How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint and Help the Environment
If you’ve been listening to the evidence on climate change, you may know that the facts are scary. The five warmest years in recent history have all happened since 2015, and about 800 million people are vulnerable to the impact of climate change.
But as a single global citizen, what can you do about it? It may seem like you have a small role in saving our planet, but the truth is that every little bit helps. The more of us who make small changes, the more impact we have.
If you’re not sure how to reduce your carbon footprint, these sustainability tips are a great way to get started. Here’s what you should know.
Drive Less Often
A typical passenger vehicle emits up to 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide in one year, according to the EPA. Our daily travel harms the planet, especially when you consider that many of us are used to commuting twice a day in addition to other necessary trips by car.
Reconsidering your choice of transportation means less carbon dioxide in the air—but doing it takes some planning.
If you live close enough to work to walk or bike, those options are preferable by far. Public transit is another great option, and carpooling can make a small dent in your ecological footprint when all else fails. Alternatively, taking advantage of the growing remote work trend to stay at home instead!
One of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint is to forego meat consumption. Considering greenhouse gases and deforestation concerns, the UN has called people worldwide to eat less meat.
If you can’t manage a fully vegetarian diet, flexitarian is the next best thing: less meat is nearly always better than a meat-based diet. Even Meatless Mondays can cut out a little of your annual carbon dioxide emissions!
Buy Less Stuff
American consumerism runs rampant through our culture, telling us that more is always better. But if you want to be more environmentally conscious, reducing the number of physical things you buy should be near the top of your list.
The reasons are simple: even if you reuse or recycle objects you’ve bought, you’ve still put your money into something that required valuable energy and materials to produce. If you can avoid making that initial purchase, you can negate the need to (1) produce a new product, and (2) dispose of it at the end of its lifecycle.
For the things you need to buy, do what you can to create less waste where possible. Try buying zero-waste groceries by purchasing in bulk, for example, or get your shopping done at a zero-waste store.
Reuse What You Buy
Finding creative ways to repurpose items is a great way to become more environmentally conscious. There are plenty of home items you can reuse multiple times, with a bit of imagination. Try to consider how you will reuse an item before buying it to create less waste in the long run.
Recycle What You Can
It’s inevitable that you’ll produce some waste, which is why recycling what you can is so important.
Try to buy more of the types of goods that are recyclable where you live—typically paper, metal, glass, and certain types of plastic. When possible, avoid buying products that can’t be recycled in your area.
It’s worth noting that many areas offer supplemental recycling options for items like paint and batteries, so check to see what’s available where you live.
Pick the Sustainable Option
Buying less or not buying at all isn’t always an option—but more often, we’re seeing new options for sustainable goods.
Purchasing a used shirt from your local thrift store is better than buying a new one online, for example. Getting a notebook made of recycled paper is better than one with new paper. Many food and personal care brands are striving for sustainable packaging these days, making it easier than ever to find better choices for the environment.
Reconsider Your Home Energy Use
For this step, you’ll need to do a home energy audit to assess your energy usage. You can do this yourself, or you can call in a professional.
From there, work on finding ways to optimize your energy usage. Here are a few simple examples you can try:
- Unplugging items that aren’t in use
- Using a clothesline instead of a clothes dryer
- Turning off lights when no one is in a room
- Using energy-efficient LED bulbs and light fixtures
- Turning down the heat and air conditioner
- Making sure your water heater is no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit
- Setting your fridge and freezer at appropriate temperatures based on your manual
- Using a low-flow showerhead
- Taking shorter showers
- Sealing and insulating your doors, windows, and unheated spaces where possible
- Installing solar panels
Some of these options are more costly and time-consuming than others, but doing as many of them as is feasible can help you reduce your carbon footprint.
Know How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Millions of people across the world are taking small steps to adapt to climate change. Knowing how to reduce your carbon footprint is a crucial way to do your part, protecting nature in your small area of the world and beyond. Reconsider your approach to the tips above, and help fight climate change one step at a time!
For more of the crucial tips you need in life, check out our other helpful guides.