With climate change affecting people all over the world, you may be wondering how you can reduce your carbon footprint – your amount of carbon dioxide released by what you consume. Scientists say that reducing carbon footprints can quite literally save lives, but what’s the best way to do it in a world where you need to get around, eat food, and wear clothes? Read on to find six innovative ways you can reduce your carbon footprint daily.
1. Buy local and in-season
If your food doesn’t have to travel far to get to you, then it won’t take as much fuel as food that has to come from the other side of the world. When you can, visit farmer’s markets, and plan your meals around what you find. Food that is in-season and local tastes better and has a smaller carbon footprint than out-of-season foods that may have to be flown into your grocery store.
One way to ensure the best tasting food is to grow it yourself. This way, you can store it to use in the off-season. However, this can go beyond just food. It’s so easy to buy online from a place that offers quick shipping, but can you get the same item locally when running errands? You may save a buck or two online but consider what the shipping – and its extra packaging – means to the environment.
2. Get back on the bicycle
Every time you start your car, you’re releasing carbon into the atmosphere. Think about your daily routines. Can you walk to get coffee? Is there a public transit route that could easily get you to an appointment? Perhaps it’s time to dust off your bicycle and helmet and try using it to commute. Pledge to not use your car for any errands that are less than a mile away. Not only will you reap the physical benefits of activity, but your carbon footprint will also get much smaller.
3. Consider what you put on your plate for every meal
As mentioned above, buying local is key. However, it doesn’t have to stop there. Reduce your meat intake. Meat is one of the worst offenders in releasing carbon emissions. Try designating one day a week as meatless or challenge yourself to try as many vegetarian recipes as you can in one month. When you have leftovers, either use them for lunch, repurpose it, or freeze it to re-use so you’re not disposing of any usable food. Think about purchasing food in bulk and cutting it down to smaller portions in reusable containers to cut down on trips to the store.
4. Take a good look at your closet
Fast fashion – trendy clothes cheaply made in overseas factories – is a huge polluter and creates a giant carbon footprint. Do what you can to avoid it. It’s better to invest in well-made classic pieces that will serve you for years. Even if you don’t sew, learning how to make basic repairs on your favourite clothes can save you money and impact on the environment.
When you want something new, consider second-hand stores, which even exist online in places like PoshMark, the RealReal, and ThredUp. Get together with friends and host a clothing swap, or look for one on social media. This helps especially with kids who seem to grow out of clothes every other month.
5. Think about how you dispose of items
Yes, those old favourites of saving the Earth can even help when it comes to reducing your carbon footprint. Decaying food in a landfill can release large amounts of greenhouse gases. If that same food is composted, it can not only avoid the landfill, but also decay in a way that doesn’t release as much gas, and be used again to grow food. Recycling can majorly cut carbon emissions, particularly when recycling plastic items. Fats and cooking oils can be recycled into greener biofuel. If you haven’t started recycling or composting yet, here’s one more reason to do it.
6. Cut down your energy usage
Heating and cooling and running your home can add to your carbon footprint, so look around for ways to use less energy and save some money, too. Get an energy audit to see where your home is losing heat or cold, especially if you live in an older home. Try draft stoppers to help keep your home warm in the winter. Change your lightbulbs to LEDs from incandescent, and be vigilant about turning off lights when you leave a room. You can even make it a game with your kids, rewarding the ones who do the best job of limiting energy usage.
Images credit: Tobias Tullius, Christine Saracusa, Alex Iby — thank you.
Alex DeMarzo is a passionate writer who has published numerous articles for various industries such as green energy, sustainability, sports, real estate, organisational, public education, and public affairs. In his free time, he enjoys exploring the great outdoors.