Five Simple Ways to Shrink Your Carbon Footprint
The way our giant carbon footprints contribute to climate climate change is a serious problem that many of us care about. But sometimes it is difficult to balance an environmentally conscious attitude with our busy lives and tight budgets. It can require a lot of advanced planning, time, and money to properly insulate an entire house or make the choice to switch to a hybrid vehicle. However, there are a lot of small, cheap, and fast changes we can make to our daily routines that would shrink our carbon footprints significantly, and help us transition into more sustainable lifestyles.
1. Shop locally and seasonally as much as possible. Most grocery stores are packed with meat and produce not only from all over the vast expanse of the United States, but from all around the world. Yes ladies and gentlemen, that’s how we get fresh peaches and oranges in the middle of winter. Transporting these goods over long distances requires a lot of energy in the form of fossil fuels, but the carbon cost of the produce hauled to your nearest farmer’s market is much lower in comparison. During my last trip to the farmer’s market, I bought six bags of produce for $18, a fraction of the price I would have paid at the nearest supermarket. It’s not only greener for the environment; but greener to your wallet.
2. Cut meat out of one meal a day. I’m sure many of us had to stifle giggles upon learning that cattle release significant amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, through flatulence, but the total carbon cost of animal agriculture is a much bigger problem. Fossil fuels go into every step of the process, from planting and harvesting corn for animal feed, to running the factories and farms where animals are housed, and finally to transporting the meat all around the country. Individuals eating even slightly less meat on average would make a huge difference to our national carbon output, and when a meal is filled with hearty legumes or textured well-seasoned tofu, it’s hard to miss meat. Some people opt for one “meatless day” out of the week, but I prefer the meatless meal, since that’s a lot easier than complete abstinence for an entire day, and actually has greater results (seven meatless meals in total versus three over the week).
3. Unplug electronics and appliances that aren’t being used regularly. An estimated five to ten percent of average household energy consumption is attributed to “phantom” power usage, or the power used by electronics on standby. The five percent estimate comes from a 1996 study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Davis Group, but since then we’ve emerged into the age of universal cell phone ownership, plasma screens, and DVRs which means the current reality is probably closer to the ten percent estimate. Phone and laptop chargers, televisions, and any appliances that contain a digital clock will use phantom power. The most convenient way to save yourself and the planet that extra ten percent is to arrange electronics on power strips. For example, have your entire entertainment system—- television, DVD player, game console etc. —-plugged into one power strip that you can flip on and off quickly. Kitchen appliances like coffee makers, microwaves, and mixers are another thing that can be left unplugged until needed since they tend to be used inconsistently. These steps are simple and take only a few seconds of our time to perform, but even if you can’t take it quite that far, just yanking that phone or iPod charger out of the outlet after you’re done can make a big difference.
4. When shopping for new electronics and appliances, keep efficiency standards in mind. The energy star rating is a good way to gauge the efficiency of a product, as these are often twenty to thirty percent more efficient than the minimum government requirements. It’s always easier to start off on the right foot than to try to fix things later, so if you find yourself in the market for a new appliance or device, check out this handy database of energy star rated products.
5. Use the laptop instead of the desktop computer. Laptops consume a tenth of the energy of most desktops, so even while at home, leave the desktop turned off in favor of the laptop. It’s becoming more common these days for consumers to forgo desktops altogether when shopping for new computers, which is a positive trend, even as desktop computers become more efficient. However, I know most of us still own desktop computers as fixtures within our homes. Reducing our usage of these can help us shrink our carbon footprint as well as our electric bills.
Reasons to JOIN US include:
- It's absolutely FREE!
- Get Green Tips You MUST know about.
- How to's on going green, saving money, and having fun.
- Keep up-to-date on our posts in cased you missed them.