6 Easy, Actionable Steps That You Can Take Daily To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
A recent announcement by the United Nations’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change revealed that by 2030 temperatures will have risen to 2.5 Fahrenheit (or 1.5 Celcius) above the average of the pre-industrial era, the threshold that experts view as the tipping point for environmental disaster. Imagine a worldwide increase in floods, droughts, wildfires and typhoons. All this could happen in as few as 12 years, unless we immediately start taking active steps to become more environmentally conscious as a society.
Luckily, being more environmentally friendly on a daily basis isn’t rocket science — just tweaking some of your day-to-day habits can go a long way in helping our planet. Here are six easy, actionable steps that you can start taking today to become more sustainable. No one’s perfect but even just taking these steps 80 percent of the time can go a long way in helping our environment.
1. Keep a reusable shopping bag with you at all times
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), people use more than 380 billion disposable plastic bags every year in the United States. The manufacturing industry requires approximately 12 million barrels of oil to produce this amount of plastic bags every year. Disposable plastic bags end up getting discarded in our environment, harming wildlife — since many animals eat plastic bags thinking that they’re food — clogging our sewers and releasing toxic matter into our soil. And although some say that paper bags are more environmentally friendly, all those trees used to produce them likely disagree.
At the end of the day, the more frequently you reuse a shopping bag, the more environmentally friendly it becomes. This is why we suggest that you opt to use reusable polypropylene bags for your grocery shopping. These bags are durable and will likely last you for years, whereas plastic and paper bags will only be good for a couple uses. There are plenty of reusable shopping bags that fold into themselves, making them small enough to carry around daily even in a small purse.
2. Buy a reusable water bottle
As we previously mentioned, the fact that we use and discard an insane amount of plastic every year is doing horrible things to our environment and to our planet’s animals. So investing as little as $10 in a reusable water bottle instead of using multiple plastic water bottles every day could seriously reduce your environmental (or carbon) footprint — which is basically the amount of environmental resources that you use on a daily basis and therefore the impact that you have on the environment as an individual.
Keeping a reusable water bottle at your desk will have the added advantage of prompting you to drink more water. For optimal health, you should be drinking at least eight eight-ounce glasses of water per day (roughly two liters). Drinking your recommended daily water will keep your skin hydrated and help keep your energy levels up.
3. Eat less red meat, or stop eating it altogether
The production of red meat has a heavy impact on our environment. Red meat requires 28 times more land to produce than pork or chicken and 160 times more land to produce compared to plant crops like potatoes, wheat and rice. It also requires 11 times more water. What’s more, livestock farming in general accounts for 18 percent of human-produced greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
Eating red meat frequently is also not-so-great for your health. Frequent meat consumption is linked to increased risk for cancer, heart disease and could even shorten your lifespan. Eating a more plant-based diet will do wonders for both your health and that of our planet.
4. Use your dishwasher in a more eco-friendly way
If you have a dishwasher, try not to run it unless it’s a full load — this will allow you to spare a ton of water and electricity. Aim to scrape food off of dishes without pre-washing them before you loading the dishwasher; this will also help conserve water. You should steer clear of the ‘pots and pans’ and ‘heavy-duty’ settings on your dishwasher unless it’s an absolute necessity since these settings use extra-hot water and more of it, which boosts energy use. The ‘rinse’ setting also uses unnecessary water when it pre-washes your dishes before running them through a full cycle. Picking the ‘air dry’ option instead of ‘heat dry’ will also help our planet because the former setting uses as much as 50 percent less power than the latter.
5. Take public transportation or carpool as much as possible
The negative environmental impact that our cars have on our planet is well documented and yet we still seem to cling to the wheel of our little carbon dioxide-emitting boxes. Collectively, cars and trucks account for nearly one-fifth of all U.S. gas emissions, producing around 24 pounds of carbon dioxide and other global-warming gases for every gallon of gas.
Walking or biking to work would be ideal for both reducing your carbon footprint and for your health. But if your commute doesn’t allow for either of these two options, taking public transportation or carpooling are the next best things. Reducing the number of cars on the road by commuting via public transportation or carpooling is a great way to lessen your carbon footprint. You’ll also benefit from the increased social interaction that comes with carpooling to work with others and from the added exercises that comes with many forms of public transit.
6. Plug all of your chargers into a single power strip and turn the power off when you’re not using it
Believe it or not, your phone and laptop chargers are using electricity even when you’re not charging anything — this phenomenon is commonly known as vampire power. Ideally, you’d unplug all of your chargers from their socket when you’re not using them, but we know that that’d be a royal pain in the butt. So as an alternative, we recommend that you plug all of your chargers into one single power strip and then simply power it off using that little red button when you’re not charging your devices. This way, you’ll reduce the amount of electricity that’s being used when you’re not around which will save you money and decrease your carbon footprint. A great way to kill two birds with one stone (but not really, because we love birds).