At this point, the majority of people are aware we’re in need of urgent environmental policies. The Earth’s resources we’ve been taking for granted are not infinite and we’ve witnessed pollution taking the lives of humans as well as animals. Although we are fully conscious of the serious threat caused by global warming, we still fail to realize our current lifestyles are a part of the problem.
As we live our lives, we produce a number of greenhouse gases – mainly carbon dioxide, but also others such as fluorinated gases, nitrous oxide, methane, etc. Emissions come from the use and production of services and products, as well as from the waste after their expiration. A carbon footprint is the total amount of these gasses which trap heat in the atmosphere and cause global warming.
In these modern times, climate change has become overwhelming and solutions need to be made on a global scale, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make a difference as individuals. There are a number of choices we can make in our everyday lives to minimize our carbon footprint and therefore lessen our personal impact on the environment.
Travel & Transportation
Air travel undoubtedly takes up the largest portion of your carbon footprint. That’s why you should avoid flying as much as possible – if it’s a short trip, driving will probably emit fewer greenhouse gases. Of course, there can be some situations when you simply must fly. In these cases, you should stick to economy class since there are more passengers sharing carbon emissions, compared to business class that’s responsible for three times more emissions and first class that can go up to ten times more. And always opt for non-stop flights (which is not the same as direct) because takeoffs and landings use more fuel and therefore produce more emissions.
When it comes to everyday transportation, you should know an average car produces around 5 tons of CO2 per year, meaning by driving less you can significantly cut down your carbon footprint. There are many ways to achieve this: walk more, use bicycles to reach your destinations, take public transportation, rideshare, etc. In cases when you must drive, combine your errands to reduce driving time, avoid traffic jams with the help of phone applications, reduce air conditioning use, and turn on the cruise control to save gas on longer trips. Taking care of your car through proper maintenance can also increase your fuel efficiency. Try to avoid any unnecessary acceleration and braking – studies have shown aggressive driving can lead to 40 percent more fuel consumption.
If it’s time to buy a new car, you should seriously consider an electric or hybrid vehicle. While we’re waiting for hyper-speed trains, the current state of electrified motoring is propelling us towards a greener future at an accelerated rate.
Inside the Home
The first logical step is to go from incandescent light bulbs to LEDs. They cost more, but LEDs last up to 25 times longer and use 4 times less energy. Incandescent bulbs waste 80% of their energy as heat, and they contain mercury on top of that. Note this change doesn’t mean you shouldn’t switch off the lights every time you leave the room. The same should be done with your electronic appliances – unplug them as soon as you’re finished using them. When shopping for appliances, look for the Energy Star label which officially certifies its energy efficiency. Also, keep in mind laptops are a better solution than desktops since they require less energy to operate and charge.
There’s no need to have your water heater above 120 ̊F – setting this limit you’ll save around 550 pounds of CO2 per year. You can additionally reduce hot water use with the installation of a low-flow showerhead. Keeping cool during summer can have a great effect on our carbon footprint, so try to use air conditioning only when it’s absolutely necessary. For all other occasions, there are fans which require far less electricity.
Food & Clothing
We all know eating beans, grains, veggies, and fruits is much healthier, but what most of us don’t know is by eating less beef we can really make a change. Around 15.5% of global man-made greenhouse gas emissions come from the production and processing of meat and dairy, as well as the methane sheep and cattle belch out. We’re not saying you should turn into a vegan today, but each day you skip meat you’ll reduce your carbon footprint by 8 pounds.
In addition, a great deal of fossil fuels are used for transportation and keeping the food cool during the same, so you should choose local and organic foods that are in season. It’s also helpful to buy food in bulk when possible using reusable containers. Plan your meals in advance, reuse leftovers, freeze the excess – everything you can do to reduce food waste. If there is organic waste, try to use it as compost, if possible.
When it comes to clothing the story is pretty much the same – trendy and cheap items might be fun, but they quickly get out of style and end up as waste, producing methane in landfills as they decompose. So buy recycled or vintage clothing as often as you can.
As you can see, there are a lot of small changes all of us can do which will help cut down the pollution of our planet. Although we certainly didn’t have the time to cover them all, this is a foundation for a change in the mindset – once you start thinking differently, you’ll become aware of more things you can accomplish as an individual and, hopefully, in the process, you’ll inspire your friends and loved ones to do the same.