Helping to save the planet is a very important issue for me. Today I am here to help you with 6 fast and easy ways to reduce your carbon footprint.
Sometimes living an eco-friendly life can seem overwhelming. Everything we do in our day-to-day routine has some type of impact on the environment.
What is a carbon footprint?
The total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).
CO2 is a greenhouse gas which causes global warming. There are other greenhouse gasses being emitted from our activities (such as ozone or methane) but these are often converted into CO2 equivalents to make calculating our carbon footprint easier.
Almost everything we do creates some type of carbon footprint. You might be asking yourself what you can do to reduce your carbon footprint.
First it will help to understand what types of activities emit CO2 into our atmosphere. We cannot reduce our carbon footprint if we don’t know what’s creating it!
Some Common Activities that Emit CO2
•Driving a vehicle with a gas or diesel powered engine.
•Heating your house with oil, gas, or coal.
•Generating electric power to heat your house.
•Buying food or goods.
To calculate your carbon-footprint you would take the sum of all the emissions of CO2 which were created by your activities (see tables above and below for some common activites). Generally speaking, the timeframe in which we measure our carbon footprint is in years. This means the amount of CO2 emissions put into the environment from your activities and lifestyle in a 1-year period.
While it’s very important to take steps to reduce your carbon footprint, there are certain things that we may need to do that generate CO2 emissions. We can offset them in a couple of different ways!
As a tree ages, it can intake up to 48 lbs of CO2 per year! Planting trees greatly helps reduce your carbon footprint!
Purchase Carbon Offset Credits
You can purchase credits to directly offset the carbon you simply cannot avoid emitting into the atmosphere. Essentially what this does is fund the equivalent CO2 saving elsewhere. If you are able to purchase carbon offset credits, you will want to make sure the projects are meeting the Quality Assurance Standard for Carbon Offsetting.
While your goal should always be to reduce our carbon footprint, the ultimate goal would be to become carbon neutral, or better yet – carbon negative.
Carbon Neutral means that the activities you do have no net release of CO2 into the atmosphere.
Carbon Negative means that not only are your activities having no type of net release of CO2 into the atmosphere, you’re actually helping to take more carbon out of the atmosphere than you create.
A great example of being carbon negative is the web hosting service I decided to use, GreenGeeks.
I made a decision to start this blog and while my main goal is helping people become happy and confident with themselves as they are today, my secondary goal is helping the environment.
The negative effects that web hosting has on the environment is often something a lot of people don’t think to consider. It’s not directly impacting them in a way that they can easily see or visualize.
When you create a website, it has to be hosted on a server. These servers use immense amounts of energy to function. By 2020 it’s anticipated that the web hosting industry will overtake the airline industry in environmental pollution. Currently the airline industry contributes to approximately 3.5% of global climate change.
Greengeeks is the world’s most eco-friendly web hosting platform.
Not only are they ensuring that all their data centres are using the most energy efficient hardware, the amount of energy they consume is offset with 3 times the amount of green energy credits. This means they are a 300% green web hosting service!
Additionally to wiping out their own carbon footprint, they’re also wiping out the carbon footprint of two other companies equivalent in size. Thus making them carbon negative by 200%.
If you are thinking of starting up a website or already have one and didn’t consider the environmental impact, I highly suggest switching to them! Their customer service is also quite amazing with 24/7 support available, a variety of plans to suit your needs, and an easy-to-use platform.
So, what steps can you take TODAY to help reduce your carbon footprint?
Unplug Your Devices When Not in Use
Certain electrical devices draw power even when they are “off” or not in use. While not all electrical devices will draw power if they aren’t turned on, certain things like TVs, printers, computers, laptops (when plugged in), gaming consoles, cell-phone chargers, alarm clocks, stereo systems, usb adapters, microwaves, and even some washer and dryers draw power when they appear to be off. This list certainly doesn’t encompass all devices that use power when they’re “off” but these are a lot of common ones.
Toasters, hair dryers, most lamps, or anything where the circuit is broken when it’s not in use don’t draw any power when left plugged in. These types of things don’t have an internal or external power supply. The circuit only completes when you turn the device on.
It’s important to note that a cellphone charger doesn’t draw a lot of power anymore when not in use. It’s currently estimated that 5 billion people worldwide use a cellphone. Chargers today use about 0.5 – 1 watt when plugged in and not in use. That is only 4.4 – 8.8 kWh per year (or about $1 savings per year to the average person). Imagine if even 10% of mobile phone users are unplugging their chargers when not in use? Even on the low-end wattage chargers, it would mean 500 million people saving 4.4 kWh per year. Or 2.2 billion kWh saved per year.
Of course CO2 emissions from our electricity depend on the form of generation and the mix of forms of generation to the grid. Let’s take a look at the CO2 emissions saved if we take a very average amount of 0.3 kg of CO2 per kWh (current state of California amount).
660 million kg of CO2 emissions saved per year!!!!!!!
Things like your TV and computer or anything where the power button puts your device into standby mode draw a lot more power when it’s “off”.
Eat Less Meat
Meat is the single biggest contribution of CO2 emissions on our planet. Red meat actually results in 5 times more emissions than chicken or pork. Studies show that cutting out red meat would be more effective to reduce our carbon footprint than giving up our vehicles. Agriculture contributes to 15% of all emissions. Half of that is from the livestock itself; the other half comes from the water and growing of the feed to raise the animals.
This study done in the UK of the Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans conducted by Oxford scientists found that meat-rich diets (more than 100g per day of meat) resulted in 7.2 kg of daily CO2 emissions. Vegetarian and fish-eating diets produced 3.8 kg of CO2 and a vegan diet caused only 2.9kg in CO2 per day. The study examined 30000 meat eaters, 16000 vegetarians, 8000 fish eaters, and 2000 vegans.
I’m not telling you to go vegan (although props to you if you do!), but even cutting out meat one day per week is a great start!
Eat Local (and Organic, if possible)
Not only does this help to stimulate your local economy, it also helps to reduce your carbon footprint and save the planet! Eating local helps to minimize food miles. Food miles are the amount of miles travelled in order for food to get to you. Often food travels hundreds or thousands of miles before it gets to you. The more food miles there are, the greater amount of CO2 emissions into our atmosphere.
If you are able to eat organic, then you’re also helping to reduce your carbon footprint. Since organic farming does not allow the use of any pesticides or synthetic chemicals, the contamination to the soil and underground water is non-existent. A lot of organic food is also distributed more locally thus lowering the food miles. Organic food production also does not disturb the local wildlife like conventional agriculture.
Use Only Cold Water for Laundry
This one is an easy one for all of us! If you were to switch just 4 out of every 5 laundry loads you do to cold water, you would cut out 393 KG of CO2 emissions per year! You’d also save some money! When washing in warm water, 75% – 90% of the energy used for that load went to warming up the water. You couldn’t ask for a more simple way to reduce your carbon footprint! Check out Cold Water Saves for more info!
Inflate Your Tires Correctly
Did you know that maintaining the correct amount of tire pressure can help reduce your carbon footprint? Studies show that inflating your tires to the correct amount of pressure will help you get about 3% more gas mileage. It will also help your tires last longer and wear more evenly! Better gas mileage means less fuel needed for you to get to where you need to be.
You can usually check the label on the driver’s side door for the proper amounts of pressure. Keep in mind if you have after-market tires these amounts may differ. The pressure indicated on the tire itself is generally going to be the maximum amount of pressure and not the right amount for your vehicle and needs. Refer to your vehicle’s manual to find out what amount of pressure you should keep your tires inflated to.
Remember that as the temperature drops, so does your tire pressure! You will lose about 7 kPa or 1 psi for every 5°C drop in temperature. It’s always a good idea to check your tire pressure at least once a month.
Replace Incandescent Light Bulbs with LED Bulbs
LED bulbs use only a small fraction of the energy used by incandescent light bulbs. They also last much longer! Most incandescent bulbs will last about 1200 hours and consume 60 watts. LED bulbs last about 50000 hours and consume 6-8 watts.
An incandescent light bulb produces about 2045 KG of CO2 per year, while an LED bulb only produces about 205 KG of CO2 per year. You can easily see that this will reduce your carbon footprint very quickly!
While these are just a few tips to help reduce your carbon footprint, they certainly are not the only easy and quick tips out there!