How to Reduce Carbon Footprint: 24 Ways to Take Action

Reducing the greenhouse gases responsible for global warming is of the utmost importance. Individuals, corporations, and governments must assess their impact on this planet.

By evaluating the carbon footprint, each individual can take action to reduce their impact on climate change.

But what is a carbon footprint, and what actions can we take to reduce our environmental impact?

Here, we discuss a carbon footprint and how to reduce it.

What is Carbon Footprint?

Simply put, a carbon footprint conveys a person, product, company, or industry’s impact on the environment.

It measures the total amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from a product or service’s production, use, and disposal.

These GHGs include carbon dioxide (the most frequently produced by humans), methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases. Most of these gases are produced from transportation, housing, and food.

When these gases are released into the atmosphere, they trap heat, which causes global warming and is believed to be responsible for climate change.

What is the Average Carbon Footprint?

According to The Nature Conservancy, the average carbon footprint per resident in the United States is 16 tons per year, the highest rate globally. The global average is nearly 4 tons per person.

The Nature Conservancy warns that to avoid a 2⁰ Celsius (35.6⁰ Fahrenheit) rise in global temperatures, the average global carbon footprint per person per year must “drop to under 2 tons by 2050.”

Cumulatively, seemingly small, individual changes can make a tremendous global impact.

Factors impacting an individual’s carbon footprint include:

  • Travel and daily commute
  • Diet
  • Items you buy, such as clothing
  • What is discarded
  • Energy use at home

24 Ways to Reduce Carbon Footprint:

1. Drive Less

According to a 2017 study from Lund University published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, avoiding driving for a year could save about 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide.

Although going carless for a year may prove challenging for some, driving less can still impact GHG emissions.

2. Take Public Transit

Taking public transportation, such as a train or bus, instead of driving for your daily commute can positively impact you, even if only several times a week.

3. Carpooling

Carpooling with your colleagues or getting together with friends for a special event can also reduce your carbon footprint.

4. Bike to Work

Taking a bike to work or doing short errands when the weather permits can also help reduce emissions.

5. Plan Your Route

Additionally, planning your errands for the most efficient route can be more cost-effective, save time, and reduce emissions.

6. Maintain Your Car

Service your car and check the tires often to keep your vehicle running efficiently. Low tire pressure can hurt fuel economy, leading to higher emissions.

Weighing down your car with heavy items, city driving (too many stop-and-go), and using air conditioning when not needed can also impact fuel economy and increase emissions.

Moreover, using your cruise control when possible can help you save fuel and improve emissions.

7. Fly Less

Reducing GHG emissions would be ideal if we took fewer long round-trip flights. However, this is not always possible, especially when traveling for work.

If traveling for work cannot be avoided, elect an itinerary with fewer connecting flights.

Try to minimize personal flights, opting for other public transportation, such as a train or bus.

8. Choose a Staycation

Opt for a staycation every once in a while instead of flying to far-off destinations.

9. Conserve Energy

Conserving energy is the best way to reduce GHG emissions.

To conserve energy in your home, turn down the heat and put on an extra layer of clothing during the winter months.

10. Install a Smart Thermostat

Install a programmable or smart thermostat to maintain a stable indoor temperature. Close your blinds during the summer to keep your home cool.

11. Turn Off Lights and Appliances

Turn off lights and power off appliances at the power outlet or put them to sleep when not in use.

12. Switch to LED Bulbs

Switch all your incandescent light bulbs to LED bulbs. They use 85% less energy and last 25 times longer. This is one of the easiest things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint.

13. Use Renewable Energy Sources

If this is an option in your area, choose an electric company that runs on renewable energy.

14. Limit the Use of Appliances

Appliances can be significant energy drainers. Turn your water heater down to 120⁰ Fahrenheit.

Instead of using a game console to stream your favorite movies or shows, view them on a smart TV since game consoles are unsuitable. Additionally, if you use your smart TV for viewing, you will be running one less appliance, which can reduce emissions.

By buying a laptop instead of a desktop, they use less energy to run.

Set your refrigerator to 35-38⁰ Fahrenheit and your freezer to 0⁰ Fahrenheit, no lower. Avoid over-packing your refrigerator to ensure optimal efficiency. Replace your refrigerator every 15-20 years and recycle it.

When purchasing a new appliance, look for the Energy Star logo.

15. Seal and Insulate

Sealing your home’s windows, doors, and attic can help reduce drafts. Keeping the indoor temperature stable will lower energy costs.

Insulating your home well or replacing it with more effective insulation can also help keep the indoor temperature stable, reducing your energy use and, thus, your carbon footprint.

16. Eat Local

Most GHG emissions appear to occur during food production rather than transportation.

Therefore, eating local doesn’t always mean emissions reduction, although it can help.

Instead of focusing on eating only local food products, pay attention to the labor, processing, and transportation involved in the food items you purchase.

17. Eat Less Meat

The recommendation for a plant-based diet over meat consumption is controversial. However, research on the most environmentally friendly diet is continually evolving.

Nonetheless, research published in Environmental Research Letters in 2017 reveals that red meat production can have approximately 100 times the environmental impact of plant-based foods.

Additionally, the study found that grass-fed beef emits similar levels of GHG emissions as grain-fed beef.

Therefore, the consensus seems to be that cutting red meat from your diet is a better choice since red meat production requires large amounts of feed, water, and land.

18. Eat Seasonally

Along the same lines as eating local, eating fruits and vegetables in season means they have to travel shorter distances, reducing their carbon footprint.

Opt for what is grown locally and available at the time. Doing so will cut emissions while allowing you to enjoy a variety of options with each season and throughout the year.

19. Waste Less Food

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Americans waste approximately 30-40% of the food purchased. That amounts to nearly 40 million tons (80 billion pounds) per year, roughly 219 pounds per person. Consequently, food waste contributes to GHG emissions.

To avoid food waste, organize your refrigerator regularly. Move older food items to the front, where they are visible and most likely to be used instead of tossed.

Instead of tossing your leftovers, get creative and reuse them or freeze them if you can. Additionally, freeze any extra food you make or extra produce you purchase for later use.

When ordering large portions at a restaurant, do not toss them; take them home to eat later.

20. Recycle

Check with your local recycling facilities for requirements and acceptable items.

Recycle paper, cardboard, steel, tin cans, and plastic when possible. Check plastic items for the triangle at the bottom for proper disposal.

Be sure to empty the contents of the items and rinse them. Neglecting to do so can hinder the recycling process.

Check local requirements for how to recycle electronics and batteries properly. Donate electronics whenever possible.

21. Resist Fast Fashion

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), about 5% of landfill waste comes from the textile industry. Furthermore, the average American throws away roughly 70 pounds of textiles annually.

New clothing collections seem to be released regularly. Unfortunately, such items are typically produced quickly, cheaply, and unsustainably. The lower the apparel costs, the higher the environmental impact.

Instead of falling into the vicious cycle of consumerism, take care of your wardrobe to make it last longer. Repair damaged items yourself when they have holes, unraveled hems, or missing buttons.

When you need a style change or new clothes, second-hand and vintage shops can be a great option. Their affordable prices and uniqueness will help keep your wardrobe fresh while keeping clothes out of landfills.

22. Donate Old Items

Alternatively, donate those items in good condition for which you no longer have a use. This will prevent someone else from purchasing new items and give your old garments new life.

23. Choose Sustainable Brands

If you buy new clothes, choose a company that uses sustainable materials and whose policies show their environmental commitment.

24. Select Natural Fibers

Different fabrics have different levels of environmental impact. Their carbon footprint will depend on their manufacturing process and how biodegradable they are.

Choose non-synthetic materials, such as cotton, linen, hemp, and wool, as more sustainable alternatives.

Final Thoughts on How to Reduce Carbon Footprint

No one can tackle climate change alone. As individuals, corporations, and governments assess their carbon footprints, everyone can take actionable steps toward a cumulative effort to halt climate breakdown. It is everybody’s responsibility to protect this planet.

By shifting to a low carbon economy and low GHG emissions, we can work toward protecting the only place we call home.

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