Five Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

How much do you think about your carbon footprint? Do you make an effort to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions? Whether you’re an expert or a novice on greenhouse emissions, anyone can make a difference in their carbon footprint.

Fig. 1- Our environment and our atmosphere- Source: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2016/carbon-dioxide-fertilization-greening-earth/

 

Our industrialized, connected, and global world increasingly contributes to greenhouse gas production, posing continued threats to our atmosphere. Even though greenhouse gasses are fundamental to our existence on Earth and life would be jeopardized without them, our continued to reliance on fossil fuels and unsustainable energy drastically increases carbon dioxide buildup in our atmosphere. While carbon dioxide is an essential component of our atmosphere, the gas is a major contributor to global warming, and according to NASA, “rising carbon dioxide concentrations are already causing the planet to heat up.” As carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere is a global problem, all of us are responsible for our own carbon footprint, or carbon dioxide equivalent, that represents our personal contribution to this global problem. With rising water levels, stronger hurricanes, and threatening heat waves exemplifying the consequences of carbon buildup in our atmosphere, it is more important than ever to take these five easy steps to reduce your carbon footprint.

1. Eat local and in-season foods.

Fig. 2- Local produce at a typical farmer’s market- Source: http://www.franklincountymaine.org/live-and-work/farmers-markets

 

A valuable symbol of our system of global trade, it is a modern breakthrough to be able to choose to eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables regardless of seasons. While this modern privilege is a blessing, it is easy to forget the true cost of foreign produce and out of season availability. Our ability to put food on the table regardless of location or season is a direct result of global transportation powered by fossil fuel. Intercontinental shipping of produce carries a huge carbon footprint, and at least 20% of our carbon footprint comes from the food we eat every day. While food is a major player in carbon buildup in our atmosphere, we have the opportunity to take daily measures in reducing our role in the warming of our earth. By supporting your local co-op or farmers market, you reduce transportation between farm to table, rewarding you with a reduced carbon footprint and a tasty treat. If local food isn’t easily available, another option to reduce your food’s footprint is buying foods that are in season. While it is extremely convenient to be able to buy a watermelon in the middle of December, the reality of the situation is that fruit bought out of season is shipped from another continent and carries a massive carbon footprint. By using this USDA site, anyone can educate themselves on food seasonality and reduce their carbon footprint.

2. Carpool or take Public Transportation

Fig. 3- Carpoolers save the atmosphere as well as their time- Source: http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2012-08-14/news/fl-95-express-hov-ends-20120814_1_hov-lanes-carpool-high-occupancy-vehicle

 

Do you feel guilty driving in a car that burns fossil fuels? By adding just one passenger to your commute, you cut your trip’s environmental impact in half. The more passengers added to your commute, the more you can reduce your carbon footprint. Carpooling is becoming more and more prevalent with rideshare websites and apps, and by incorporating this change into your life, you can easily reduce your carbon footprint. If you live in a city where public transportation is available, this is an even better way to reduce your carbon footprint. By sharing your ride with the community, you can reduce everyone’s mutual carbon production. In addition to reducing your own carbon footprint, public transportation is getting greener and greener, making major strides towards improving air quality, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, decreasing travel demands, and saving energy.

3. Turn off unnecessary appliances

Fig. 4- An easy switch to conserve power- Source: http://www.homeselfe.com/make-tech-energy-efficient/

 

Whether you’re a techie or a novice when it comes to electronics, all of these devices are powered in one way or another. The power that charges our phones, computers, and tablets is a product of burning fossil fuels, ultimately giving our electronics their own carbon dioxide footprints. In fact, fossil fuels are a major driving force in creating our nation’s electrical infrastructure, and whether your home is powered by coal, diesel, or natural gas, each of these fuel sources contributes their own individual amount of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. While most of us try to reduce how much power we consume, we often forget that most appliances draw power even when turned off. Even though one single appliance draws minimal amounts of power when turned off, the combined draw of appliances that are plugged in and unused directly contributes to your carbon footprint. By unplugging unused and unnecessary appliances, one can easily reduce daily carbon usage and give back to the environment. Additionally, sustainable home power solutions such as solar chargers and smart power strips like the ones found here are becoming more and more affordable as options to reduce both power consumption and your carbon footprint.

4. Compost

Fig. 5- Recycling organic material in a compost bin- Source: http://www.homestructions.com/general/turning-landscaping-waste-into-compost/

 

As recycling becomes commonplace, compost is a powerful way to prevent other forms of waste from spending years rotting away in the dump. When we throw things away, we must consciously think about the impact that creating unnecessary garbage produces, and composting is an easy way to counteract the growing waste disposal problem that our planet faces. While composting may seem like an option limited to those with outdoor space in their homes, the practice of recycling organic material has become easier and easier with cheap and easy compost bins like the ones found here. Also, many cities have already implemented curbside compost programs, joining the likes of San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. The process of composting not only gives back to the environment by reducing excess waste and carbon buildup from trash, but also creates great soil for gardening and saves users money everyday. Whether you compost to create great soil for your garden or to reduce your carbon footprint, you’re doing the community a favor.

5. Use Alternatives to Plastics

Fig. 6- Reusable water bottles come in all shapes and sizes- Source: http://www.scjohnson.com/en/green-choices/Reduce-and-Recycle/Articles/Article-Details.aspx?date=14-10-02&title=How-to-Find-the-Best-Reusable-Water-Bottle

 

Many of us actively make an effort to reduce plastics in our life and recycle or compost as much as possible, acknowledging the effects that single-use plastics have on our environment. Using disposable and unnecessary plastics contributes to rising carbon levels, directly building the massive carbon footprint catalyzed by everyday items like plastic water bottles. Whether you’re taking action to avoid disposable plastics by buying reusable, eco-friendly bottles like the ones found here, bringing your own tupperware for takeout items at your favorite restaurant, or recycling as much as possible, you can directly reduce your carbon footprint. Additionally, by pledging to a plastic-free lifestyle, you directly take steps towards building a better world and promote LoaTree’s Better World Series project, which you can find more information about here. By embracing the growing importance of recycling and taking steps to avoid wasteful, single use plastics, you can greatly reduce your carbon footprint.

By taking these five steps to reduce your carbon footprint, you can make a daily pledge towards planetary protection. Eating local foods, carpooling, turning off unused appliances, composting, and avoiding unnecessary plastics are all easy ways to reduce your carbon footprint. By consciously thinking about your environmental impact and utilizing resources like carbon footprint calculators found here, we can all take steps towards building healthier lifestyles that benefit not only our community, but our planet as a whole.

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