How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Telling people about the imminent, all-too-real dangers of climate change can often feel like talking to a brick wall. It isn't always that people aren't interested, it's usually because they haven't the time to sit and talk about the biggest macro issue of our time when their micro concerns, such as income, family and personal goals seem more pressing- and that's perfectly normal.
However, you don't have to let go of everything you know and love to make a positive impact on helping the planet. It is the little things across the globe that all add up and make a massive difference. And in an age where it is vital we cut down on our waste and become more environmentally conscious, we look at a few ways you can cut down on your carbon footprint.
Here are 30 examples.
1. Reduce Air Travel
Air travel is usually a person's largest component of their carbon footprint, especially for frequent flyers. The advent of cheap airfares and low-cost airlines has meant that travel has become more accessible to many millions of people, but the environmental impact is quite drastic.
That is not to say stop traveling and exploring the world but consider your options as trains are far more environmentally friendly or just by taking a few fewer flights.
2. Eat Less Meat
Cows and sheep emit large quantities of methane, a powerful global warming gas, and large swathes of forestland (which helps reduce CO2) is often cut down and cleared for the production of these animals and to increase farmland. By shifting to a less meat orientated diet, you can seriously impact your carbon footprint.
A vegan diet might make as much as a 20% difference to your overall carbon impact but simply cutting out beef will deliver a significant benefit on its own. Why not check out our article on it for more information by clicking here.
We're talking about heating your home here. Poorly insulated houses take a tremendous amount of energy to keep warm and just by properly insulating your attic or filling your cavity wall you can really cut down on your energy usage and this is also good for saving a bit of money over time.
By investing in insulating your house, you will save money over the long run by cutting down on your energy bills which will also produce less carbon.
4. Update Your Boiler
Old gas and oil boilers are often extremely wasteful and even if it is working well, it is worth considering updating it if it is 15+ years old as your fuel use may fall by a third or more, repaying the cost in lower fuel bills.
This is just another example of how environmentalism can also save you money.
5. Think About Your Mileage
Reducing the mileage of the average new car from 15,000 to 10,000 miles a year will save more than a ton of CO2, about 15% of the average person’s footprint.
However, if you are running an old banger, don't rush out to buy a new car.
6. Don't Upgrade Unless Necessary
A lot of electrical goods use up more energy in their production than they do in their lifetime. Apple says 80% of the carbon footprint of a new laptop comes from manufacturing and distribution, not use in the home and this applies to many other appliances as well.
So by maintaining a product and using it sparingly, you are far greener than those who constantly buy new.
7. Switch From Halogen To LED
LEDs (light-emitting diodes) have become cheap and effective. and are a great alternative to halogen lamps which use up a serious amount of energy. It makes good financial and carbon sense to replace as many halogen bulbs as possible with their LED equivalent because the latter should last at least 10 years, meaning you avoid the hassle of buying new halogen bulbs every few months.
Your CO2 footprint will fall, and you will rely on less energy.
8. Consider Carefully When Buying Home Appliances
When buying a new fridge or tumble dryer, be careful when considering what one you are going to go for and always assume cheap means low energy, sometimes there is a premium to being energy conscious. Frequent use will also add to your carbon footprint so if it's a warm day think about hanging the washing out rather than tumbling it.
It is little things like that that all add up to make a huge difference.
9. Consume Less
Buy less stuff, and less energy will be used as fewer products, less packaging, less transport for shipping and less waste will be produced. For example, a suit made of wool may have a carbon impact equivalent to your home’s electricity use for a month.
Buy what you need and cut down on non-vital shopping and it will make a world of difference.
10. Look At The CO2 Impact of What You Buy
Granted, this research can be hard work, but a much simpler way of looking at this is to see where things come from. Bananas, for example, often are shipped by sea and so are a lot better than say, asparagus flown in from Peru, but if you don't know where to find this information and just see where the product comes from.
By trying to buy things from more local regions, you will not only support your local economy but also cut down on the carbon costs as well.
11. Invest In Your Own Source of Renewable Energy
Putting solar panels on the roof still, quite often, makes financial sense even after most countries have ceased to subsidize installation. Alternatively, buy shares in new cooperatively owned wind, solar or hydroelectric plants that are looking for finance, and you will both help the planet and save/make a bit of cash.
The returns won't be massive, but quite often they are higher than the rate of interest and so are better than leaving your cash in a bank.
12. Invest Wisely
For many years large fuel companies and electricity generation businesses were able to raise funds through investors who were happy to ignore low carbon options in search of profit but consumers have a massive say in this, and the focus on greener energy has made companies more acutely aware of this too.
Now, by contrast, money managers are increasingly wary of backing the investment plans of oil companies and switching to renewable projects. By making consumer decisions that keep this pressure up, more companies are going to try and prepare for a low-carbon future.
13. Support Companies That Are Prepared For A Low Carbon Future
An increasing number of companies are committed to a 100% carbon neutral future and those that aren't are getting left behind. Like making investment choices wisely, it is good to purchase from the greener company than the one that is just in it for your money.
By making purchasing decisions based on ethics, it will force companies to sit up and take notice of them.
14. Make Your Local Politician Aware
Many people feel they are not listened to by politicians, but they do tend to do what their electorates want. The last major UK government survey showed that 82% of people supported the use of solar power, with only 4% opposed. A similar survey in the US showed an even larger percentage in favor.
By writing, calling and buying in a green friendly manner, politicians will sit up and take note if that's what people want.
15. Buy Energy From Retailers Who Sell Renewable Energy
It may seem counter-intuitive, but by buying gas and electricity from retailers who do sell renewable energy as well, it allows for their business to expand and so the option of greater green options becomes more widely available elsewhere, and now others have the choice to go green.
Renewable natural gas is just coming on to the market in reasonable quantities in many countries, and fossil-free electricity is widely available.
16. Adopt A More Plant-Based Diet
The benefits of eating a more plant-based diet have long been lauded, probably starting with your mom telling you to "eat your veg" right through to your personal trainer telling you how "greens are good for you", but now a team at Oxford University has put the research in to show that not only could a move towards vegetarianism benefit personal health but also global health as well.
The study suggests that millions of people would be saved a year if they adopted a balanced vegetarian lifestyle because of the health burdens associated with red meat and other food products and a vegan diet would go even further. It was not just the direct health benefits that were taken into account but also the global climate and how farming production affects the planet. By reducing meat production, large areas given over to producing livestock could be used to create a far greater yield of plant-based produce as well as cutting down on pollution associated with the farming industry such as large amounts of methane produced by cattle and the enormous amount of energy put in to produce meat products.
The Oxford University study, which was published in the 'Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences' journal, certainly is food for thought and could lead to a change in how governments and organizations approach food production and the health of their citizens..
Voting shouldn't even be an issue. You should always exercise your right to engage in a democratic process because in many nations people quite literally died so everyone could have their say in the parliamentary process.
So if you're lucky enough to live in a country which respects the democratic process, use your vote to further the cause of climate change. Even if none of your local or national politicians has spoken publicly about climate change, you can still write to them and attend meetings they are often required to attend.
When was the last time you rode your bike? You'll probably get to work just as quickly as you would by stuffing yourself into an overcrowded metro. Best of all, you won't be contributing to greenhouse gases.
Instead, you'll be burning some much-needed calories and going to bed every night knowing you're making a difference. So get your brain tuned into humanity's biggest threat and spread the word that climate change is far from a hoax cooked up by a coterie of liberal professors. It's destroying our planet and will continue to unless we act now.
You may be thinking that composting is the preserve of hippies and environmental freaks who go as far composting their poo, but it's not as crazy as it sounds. Reducing your solid waste means that landfills will be less populated.
Another plus is that compost makes a great natural fertilizer.
19. Monitor Water Usage
As the old saying goes, a little goes a long way. Michael Phelps, the American swimmer and most decorated Olympian of all time even started a campaign to get people to stop leaving the water running when we brush our teeth. Even the little things, such as drinking tap water instead of buying into the plastic trade can go along way.
If you want to be an ardent water conservationist, you could even limit your toilet flushing to number 2's only!
20. Don't Be Afraid To Speak Up
Read as much as you want about the problems we're facing, but don't be scared to speak up either! In the grand scheme of things, the environment doesn't dominate the news the way politics, sport, and show business does. However, if you get into the habit of spreading the word about the all-too-real dangers of climate change, the dialogue concerning environmental issues will improve.
If you find yourself to be of a shy disposition, you could promote climate change causes by creating an online forum, or even simply setting up a Twitter account concerned with environmental issues. By doing this, you have the potential to engage others and encourage fellow users to partake in protests and petitions.
21. Laptops All The Way
For younger readers, you might not even know what a desktop computer is, which is naive but excellent as they use 80% more battery than a laptop despite having near-identical functions.
Not only are laptops portable and easier to use, but they tend to run quicker and be more reliable so ditch your lagging desktop in the living room if you haven't already.
22. Recyclable Trash Bags Are Your Best Friend
Black trash bags cannot be recycled because of the black pigmentation, thus rendering them to one of the biggest polluters of all- the landfill site.
The best alternative is to use recyclable trash bags, but ardent environmentalists don't even use white trash bags, they use compost heaps, the benefits of which we explored in point 18.
23. Quit Driving...
Unless you live in the middle of nowhere, do you need to own a car? Probably not. Most urban cities have fantastic transport links while Uber is a service that is also an added convenience, with many of their drivers using electric-powered, Toyota Priuses.
This brings us nicely onto our next point.
24. Or Buy An Electric Car Instead
If you want to do your bit for the environment but can't bear the thought of living without a car, then you can always buy an electric car. They spawn no carbon emissions whatsoever and are becoming prevalent in many Western parts of the world.
Elon Musk's Tesla models have taken electric cars one step further by making them cool and attractive, so why not follow Elon's lead and start a green car revolution?
25. Avoid Products With Lots Of Packaging
Needles packaging dominates so many products, from the food in our supermarkets to the brand new clothes we order online. And it's for these reasons that so much rubbish is being washed up on the shorelines. The world can't keep up with so much needless waste, and the onus should be on the government to stop this excessive practice.
However, governments don't have a magic wand, so it's up to us to take the best action we can: by avoiding any products wrapped in pointless packaging.
26. Turn Off The Lights!
Your parents probably told you off all the time when you were a kid for leaving the lights on, and it probably bugged the hell out of you, but they had a point. Well, kind of.
While they were probably concerned with saving money on their electricity bills, the more pressing, ethical reason for turning off the lights concerns the welfare of the environment itself, so keep them off and only turn them on if you can't see without them!
27. Shower, Don't Bathe
We don't need to bathe every day. Studies have shown that every day bathing is bad for our skin, so washing every other day is more than fine. And when you do clean yourself, make sure you're showering, not bathing.
Showering is much more energy-effective and uses five times less energy than a bath.
28. Make Sure All Devices Are Unplugged
Even if you aren't using a device, we often forget to unplugged them which isn't a good thing to do as the same amount of energy is being used regardless of whether the phone is or isn't being charged.
Yes, this is just wasted energy in the most literal sense. Also, make sure your house is correctly insulated so your heater and air condition will be more efficient and use less energy.
Whatever you buy in the world, it's going to leave an environmental footprint, from the materials made to produce it to the pollution spawned from its manufacturing and transportation to the final packaging process which nearly always ends up in a landfill dump.
One only has to set foot on a beach to see the alarming amount of discarded plastics littered on our shores. So next time you purchase plastic, consider if you can reuse it, or if you even need to buy it in the first place. Most importantly of all, if something can be recycled, then make sure its washed and goes into the recycle bin.
30. Don't Get Stuck In Traffic
Getting stuck in a traffic jam is something none of us likes, but worse than missed appointments and sore bottoms is the fact that traffic jams only add to the world's pollution levels.
So if you do have a petrol or diesel car, the best thing you can do if you aren't willing to trade it in for a more eco-conscious vehicle is to avoid busy roads or times of day when more cars will be present.