The effects of climate change can already be felt around the world. Globally, new temperature highs and lows have been recorded, the ice caps have melted and natural disasters are more frequent. Climate change is mainly caused by human activities that produce greenhouse gases. If we want to save our earth, we need to play our part in reducing our carbon footprint.
What is a carbon footprint?
The total amount of greenhouse gas, namely carbon dioxide, released during a particular human activity is known as a carbon footprint. It also includes methane, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons and hydrofluorocarbons. Accumulated excess greenhouse gases that are released will trap heat in the atmosphere and cause temperatures to rise.
There are many factors to consider when taking into account your carbon footprint. You want to consider how things are produced, where they are transported from or how energy efficient appliances can be. While this can be overwhelming, making small changes over time can make a difference. There are many simple ways to reduce your carbon footprint.
Importance of reducing carbon footprint
Climate change is real and our planet will not survive if we don’t make an effort to save it. Individually as we make small changes, we are giving the Earth a chance at survival. You might think it’s not a big deal but consider that the ice age temperature was only 6 degrees cooler than today.
By minimizing the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, we are giving the ozone layer a chance to heal. Even with these efforts, it could take over a decade to reduce global temperatures. Under the Paris Agreement, governments around the world have agreed to attempt to reduce our warming by 1.5 degrees and attempt to reach net zero emissions.
Play your part and make intentional choices at home, work, and school to reduce your carbon footprint.
Getting energy efficient at home
So much time is spent at home and we have most control within our own homes. This is the best place to start when attempting to reduce your carbon footprint.
- Turn off all light switches when you leave a room even if it’s for a short while.
- Unplug your devices from the main socket when they’re not in use.
- Get energy efficient appliances to reduce energy wastage. Look for products that are energy star certified.
- Use less air conditioning in the summer and opt for energy efficient fans. If you must use air conditioning, choose air conditioners with inverter technology to save energy.
- In the winter, keep the curtains closed to trap heat and lower your thermostat.
Making a difference in climate change at work
Inspire your coworkers to join you in making changes at the office. While making a positive social change, it will also help to reduce costs in the long run.
- Opt for laptops instead of desktops. Laptops consume less power and also contain less harmful substances. Use battery efficient settings when possible.
- Go digital and minimize printouts. Utilize the ability to view everything on your computer and avoid printing documents unless they’re completely necessary.
- Carpool when commuting to work or to meetings. While it requires more planning and effort, carpooling reduces your carbon footprint significantly.
- Eliminate single use office supplies. Choose paper clips over staples, refillable inks and envelopes with metal clasps.
- Save paper by using both sides and recycle used paper.
Promote environmental sustainability at school
Teachers and students can work together to reduce carbon footprints at school. Setting up systems that encourage this in school will allow for sustainable, effective changes to take place.
- Raise awareness through education. Start campaigns to educate students and teachers to be more conscious about the environment.
- Introduce a compost bin in the cafeteria. All the food waste can be used to fertilize plants in school. This builds a habit of composting in both students and teachers.
- Reuse or recycle packaging from deliveries. There are tons of packaging that gets tossed out that could be reused for projects in the classroom.
- Reduce energy waste in school by turning off switches in classrooms and common areas that are not in use.
Sustainable fashion choices with clothes
Fashion trends change at a rate that’s detrimental to the environment. In fact, fast fashion produces up to 10% of carbon emissions. Making informed choices about the clothes you wear allows you to dress sustainably.
- Avoid shopping at fast fashion retailers that produce clothes cheaply and unsustainably. Instead, look for fair trade logos that specify the sustainability of the clothes.
- Thrift or get second hand clothes. You can also join a ‘clothes swap’ to switch out your wardrobe and stay fashion forward.
- Donate old clothes that you no longer use. You could also choose to sell them second hand. This will help reduce your waste and make some extra money.
- Before purchasing clothes, ask yourself how often you’d wear them. Purchase clothing that you’re likely to wear often and will last longer.
Minimizing greenhouse gasses from food
Your carbon footprint is more than just what you purchase, it’s all the effort that went into producing the goods. We purchase food on a daily basis and it is one of the biggest portions of consumption. Being mindful of our food purchases can greatly reduce your environmental impact.
- Reduce your intake of meat and animal based products. The meat industry is one of the biggest contributors of greenhouse gases and produces up to 14.5% of all emissions. You may not be able to cut it out completely, but reducing your intake will still help.
- Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables that are sourced sustainably.
- Try to reduce buying in bulk as it increases consumption and also increases wastage.
- Minimize food wastage. Take away unfinished meals from restaurants to finish later on. Plan your portions when you cook and freeze unfinished food.
- Buy from your local farmer’s market. Meat and produce sourced locally have less transportation impact on the environment.
Learn the 5Rs
We can also reduce our carbon footprint by practicing the 5Rs. The 5Rs promote sustainability and helps reduce the global waste crisis. In addition to recycling, we need to take steps to minimize our waste. Let’s explore how the 5Rs can reduce our carbon footprint.
The first step is to try and refuse waste when possible to eliminate it. Some things you can do are:
- Refuse plastic bags at grocery stores. Bring along your own reusable bag or containers to reduce packaging waste.
- Refuse printed receipts, cards, or flyers whenever possible.
- Refuse single use plastics like straws and cutleries. Bring along your own reusable items.
When you can’t refuse, then reduce. Consider your consumption and make a plan of where you can cut down usage. Reducing impulse buying can help you stop buying things you probably don’t even need. You can also reduce the amount of energy and electricity used by reconsidering your product choices.
We won’t be able to completely cut out everything that harms the environment, so the goal is to reduce where we can.
Reusing items means using items repeatedly while they’re functional. You can also repair items to prolong their shelf life. Make intentional choices to purchase items that you can reuse to reduce the purchase of single use items. Replace disposable batteries with rechargeable batteries and use refillable water bottles.
There are plenty of reusable things around the house that often end up going in the trash. Packaging boxes and jars can be reused to store things. Cling film, foil and even ziplock bags can often be reused. Here are some interesting ways in which you can reuse old plastic bottles.
A popular concept is upcycling, otherwise known as repurposing old items. Some items can’t be used for their original intention but can be modified for a new purpose.
Here are some examples of repurposing:
- Lone socks can be used as cleaning rags
- Craft old t-shirts into reusable bags
- Make new crayons from broken one
- Turn broken furniture into new ones
Repurposing items is a great time to get creative with the things you already have at home.
If you’ve tried all the other R’s and you still have waste, then it’s time to recycle. It’s important to separate your waste when you’re recycling so that it does not end up in a landfill. Recyclables can be separated into paper, plastic, glass and metal. You can also recycle clothes and electronics so they don’t have to end up in the trash.
A carbon offset reduces the greenhouse gases in one location to make up for greenhouse gases emitted elsewhere. This can be done by contributing to projects that help to reduce carbon emissions in the atmosphere.
For example, if you had to take a flight and would like to compensate for your carbon footprint, you can do so by purchasing carbon credits that will reduce carbon emissions on your behalf. There are carbon offset projects that focus on planting trees which is one of the most efficient ways of combating climate change.
Carbon offsetting cannot work in isolation and should not be the main effort in reducing our carbon footprints. However, it is great when partnered with other efforts to reduce emissions.
It’s important to be conscious of the impact we leave on earth. Reversing climate change and helping our planet is a combined effort. Here are some other things you could also try:
- Continue to support companies that are eco friendly and are working towards sustainability.
- Vote for leaders who are committed to reversing climate change and will implement strategies to reduce emissions. Corporate action and holding large manufactures responsible for their pollution will make lasting changes.
- Speak to your friends about it. Encourage someone to join you in reducing carbon emissions.
Habits take time to form and you wouldn’t be able to completely erase your carbon footprint overnight. Start with one small thing and build on it to make it sustainable for you. Moving towards a zero waste lifestyle does not have to be scary but can start with some simple changes. Let’s all do our part to save the earth we live on.