Ten Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Global warming and your carbon footprint
Global warming is a problem.
We are hearing it from all sides. Excess carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gasses, spew into the atmosphere every day due to the burning of fossil fuels, the spraying of pesticides, animal agriculture, landfills and the garment industry, just to name a few causes. Our climate is slowly warming, causing an increase in freak storms and a rise in sea levels. If we are not able to reverse it the implications are only too clear. It could render the climate too hot for life to exist on this planet.
A scary verdict.
But I believe there is hope. I believe there are many people waking up to all the ways in which we as individuals are causing harm to the environment and are trying to do something about it. And the more of us who awaken and start to spread awareness about how we can live in harmony with the earth rather than destroy it, I believe the crisis of global warming may not have the drastic consequences that the scientists are warning us about.
But there is limited time to act and we have to work together. It’s up to us.
This is the real reason that I decided to go zero waste. Because I believe that the small actions of the many can cause ripples of great change.
But in order to put this change in motion, we each need to individually take responsibility for our own carbon footprint.
I have found that going zero waste and reducing my carbon footprint are essentially one and the same. Zero waste is trying to re-imagine how we live to create a circular economic model that realistically accommodates the fact that we live on a planet with limited resources. This is to replace the old linear economic model that is based on infinite growth with infinite resources.
The act of reducing your carbon footprint is essentially seeking to achieve the same outcome. Zero waste is focusing more specifically on reducing personal waste, while the former focuses on ways to reduce the emission of CO2 to help mitigate climate change. However both focus on a need for mindfulness surrounding our daily actions and habits.
To read more about going zero waste, check out my article: Zero Waste is a Journey – 8 Steps to Help You Get Started
So how exactly can you reduce your carbon footprint to help mitigate climate change? Here are 10 ways.
1). Invest in rooftop solar, buy into community solar, or purchase renewable energy credits
Solar is expensive, right?
Wrong! In the last few years, the price of rooftop solar has drastically been reduced due to improvements in the efficiency of the technology. Also, many states provide subsidies that greatly reduce the overall cost, sometimes up to 30%, not to mention the increase in the equity of your home once solar is installed.
Not only that, but there are companies that are now catering to those living in apartments or who don’t own their own homes. They allow you to purchase something called renewable energy credits that offset the emissions from your electricity usage with clean energy from wind or solar.
My husband and I use Arcadia Power* and 100% of our electricity use is offset by wind energy through the purchase of renewable energy credits. They also have community solar options. What’s even more amazing is that it’s a completely free service! And in fact our electricity bill every month has greatly decreased from around $50 a month to $25.
They also have options to buy into community solar arrays, which works on the same principle. Renewable energy is no longer only an option for the wealthy home owner! Now virtually anyone can benefit from this technology.
2). Drive less
Yearly, cars produce around 30% of CO2 emissions worldwide. That’s a lot! Every gallon of gas burned produces 20lbs of CO2. Imagine all the hundreds of gallons your car burns throughout the year, so driving less does a lot to reduce your carbon footprint.
My husband and I only own one car, which is essentially his, and I take public transportation almost everywhere. Also with the amazing invention of ride share services like Lyft and Uber, not having a car is becoming more and more convenient.
I love taking public transportation. It hearkens to when I was living in Europe and never fails to make me feel nostalgic and peaceful. The public transit in Europe is much cleaner, more convenient and regular, but there is something so peaceful about sitting on the bus or train and just listening to music and watching the trees rush by the window, no matter what continent you’re on.
Electric cars are also becoming more and more affordable for the average consumer. My mom has a leaf which she plugs directly into her solar array. Her favorite thing to say is “I’m driving sunshine!” with a big grin on her face.
3). Eat less meat from humane, sustainable sources
Animal agriculture is a huge producer of greenhouse gasses.
Not only that, but factory farming is the cruelest and most inhumane practice in existence. I can’t stomach all the awful things done to animals so that we can consume as much meat as we want. Animals are living, breathing, sentient beings and don’t deserve to be tortured and mutilated so that we can eat. And this extends into the dairy industry as well! Just take a look at the caged chickens above.
But there is another way.
How did people eat before the invention of factory farming? They sourced their meat from local farmers who raised their animals the way they were intended to be raised: on a pasture, free in the open air. Then they were slaughtered humanely and the consumer was able to get the meat fresh from the local butcher.
We must return to this model.
I am not vegan because I don’t believe that the death of animals is inherently a bad thing. I know this is a bit of a controversial statement, especially coming from an animal lover. But I’m serious.
Death is “bad” only as much as it is feared. Our society fears death more than anything else and therefore labels it as “bad”. But death is part of life. If an animal has a good life in green pastures and then dies so that I can live, I only see that as continuing the circle of life. One day, my body will die, and it will decompose in the earth and things will grow from that fertility.
What I can’t condone is if that animal is treated cruelly and suffers the entire duration of its life so that I may live. That is why I am what I call a “conscious omnivore”. I eat very little meat, and when I do, I ensure it was pastured on a family farm.
But in order to make sure that’s the case, you have to research the brand of meat you buy. “Raised without hormones or antibiotics” doesn’t mean anything. Neither does “cage free”. You must find the words “humanely raised/pasture raised” to make sure. The best is to buy directly from local farmers at the farmers market, or to google the brand. I often buy Mary’s brand from Natural Grocers. Those chickens are definitely pasture raised!
Reducing your meat consumption and sourcing it from humane, sustainable sources is one of the best things you can do in reducing your carbon footprint. And morally as well, in my opinion.
4). Eat only organic produce
The spraying of pesticides is killing the planet. And it is killing us. I read somewhere that a recent study of women’s breast milk in the US shows that it contains high levels of glyphosphate, a highly toxic chemical found in round up and other pesticides. To me, that is incentive enough to support organic agriculture.
Not only that, but the heavy spraying of pesticides is having horrific impact on our pollinators and other insects that we depend on. It is also depleting the nutrient rich level of topsoil needed to grow healthy crops.
Conventional farming blatantly disregards the planets ecosystems and does much to harm them. If we continue like this, the soil will be rendered infertile, the pollinators will die and we won’t be able to grow enough food to feed everyone.
Organic produce, grown without the use of pesticides, works with the cycles of the earth to grow nutrient rich, bio-diverse fruits and vegetables that feed pollinators and nourish our bodies.
While buying organic can sometimes be more expensive, I am so willing to pay a few extra cents per vegetable to ensure the health of the planet and of myself. The hidden cost lies in the medical bills due to health problems from eating nutrient sapped foods filled with chemicals, and from the slow destruction of the planet. In the end, conventional produce bears a much higher cost than we can possibly imagine.
I buy my produce from Natural Grocers because their products are significantly cheaper than Whole Foods, and all of their produce is organic without exception, and is often sourced locally.
5). Source your food locally as much as possible
A lot of fossil fuels are burned in the transportation of food. Sourcing your food locally not only prevents unnecessary fossil fuels from being burned, but feeds into the health of the local economy and community.
Farmers markets are incredible for this, as well as buying directly from local farmers. Many farms have something called “farm shares” where you can get a share of the crop in exchange for a few hours of volunteer work every month.
I haven’t done this yet, because my mom has a huge organic garden and I help her out in exchange for tons and tons of produce.
Which brings up another point. If you have space, start a small vegetable garden! It is one of the most rewarding things I have done. There is something so incredible about getting your hands in the dirt and nurturing the plants that will then feed you.
I also read somewhere that the microbes in the soil where you live are especially good for your body and your gut health. When you eat plants grown locally, those microbes are able to enter into your body and aid your health in many amazing ways.
6). Compost your food scraps
If you have to pick only one thing to do for the planet, composting should be it! I feel like I talk about this every post, but it’s super important!
It’s a common misconception that food scraps will decompose in the landfill.
In order to decompose, food scraps need proper aeration as well as contact with the microbes in the soil – not to mention earth worms and other insects – that cause them to break down. Landfills are often airtight, and also don’t allow the food scraps to come into contact with those microbes essential for decomposition. What happens is that they rot, producing methane, one of the most pernicious greenhouse gasses.
Landfills produce 1/3 of all methane in the US. That’s a lot! So composting alone will drastically reduce your carbon footprint.
When food scraps are properly composted, they turn into extra fertile soil that gardeners call “black gold” because it is so nutrient dense. It goes back to the earth so that it can grow more life giving fruit and vegetables and continue its never ending cycle of death and rebirth.
If you live in an urban area, don’t worry! Many cities now provide curbside composting. Just visit your city’s website to check it out. If not, just put your food scraps in compostable baggies and freeze them, then take them to a local composting facility.
Read my complete guide to urban composting here: Nature’s Greatest Magic Trick – Aka Urban Composting 101
7). Reduce your plastic consumption
I talk about this a lot because it is central to living a zero waste life. When talking about reducing your carbon footprint, plastic comes into play because it is a made from a combination of crude oil and natural gas, and global plastic production contributes greatly to the CO2 emissions of the planet. As well as polluting our oceans, rivers and countryside.
Plastic is also difficult to recycle because the quality is degraded every time it is broken down. It is also much cheaper for companies to purchase virgin plastics, rendering the market for recycled plastics virtually non-existent.
Therefore, it is better for the planet if we can go into plastic rehab and quit our addiction.
But plastic is everywhere!
Yes, it is, but with a few simple adjustments to my habits, I have been able to reduce my plastic consumption by 90%. Shopping in bulk with cotton bulk bags and reusable produce bags is the best way to do that. As well as always carrying a zero waste kit to avoid single use plastics.
To read more about how I have been able to reduce my plastic consumption, check out my article: Plastic Pollution is Destroying the Earth – Here’s How You Can Help
Also check out Inside My Zero Waste Kit – How I Avoid Plastic On the Go.
8). Hang dry your clothes
Dryers use a lot of energy and they degrade your clothing much quicker. Part of living a sustainable life is taking care of the things that you have and not automatically buying more when something breaks. I hang dry all of our clothes and have noticed an increased longevity in our garments, especially jeans. It does take slightly longer, but I think it is worth it.
9). Divest from fast fashion
The garment industry is the second largest producer of greenhouse gasses in the world. Not only that but millions of people are forced to work in horrific conditions while being paid barely enough to scratch a living. By buying clothes from brands like Forever 21, H&M, Pac Sun and others, we are collectively keeping many people in poverty and contributing hugely to global warming.
Think about all the resources needed to make those clothes, the cotton grown, the plastics that they are made of, the people who made them. Then think about the fact that they are made to fall apart and be thrown away. It is a cycle that is in no way sustainable.
That’s why I largely buy my clothes second hand. I love thrifting and finding unique pieces. I have a relatively minimalist wardrobe, although I could definitely cut down a bit. I love neutral colors and good fabrics like cotton, linen, and high quality leather.
When I do purchase something new, I make sure to choose companies whose values mirror my own. I recently purchased these shoes pictured below from Nisolo, a company that pays their workers 300% higher than fair trade wages and sources their leather from humane sources in the countryside of Peru as a byproduct of the meat industry there. They also help their workers with financial planning and ensure that their children have access to good education.
They are high quality, well made, and are a of a timeless style that will go with anything. I will have them for years to come. You really do vote with your dollars. I would much rather my money go to a brand like Nisolo where it will have a positive impact than to a company that doesn’t value their workers or the environment.
(I am not sponsored to promote this business. I just like their products!)
10). Be mindful of what you consume and where it comes from
When buying something, I like to ask myself three questions: Where and how was it made? Did it pollute the environment in that process or exploit individuals? What will happen to it once I no longer want/need it?
The over consumption of the western world is what is causing this global warming crisis in the first place. We place so much value on what we consume, as if it will add to our self worth, as if it will fill that hole inside.
But it won’t.
Our over fixation with material wealth is slowly destroying not only the planet, but our sense of aliveness and our enjoyment of this life. We must seek within, face our own emptiness and remember the inherent beauty of existence. This centers around harboring self love. If you are happy inside your own skin, you won’t look for a fix outside yourself.
In going zero waste, I have found that I place higher value on the things that I do have. I take better care of them, and I’m not looking for things to fulfill me because I know my own worth and it isn’t tied into what I own.
In reducing my overall consumption, I have also greatly reduced my carbon footprint.
The earth has enough for everyone, but we must see this abundance everywhere, and realize it is within us as well as mirrored in the world around us. We must realize that our actions are tied into the health and well being of the planet and as we destroy the planet we are destroying ourselves.
But as we shift our awareness to incorporate habits that support the health of the planet, our own health grows. All of it is interconnected. The beauty of this planet must not be allowed to perish and we can make choices that will ensure its protection.
Reducing your carbon footprint doesn’t have to be challenging, and it doesn’t have to look a certain way. Even if you incorporated two or three of the steps above into your daily habits, you will already be doing something for the planet. And these actions spread. Your friends will see what you’re doing, and will start doing it too. We are collectively making the world a better place one small action at a time.
How are you reducing your carbon footprint? Do any of these steps resonate with you? Please share in the comments below and get the conversation started! As always I am here to answer any questions you might have.
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