Being sustainable doesn’t have to be hard, and that’s especially true when it comes to your carbon footprint. A carbon footprint measures the amount of carbon dioxide emitted through the burning of fossil fuels and other types of industrial processes.
Although measuring your personal carbon footprint isn’t an exact science, there are some basic principles you can follow to start becoming more sustainable and reducing your footprint. Here are 10 ways you can measure and manage your carbon footprint to make a difference in the fight against climate change.
Use solar panels
Solar panels are a great way to lower your carbon footprint. If you don’t have a roof or south-facing window, then consider getting solar panels on the ground. You can also use solar cells on windows as long as they face south. Solar cells are more expensive than solar panels but they produce more power and can be put up without any specialized equipment or skills required.
Consider selling/donating an old car
One of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint is by getting rid of an old car. The average car releases about 10 pounds of CO2 per mile driven, which is the equivalent weight of two bags of groceries.
Think about it this way: if you drive 100 miles a day, five days a week, you’re releasing around 5,000 pounds (10 bags) worth of CO2 into the atmosphere every year just from your commute.
You can also sell or donate your used car that isn’t currently running. If you have a junked car in your backyard or driveway, chances are someone else could use it! For example, a retired person might need one for getting around town while they are not able to walk very far.
Replace appliances with energy-efficient ones
Replace your oven with an Energy Star-rated appliance, insulate the windows in your house and install storm windows where necessary. An air conditioner should also be installed when the temperature rises above 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Turn down the water heater to a medium setting or higher in colder climates.
When this is not possible, use only full loads of laundry, dishes and other tasks so as not to waste energy while waiting for hot water. Purchase an Energy Star-rated refrigerator that uses less electricity, such as one with double-paned glass doors or with special insulation panels on the back wall.
Install energy-saving windows
Install energy-saving windows, insulation, and weatherization techniques on the exterior of your home. Energy-efficient windows are made from double or triple-glazed glass which retains heat in winter and blocks it out in summer, so you’ll have minimal heating bills.
They come with insulated frames that significantly reduce air infiltration through gaps around the window seal. Finally, these are now available as low E coated windows which reflect radiation into the room for a warmer temperature in winter months but allow for good solar heating during summer months.
Use public transportation or walk more often
Walk or ride a bike when possible. This saves an average of 1,600 pounds of carbon dioxide per year for an individual who does this for all their local trips. If you live in a city with bike sharing, use it! It will save you money and gas, not to mention the cost of the bike itself.
Keep your house warm but save on gas bills
Set your thermostat at 68 degrees Fahrenheit (or the equivalent in Celsius) by 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. Do not turn it back up until 10 a.m. unless you are coming home from an outdoors activity like working out or going for a walk outside in cold weather for 30 minutes or more, as this will create heat you don’t need in the house.
Always keep your curtains closed at night so the sun doesn’t heat the room while no one is there; then open them in the morning to let sunlight wake you up naturally. Don’t use space heating if you don’t need it!
Buy food from local farmers’ markets instead of from the supermarkets
If you live in an area with a local farmers’ market, buy as much food from it as possible. The produce is typically grown by small-scale farmers who are located closer to where you live.
Plus, the carbon footprint of food produced locally for local people is less than that which was flown in from abroad. Instead of eating some meat every day, switch one of your meals a week with vegetarian options for the animal’s sake and yours too!
Use reusable bags while shopping
Every time you use a reusable bag, you are making a huge difference in helping the environment. Reusable bags may not seem like that big of a deal at first, but if we all do it every time we shop, it can have a huge impact. The idea is simple: reuse plastic bags as many times as possible before recycling them!
Buy your produce loose instead of buying packaged produce. Buy packaged goods on the top shelf where they will be less accessible to people, especially children. Packaged food typically has plastic or foil packaging that should be recycled once emptied and washed out if desired. Plan your shopping trips strategically; buy what you need so there’s no over-purchasing.
Donate extra food you don’t eat to homeless shelters
Some organizations accept donations of surplus fruits and vegetables. They then distribute the food to local hunger relief organizations such as soup kitchens, food banks, family shelters and other agencies that feed hungry people.
The problem is that there is a lack of volunteers who are willing to work with fresh produce. It’s a waste for good food not to get eaten when it can be donated for others to eat.
Recycle as much as possible
This can be done by: recycling paper, plastic, glass, metal, electronics and more; limiting the use of disposable products such as plastic bags; composting food scraps; using biodegradable soaps and detergents; turning off lights when leaving the room or house; biking or taking public transportation instead of driving.
The most important way to reduce your personal carbon footprint is by reducing the amount of energy you use. You can do this by changing some of your daily routines such as taking short showers, turning off lights when you leave a room, and turning down the heat or air conditioning. Many people also choose to eat less meat because it takes so much energy for cows to grow. There are many other ways that you can take action to reduce your carbon footprint.