Reduce Your Carbon Footprint: Changes You Can Make At Home Today
If you were to look up the term “carbon footprint calculator” in a search engine right now, you would be met with a slew of websites offering to help you quantify your carbon impact on the planet. And when you’ve finally finished the questionnaire, it can be hard not to feel overwhelmed by the numbers that you see.
What do you mean my household electricity accounts for 26,525 lbs of carbon per year?
What do you mean the car I drive to commute to work accounts for 9,075 lbs of carbon per week?
What do you mean the average waste emissions for an American household of 2 people is 1,383 lbs? And I produce HOW much?
That can’t be right!
So you use a different calculator, you know, for a second opinion. Except this other calculator includes carbon emissions produced by your consumption of goods and services, along with everything else. Then the unthinkable happens: you’re faced with an even larger number.
Cue the crippling eco-anxiety and regret for your carbon impact.
If this scenario sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. A recent survey done by Yale University found that an all-time record of 70% of Americans are worried to some degree about climate change. That’s nearly three quarters of the third most populated country in the world!
It’s easy to judge yourself harshly for lifestyle practices that contribute to climate change, and feelings of guilt and shame for your impact go hand in hand with feelings of powerlessness. So what can you do to help ease this eco-anxiety?
Working toward reducing your carbon footprint and adopting more sustainable practices can often make a positive difference in your outlook, since living more in line with your personal values can help you cultivate your sense of self. Taking action, no matter how small, can also help reduce anxiety by making you feel like you’re contributing to the solution and not the problem.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified transportation, energy use, and waste disposal as some of the top contributors to a household’s emissions. You can start the process of reducing your carbon footprint by identifying which of these three categories you want to focus on first.
One of the most effective ways to begin thinking about how to reduce your carbon footprint is to reconsider how much, and how often, you travel. When you are able, try taking a train, bus or better yet, ride a bike. If you still need to drive a car to get around (since not everyone has access to a robust public transportation system), consider these tips for making your trip more eco friendly:
- Regularly service your car to keep it working efficiently
- Check your tires to make sure the tire pressure is not low
- Use cruise control on long drives
- Be gentle with the gas pedal
- Carpool as often as possible
Homes use large amounts of energy for heating, cooling, lighting, and many other functions. Making even small changes to these functions can make a big difference. Consider the following:
- Turn down the heat and water heater
- Turn off lights and unplug appliances when not in use
- Use a laptop vs a desktop computer
- Replace incandescent lights with LED lights
- Choose renewable energy when possible
According to the EPA, Americans generate about 258 million tons of trash a year, 169 million tons of which ends up in landfills and incinerators! The goal is to reduce the amount of solid waste that goes to the landfill, which in turn will reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted from their decomposition. Here are some tips:
- Reduce your consumption of products
- Reuse or repair items before throwing them away
- Recycle any paper, plastic, aluminum or steel
- Lower your food waste by freezing leftovers and eating them
- Compost the food you are not able to consume
While you’re working on reducing your carbon impact, try your best not to get overwhelmed. As you start making changes, you’ll realize there are hundreds of things you can do to live a little more sustainably. The key is to pick your battles, and work out where you can get the most return on your effort. You can’t do it all, but you can do your best.
Find this article in the February 2022 issue of Green Living Magazine by clicking here!