a metaphor? Anyway, here we’re talking about leaks and cracks in your home. So, check your seals!
- Insulate Your Home: Did you know that you can lose a lot of your heating and cooling right through your walls? Have an insulation contractor look things over and update your insulation. You’d be surprised how much of a difference it makes!
- Seal Cracks in and Around Windows: Is replacing your windows an unnecessary luxury? Nope! Upgrading from single-pane to double-paned windows can dramatically reduce heating and cooling-related costs (up to half a grand a year).
Tip #8: Eat Sustainably
Next time you’re on a grocery run, be more conscious of what foods your household actually needs and plans to eat. Due to a lack of planning, many households often overbuy food and have to throw it away when it goes bad or expires. Unfortunately, most food waste ends up in the landfill, contributing to significant CO2 emissions and global warming.
- Cut Down On Food Waste: Being more conscious of the food we purchase can help reduce food waste and our carbon footprint. For example, not all expiration dates signal that food has expired. Some expiration dates are simply a ‘best by’ date or tell a store when to sell an item. Meal planning can also help you cut down on food waste. Meal planning involves purchasing exactly how many ingredients you need for pre-planned meals, cooking dozens of meals in advance, and having them ready so that there’s never any question about whether more food needs to be purchased.
- Compost Your Food: You can also learn to make a simple compost pile to easily break down fruit peels, veggie scraps, eggshells, and more!
- Eat Organic And Local Foods: Eating organic and local foods is a significant step towards reducing your carbon footprint. Organic farming typically uses fewer pesticides and fertilizers, leading to lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional farming methods. Additionally, local foods require less transportation, which significantly reduces emissions associated with food miles. By choosing organic and locally sourced foods, you not only support sustainable agricultural practices but also contribute to a reduction in the overall carbon emissions associated with food production and distribution.
- Eat Less Meat: When we think about greenhouse gasses, most people think of carbon dioxide. But methane is 80x more powerful than carbon dioxide. And a big source of it is cows. (Plus, each pound of beef takes around 1,847 gallons of water to raise. And there’s been hundreds of acres of deforestation to make space for cattle farming. Yikes!) Turns out that steak is more expensive than you thought, huh?
Tip #9: Use Less Water
Using water takes energy! Water has to be pumped, transported, and cleaned before getting sent to your place. Not to mention water shortages that are happening all over the world, from entire countries in the Middle East to multiple states in the United States. Ben Franklin said, “When the well is dry we know the worth of water.” That hits close to home.
- Be Mindful of Water Usage (Teeth Brushing, Washing Dishes, Etc): A quick and easy way to lower your water usage is to install low-flow shower heads and faucets. But, you can also start mindfully using water. Do you leave it running while you brush your teeth? It might be time to kick that habit.
- Fix Leaks Promptly: Regularly check for and repair any leaks in your home. A dripping faucet or a leaking toilet can waste a significant amount of water over time.
- Upgrade to Water-Efficient Appliances: Consider replacing older appliances with newer, water-efficient models. Look for those with the EPA’s WaterSense label.
- Use a Dishwasher Wisely: If you have a dishwasher, use it only when it’s fully loaded. Modern dishwashers are more water-efficient than hand washing, especially if they are Energy Star rated.
- Water Plants During Cooler Hours: Water your garden during the early morning or late evening to reduce water loss due to evaporation.
- Choose Drought-Resistant Plants: Opt for native or drought-resistant plants in your garden, which require less water and maintenance.
- Reuse Greywater: Consider systems that allow you to reuse greywater (from sinks, showers, and washing machines) for irrigation and other non-potable uses.
- Install a Dual Flush Toilet: These toilets have two flush options – one for liquid waste and another for solid waste, using less water for liquid waste.
Tip #10: Use Native Plants in Your Landscaping
This one is super simple, stick to growing local foliage. Plants that are acclimated to other climates may need you to import fancy soil additives or water more heavily. Support local biodiversity with naturally occurring plants! Here’s how:
- Research Local Plant Species: Start by researching plants native to your region. Local universities, gardening clubs, or conservation groups often provide resources on native plant species that thrive in your area’s climate and soil conditions.
- Visit Local Nurseries: Choose local nurseries that specialize in native plants. Staff at these nurseries can offer valuable advice on selecting and caring for native plants that suit your landscaping needs.
- Plan for Biodiversity: Aim for a diverse mix of trees, shrubs, and flowers to support a variety of wildlife. This biodiversity not only enhances the beauty of your garden but also contributes to a healthier ecosystem.
- Consider a Rain Garden: Implement a rain garden in areas where rainwater collects. Rain gardens filled with native plants can reduce runoff, improve water quality, and require less watering.
- Use Native Groundcovers: Replace traditional lawns with native groundcovers. These plants often require less water, no mowing, and provide habitats for local wildlife.
- Companion Planting: Practice companion planting by grouping native plants that benefit each other. This can lead to natural pest control and improved plant health.
- Participate in Community Planting Events: Engage with community planting events or initiatives that focus on native species. This is a great way to learn and contribute to local conservation efforts.
By incorporating these steps, you not only reduce your carbon footprint but also contribute to preserving local flora and fauna, enhancing the natural beauty and ecological balance of your community.
Tip #11: Shop Smarter
The impact of e-commerce is bigger than most people think. How are we supposed to navigate it? You can always choose slower shipping methods and to offset the carbon footprint of your purchase, but that’s not the end of it!
- Don’t Buy Fast Fashion: Instead of choosing fast fashion, be more selective when it comes to purchasing your next piece of clothing. Consider whether you’ll really wear something and if you’re going to purchase a piece. The textiles and fashion industry poses a huge risk to our environment through the clothing life cycle. Fast fashion is polluting the environment from chemical usage, to massive landfills and water waste. Being a conscious consumer is needed now more than ever.
- Buy Vintage Or Recycled Clothing: Buying vintage or recycled clothing reduces your carbon footprint by decreasing demand for new, resource-intensive fashion production and minimizing textile waste. This sustainable choice supports a circular economy and adds unique style to your wardrobe.
- Opt For Carbon Neutral Shipping: Shop brands that apply sustainable practices to their clothing production and are doing their part to save the planet or offset their carbon footprint. Look for brands that enable carbon-neutral shipping or carbon-neutral checkout with apps like EcoCart.
- Avoid Impulse Buying: A great way to reduce your carbon footprint is to purchase thoughtfully. Add things to your shopping cart and wait a week. If you still feel like you need them, go for it! (Plus, a lot of companies will send you a discount code 😉)
- Buy Food Locally: Purchasing food grown locally can also help to offset your carbon footprint. Around 11% of carbon emissions in the United States come from transporting food alone. Purchasing food from different regions, or food that is out of season contributes to greater carbon emissions because those foods have to be transported from places around the world to get to your supermarket. Instead, be aware of what foods are in season and shop locally. Not only is this an easy way to reduce your everyday carbon footprint, but you’ll also support local farmers! To be even more eco-friendly, bring reusable bags and containers.
Tip #12: Buy From Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Companies
Whether you want sustainable dog products or alternatives to fast fashion, you can find planet-loving companies to support. It’s easy to forget, but your spending power has value. (I mean, it’s literally called “spending power!”)
- Research and Verify: Before purchasing, research the company’s sustainability practices. Look for certifications like Fair Trade, Organic, or Rainforest Alliance that indicate a commitment to environmental and ethical standards.
- Support Local Businesses: Choose local products when possible. Local products often have a smaller carbon footprint due to reduced transportation distances.
- Check Product Life Cycle: Consider the entire life cycle of a product, from production to disposal. Opt for products with a lower overall environmental impact, including those made from recycled materials or designed for recyclability.
- Prioritize Durability Over Price: Invest in higher-quality, durable products that last longer, reducing the need for frequent replacements and minimizing waste.
- Engage with Brands: Actively engage with brands on social media or through customer feedback channels to encourage more sustainable practices and express your preferences for eco-friendly products.
- Educate Yourself on Greenwashing: Be aware of greenwashing – false or exaggerated claims about a product’s environmental benefits. Learn to distinguish genuine sustainable practices from marketing tactics.
- Use Eco-Friendly Apps and Tools: Utilize apps and online tools that rate the sustainability of products and companies, making it easier to make informed choices.
By voting with our dollar, we show companies what we expect from them and that we aren’t willing to compromise our planet for our purchases. So, treat yourself and put your money where your heart is!
Tip #13: Use Less Plastic
Unfortunately, plastic packaging is found in everything. Food, cleaning products, and other everyday items are wrapped in plastic. Even if they claim to be recyclable, less than 9% of plastic waste actually gets recycled because recycling systems can’t manage the wide variety of materials that get sent there. Most plastic gets sent to landfills, polluting the earth in the process and leeching microplastics into many of the everyday products we use and eat like sugar and bread. On average, people consume 5 grams of plastic a week!
- Choose Bulk Buying: Opt for bulk purchases to reduce the amount of packaging used. Many stores offer bulk sections where you can fill your own containers with products like grains, nuts, and spices.
- Select Products with Minimal Packaging: When shopping, choose items with the least amount of packaging, or packaging made from recycled or biodegradable materials.
- Use Reusable Containers for Storage: Instead of using plastic wrap or bags for food storage, switch to reusable containers made of glass or metal.
- Bring Your Own Containers for Takeout: When ordering takeout or shopping at delis, bring your own containers to avoid single-use plastic packaging.
- Support Companies with Sustainable Packaging Policies: Purchase from companies that are committed to reducing plastic in their packaging and are transparent about their sustainability efforts.
- Advocate for Change: Contact your favorite brands and express your desire for less plastic packaging, encouraging them to adopt more sustainable practices.
Tip #14: Use Renewable Energy
There are loads of renewable energy options available. If you’re a homeowner, you could install solar panels and possibly get a tax cut. Renting a place? Your utility company might offer renewable energy options! Here are ways to support and choose renewable energy:
- Research Incentives and Rebates: Many governments and local authorities offer incentives, rebates, or tax credits for installing renewable energy systems. Research what’s available in your area to make renewable energy options more affordable.
- Community Solar Projects: If installing solar panels isn’t feasible, look into community solar projects. These allow you to benefit from solar energy without having to install panels on your property.
- Green Energy Suppliers: Check if your local utility company offers a green energy option. Many suppliers now provide the choice to purchase electricity generated from renewable sources.
- Small-Scale Renewable Solutions: Consider small-scale renewable energy solutions like solar-powered outdoor lights, solar chargers for devices, or a solar water heater.
- Energy Efficiency First: Before investing in renewable energy, ensure your home is energy efficient. This reduces overall energy consumption, making your transition to renewable energy more effective and less costly.
Tip #15: Plant a Tree or Save One
- Unsubscribe From Junk Mail: Junk mail is viewed as irritating by many. Most households receive their weekly junk mail, then immediately toss it into the trash. Even if you recycle your junk mail, it still takes a substantial amount of resources to produce. Over 100 million trees and 28 billion gallons of water are used to produce junk mail annually, and making and shipping junk mail creates an additional 40 million tons of CO2 every year. It only takes a few minutes to opt out of junk mail – many free websites such as the FTC offer resources to directly contact companies to opt out of their advertisements. This is a simple way to not only reduce your carbon footprint, but also some of the clutter in your mailbox.
- Participate in Tree Planting Initiatives: Actively engage in local or global tree planting campaigns. Organizations like the Arbor Day Foundation or local environmental groups often host events where you can physically or financially contribute to planting trees.
- Adopt a Tree or Forest: Many conservation programs allow you to adopt a tree or a section of a forest. Your contribution helps protect and maintain these vital natural resources.
- Support Reforestation Projects: Donate to reforestation projects that work to replenish forests in areas affected by deforestation. This not only helps offset carbon emissions but also restores habitats for wildlife.
- Educate Yourself and Others: Learn about the importance of trees in carbon sequestration and share this knowledge with your community. Awareness is a powerful tool in environmental conservation.
- Choose Products from Sustainable Forestry: When purchasing wood or paper products, look for certifications like FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) that ensure the product comes from responsibly managed forests.
- Advocate for Green Policies: Support local and national policies that protect forests and promote reforestation. Public advocacy can lead to large-scale changes in how natural resources are managed.
- Use Digital Subscriptions: Opt for digital subscriptions for newspapers, magazines, and bills to reduce paper usage, thereby saving trees and reducing your carbon footprint.
At the end of the day, reducing your carbon footprint has meaning. If everyone in the U.S. became vegetarian, that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions alone by 280 million metric tons per year. Imagine what we could do if we could all share just a little bit of optimism! Even the smallest steps in the right direction can make a big difference.
Businesses that take climate change and invest in sustainability see an increase in both new and returning customers, learn more about how we can tighten your relationship with customers.