The carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases, including methane and carbon dioxide, that are emitted into the air due to human activities. The average carbon footprint for an American citizen is approximately 16 tons, one of the highest carbon footprint rates worldwide. Globally, the average carbon footprint is close to 4 tons.
As climate change worsens and begins to affect human and planetary life, every individual effort toward building a sustainable and better future is valuable. Individual actions today are important; how we live our lives makes a big difference to the planet. By changing our lifestyles to a much more sustainable and eco-friendly one, we can influence the behaviors and attitudes of those around us in relation to addressing the climate crisis.
Besides joining climate change protests or organizations, individuals can make a big difference by trying to reduce their carbon footprint. Here are 10 steps you can take to lower your carbon footprint-
1. Move Your Money
The way we choose to spend, save and invest our money can make a difference in reducing our carbon footprint. Some of the world’s largest banks use their customer’s money to invest in the fossil fuel industry. Since the Paris Agreement in 2015, about 60 of the world’s biggest banks spent $3.8 trillion on fossil fuels.
One should be careful when selecting a bank. Investigate your financial institution to try and find out if your money is being used for environmental destruction or another purpose. If you don’t like what you discover, break up with your bank. Leave your bank behind if it provides funds for the fossil fuel industry.
Afraid of losing your bank or choosing another one? Bank green has made the process easier by comparing ethical banks available in your locality.
2. A Vegetarian Diet
One of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint is by changing the food you consume. The dairy and meat industries are one of the leading contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Raising livestock for food generates large amounts of methane, while animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation. A plant-based diet will help reduce your contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions by 73 percent.
For daily meat-eaters, a good way to begin is to select one day of the week to avoid meat. Avoiding meat for just one day of the week can reduce your carbon footprint by 3.6kgs per day. Aim to consume products as low as possible on the food chain, such as fruits, beans, seeds, vegetables, etc.
3. Change Your Mode of Transportation
An average car generates around 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year. As of 2018, road transportation was responsible for about 17 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Trying alternative modes of transportation that don’t rely on fossil fuels will reduce your carbon footprint.
Riding your bike to work, school, college, grocery store, etc., is the best way to reduce your carbon footprint. Choose public transport over private transport. If using your vehicles less is not possible, try switching to an electric or hybrid vehicle.
4. Choose a Low-Carbon Energy Provider
An excellent way to reduce your carbon footprint is to switch your current electricity provider to a company that uses low-carbon energy, renewable or clean energy. Heat and electricity generated around 15 billion tons of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2016 alone. To avoid the brutal impacts of climate change, it is vital to reduce our reliance on the fossil fuel industry and shift to low-carbon providers instead.
Examine whether your existing electricity provider has renewable energy options. Look into various clean energy providers around your area, ask questions and ensure that their service is appropriate. If renewable energy isn’t available, advocate for it in your locality.
5. 3 R’s- Reuse, Refuse and Recycle
Humans throw away about 2.12 billion tons of water each year. 6 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from food loss and waste. Cutting down your daily waste is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint.
Reduce your consumption by carefully thinking about your purchases and if they are truly required or not. Reuse products by purchasing those with longevity in mind and repairing them instead of throwing them away. The last step is to recycle if you can’t reuse or avoid buying an item.
6. Slow Fashion Over Fast Fashion
The way the clothing industry currently designs and produces clothes results in huge amounts of waste and pollution. The fast fashion-clothing industry is responsible for 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Rethinking your fashion choices will significantly reduce your carbon footprint.
Consider purchasing second-hand (thrift) clothes. Consider purchasing clothes from sustainable and eco-friendly clothing brands if you can afford to. Research the brands first to ensure that they are following organic and sustainable practices.
7. Energy-Efficient Appliances
Before choosing a clean energy provider, first, you should consider trying to reduce your carbon footprint at home. Energy-efficient appliances use less energy and can reduce carbon footprint.
Begin with replacing white goods (washing machines, refrigerators) over 20 years old with modern energy-efficient appliances. When purchasing larger appliances, choose ones with lower energy ratings. Consider ceiling fans over air conditioners whenever possible and replace all incandescent light bulbs with LED ones.
8. Travel Wisely
Planes and cars are one of the most polluting modes of transportation. Before Covid-19, the aviation industry was likely to triple its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Consider traveling closer to home as the further you travel, the more your carbon footprint will increase. Choosing train travel over plane travel will reduce your carbon footprint by 90 percent. If you travel by plane frequently for business, opt for video conferences in your place of work. If air travel is your only option, consider offsetting your carbon emissions.
9. Regulate Temperatures At Home
As climate change worsens, reliance on air conditioners will likely triple by 2050. Manufactured cooling systems emit a greenhouse gas called Hydrofluorocarbon (HCFS)- which has a much greater heat-trapping capacity than carbon dioxide.
By lowering temperatures at home by just 1oC, you can save up to 300 kgs of carbon dioxide emissions per year. If you can afford to, invest in insulations- that can help keep warm air in your home during winter and hot air out during summer. Replacing older air conditioners can also reduce your carbon footprint.
10. Join The Revolution
Climate change is a serious issue that requires immediate action and efforts from society. A window of opportunity is closing, and the planet is rapidly hurtling towards an unsafe future. While individual efforts are important, effective progress will also come from using global and collaborative power.
Joining global rebellions against the destructive attitudes of industries and governments can help to advocate for a sustainable and better future. Doing this can make a huge difference in the shortest amount of time.
Dr. Emily Greenfield is a highly accomplished environmentalist with over 30 years of experience in writing, reviewing, and publishing content on various environmental topics. Hailing from the United States, she has dedicated her career to raising awareness about environmental issues and promoting sustainable practices.