The Earth’s average temperature is rising each year at alarmingly high rates ‒ the 20 warmest years in our planet’s history have occurred in the last 22 years.In the face of such a large-scale problem as climate change, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Especially as just one person, how can you really make a difference?
Besides a career in the climate change domain, there are many ways your actions can help to combat our planet’s rising temperatures. By making a few simple lifestyle changes, you can lower your carbon footprint substantially. And though you may be just one person, you’re contributing to the solution and will likely inspire others to do the same. In this post, we will be discussing just a few of the many ways you as an individual can make progress on your eco-friendly goals this year.
Energy (including oil, gas, coal, electricity), water consumption, and waste all contribute to your carbon footprint. Measure your ecological footprint using this tool to calculate how many Earths we would need if everyone lived like you.
The general principle for lowering your carbon footprint is to apply the rule “Rethink, Reduce, Reuse” to various areas in your life. “Rethink” involves reconsidering your use of the item in the first place, and redesigning the item or cutting it out entirely. “Reduce” simply means to consistently lower your use of the item. Finally, “Reuse” can mean repairing and/or repurposing the item, instead of immediately throwing it away. One way to repurpose an item is by recycling it. Every city is different, so make sure to familiarize yourself with your local recycling guidelines.
Eat Plants: For most people, cutting out meat from your diet is the most impactful way to reduce your climate footprint. In fact, eliminating meat from your diet can cut your carbon footprint by as much as half.
So, consider incorporating more vegetables and grains into your diet, and less meat and animal products. Don’t worry about adhering perfectly to a vegetarian or vegan diet, especially at first. If your current diet is meat-heavy, even starting out with “Meatless Mondays” will make a big difference in reducing your carbon footprint.
distribution, lower your carbon footprint by buying from local sources.Choosing local food sustains community farmland and protects wildlife and environmental resources. Shop
at farmer’s markets, join (or create) a community garden, or grow fruits and vegetables in your own garden.
Compost: Did you know that every year, we lose and waste 1.3 billion tons of food? Instead of throwing organic materials away to the landfill, where they contribute to greenhouse gases, repurpose food waste by starting a compost. If you are turned off by the idea of keeping rotting food in a bin, don’t worry — there are lots of ways to compost, including indoor methods that don’t involve the smell.
Bonus: use the compost to fertilize your home vegetable garden!
Clothes: Clothing makes up a surprisingly large part of our carbon footprint. In fact, the
fashion industry is considered the second most polluting industry, right after oil. The fast fashion industry, rapidly producing inexpensive, mass-market clothing, is notoriously unethical and contributes 11.2 million tons of textiles to landfills each year.
Reduce your carbon footprint by buying less clothing and supporting ethical or slow fashion brands; or, even better, purchasing second-hand. Shop at thrift and vintage stores, as well as apps/online marketplaces, for second-hand pieces.
Zero Waste: Going completely zero waste is a daunting idea, but there are many easy changes you can make to live a minimal waste lifestyle. Generally, the best method to
reduce waste is simply buying less things and ditching single-use items, especially plastic ones. Instead, opt for reusable items such as reusable water bottles, cloth bags, glass containers, metal straws, and more.
DIY: To take minimal waste a step further, try making your own products yourself to reduce the amount of packaging you consume. Whether you’re DIYing your own kitchen products, cleaning products, or beauty products, you might be surprised to see how many
everyday items can be made with simple ingredients you likely already have. Many zero waste websites and blogs have recipes for everything from toothpaste to produce bags to detergent.
Repair: Finally, instead of tossing out something that is broken and replacing it with a new one, first see if you can spend time to fix it. You will save on the cost of buying a new product, along with sparing the energy it takes to manufacture and distribute it.
Another way to reduce your individual carbon emissions is by taking alternative modes of transportation. For example, if you regularly drive to work by yourself, taking public transportation or carpooling with a coworker is a great way to lower your carbon footprint. When possible, walk or bike instead of driving.
Air Travel: Air travel can make up a surprisingly large part of an individual’s carbon footprint. The aviation sector, responsible for 12% of transportation emissions, is predicted to triple in CO2 emissions by 2050.To lower your carbon footprint, reduce air travel by taking longer, less frequent trips, and direct daytime flights, especially for international trips.
Conservation: A simple way of reducing your carbon footprint is by conserving water and electricity at home. You can do this by switching to LED light bulbs, unplugging appliances when not in use, washing your clothes on cold and air drying, and more.
Switching your home to clean energy is an essential step of reducing your carbon footprint. A home energy audit can help you assess how best to improve your home’s energy efficiency. Renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, are much better for the environment, and can help you save on energy bills. If installing solar panels isn’t feasible, sourcing your home’s energy from solar farms is a more affordable option.
If you are concerned about climate change and care for the environment, now is a great time to align your life with your values and make these environmentally-minded choices. Again, remember that the most important thing is progress, not perfection. The solution to a greener world is not through a few people practicing sustainable lifestyles perfectly, but rather many practicing it imperfectly.