In recent years, you may have heard the term “Carbon Footprint.” You may have even noticed that some products and services now label their goods with energy ratings. So what does it mean, and why is a footprint bad? A Carbon Footprint is the amount of CO2 (carbon dioxide) and other greenhouse gases that you contributed to as a result of your activities within a given time frame. Many everyday activities account for a large portion of these emissions and, in turn, contribute to global warming.
The warming of the Earth leads to droughts, reduced cloud-coverage, melting of polar icecaps, flooding, food shortages, etc. Even if you don’t buy into the idea of climate change, there are other indicators of unnecessary waste. If you’ve taken a look at your local landfill, I think you would agree that something needs to change. The United States, as a whole, has been notorious for its large part of carbon dioxide emissions into the Earth’s atmosphere. We’ve made much headway due to increased wind power, natural gas, and recent energy policies.
So what can you do to reduce your footprint? There are many ways that we can alter our routines to become more sustainable. Some of these changes may seem drastic. Pick some ways that you are comfortable with. Here are some things that you can start doing today.
- Carpool or Ride a bike – The average car emits around one pound of CO2 per mile. It may not be reasonable to bike everywhere you go, but consider cutting back on your driving. Walk or bike to your local stores or parks. If you run or bike for exercise, try starting from your house instead of driving across town.
- Buy online – Purchasing products online allows you to browse for an item without even getting into your car. Sure, the item needs to be delivered, but delivery routes can be very efficient.
- Turn off your lights and electronics – This may seem obvious but many people don’t know that computers and TVs use 10 – 40% of power when left on standby. Turn off appliances when not in use and remove chargers when charging is complete.
- Go Vegan – This is possibly the most effective way to minimize your carbon footprint. Those who cut out animal products from their diet stand to decrease their carbon footprint dramatically. As InquirerBusinessreports, Livestock farming now accounts for the use of 70 percent of the global freshwater and 38 percent of the world’s land-use conversion. Some 70 percent of the Amazon Rainforest, in fact, has already been cleared for grazing and feed crop production. World Watch magazine reported that livestock and their byproducts actually account for at least 32.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51 percent of annual worldwide GHG emissions as noted by Inquirer Science/Health on April 20. Forbes online, in its April 28 issue, wrote that the 2006 report estimated that 18 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions attributable to cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, camels, pigs and poultry (chicken) were in fact updated to 51 percent, citing an analysis performed by Robert Goodland, a former World Bank Group environmental adviser, with cowriter Jeff Anhang, an environmental specialist at the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corp. If you find it impossible to go completely vegan, try vegetarian for a while. You may find it easier to make the switch gradually.
- Buy Food Locally – Foods that are grown local, travel less. Not only is this better for the environment but it also says a lot about the quality of your food. Produce that travels 10 miles is certainly fresher than produce that travels 1,000 miles. Many grocery chains now partner with local farmers to provide a wide variety of locally grown fruit and vegetables.
- Recycle – Many cities now offer recycling bins to go alongside trash bins for curbside pickup. Be sure that you are recycling glass containers, paper, aluminum cans, steel and bi-metallic cans, corrugated paper, and plastics. For old electronics, check your listings to find an electronics recycling program near you. They will provide you a safe way of recycling unwanted cell phones, computers, monitors, printers, scanners, and so on. Remember to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. You are not truly recycling unless you buy recycled products. A great way to reduce is to use cloth bags for everyday use and at grocery stores. Many stores now offer green alternatives to plastic and paper bags. You can find eco-friendly, cloth bags online for as little as 44 cents apiece. Because they are durable and reusable, cloth bags are responsible for significantly less energy usage and pollution than paper or plastic.
- Use Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs – If every family replaced just one light bulb in their home with an energy-efficient bulb, we would save enough energy to illuminate 3 million homes for a year and save around $600 million in annual energy costs, preventing 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year. That’s equivalent to about 800,000 cars. You may even qualify for a tax credit by using energy-efficient bulbs. Check with your energy service provider to see what programs they offer to help you in getting started. Some even offer free light bulbs for a year and data analysis to see your savings.
- Go Paperless – If the US cut paper use by just 10% it would eliminate 1.6 million tons of greenhouse gases which is the equivalent of taking 280,000 cars off the road for one year. The next time a birthday comes up, think about the effects of sending your greeting via USPS. By using traditional mail, you consume paper, waste energy from the post office, and produce gas emissions from the vehicles delivering the mail. Instead, use email, text, or a phone call.
Of course, there are many other ways in which a person can manage their carbon footprint. These are just a few to get you started. With most of these suggestions, you will not only lighten your load on Mother Earth, but will save money and improve your overall health. It’s really a win-win situation. For more information on ways to reduce your carbon footprint, visit CarbonFund.Org.
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