According to the World Health Organization, climate change causes an increase in malnutrition, thanks to the effect on food crops, and malaria, thanks to the rising temperature increasing the mosquito population.
Increased air pollution has also increased respiratory problems like asthma and allergies.
There’s no doubt climate change is changing the way we live. Global temperatures are slowly rising, and sea levels are slowly rising as well.
If you’re worried about the impact of your personal carbon footprint (or your ecological footprint) there are plenty of things you can do. It only takes a few changes around the house to make a huge impact on the environment.
Here are our top 17 tips for lowering your carbon footprint, and taking your first steps to save the planet.
1. Say No To Air Travel
Travelling for work is sometimes unavoidable, but keeping both feet on the ground, by driving or taking the train instead of air travel you can remove half your carbon emissions.
The train may take longer than by plane, but it’s a lot cleaner. Plus, you get to enjoy more sights!
2. Take Public Transit, Carpool, or Bike
Remember that thing I just said about driving? You can cut down on that even more by carpooling or using public transit.
According to The Rideshare Company, the average American spends 18 days of the year in a car. That’s a long time on the road! It’s also a lot of carbon dioxide. The less cars on the road, the less CO2 from the exhaust.
So, what about using an electric car? It’s true running an electric car is easier on the environment than gas cars, but the manufacturing still pours a lot of greenhouse gases into the air.
A better way to reduce your carbon footprint during your commute is to take a bus or carpool. And, if the trip is less than a mile, you can walk or ride a bike. That cuts down about 15% of your carbon footprint, and it’s a great option to stay fit and healthy, too!
3. Eat Less Meat
Speaking of healthy… I’m not suggesting everyone go vegetarian overnight, but to be honest, it would probably be a lot better for the environment.
In particular, beef and lamb emit huge quantities of methane gas, and producing the farmland to feed them can have its own negative environmental impact.
Simply cutting beef out of your diet can cut 20% out of your carbon emissions. Just by reducing your beef and lamb consumption, you can reduce your carbon footprint by a lot.
Bad news if you love burgers, but great news for the environment and your health!
4. Support Your Local Environmental Initiatives
Instead of going to big box and chain grocery stores, support your local farmers, and buy your fruit and veggies at the farmers market. They often use healthier and more organic practices that are better on the environment, and it means less travel, and less time in your car, too.
You can also “vote with your wallet” by supporting smaller local companies while you’re out shopping, eating, or buying coffee.
Keeping these smaller companies open at the expense of less-environmentally-friendly options can do more to sway a company toward environmentally-friendly practices than any personal initiative of your own.
5. Consume Less Overall
This one is a no-brainer, but it still needs to be stated: Buy less stuff.
A single T-shirt may have caused emissions equal to two or three days’ power consumption! Like I just mentioned, corporations often do far less to reduce their carbon footprints than individuals, even though they produce far more greenhouse gases.
And, the less you go out, or spend money on things you don’t need, the less will end up being thrown out into a landfill somewhere.
You’ve heard it since grade school: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! And that means buying much less junk, especially junk that you don’t absolutely need.
6. Drink Tap Water Instead of Bottled
A decent water-filtration system is a lot cheaper than buying bottled water, and it creates a lot less waste too.
You may not even need to filter your tap water! Believe it or not, in developed countries like Canada and the U.S., tap water in urban areas is usually safe to drink.
If you’re living in a more rural area, get a good quality filtration system for your tap that will remove contaminants and make the water safe.
You can learn more about tap water and bottled water (and water filters) in this article.
By switching to a reusable bottle and keeping a pitcher of ice water in the fridge, you’re saving an average of 167 disposable water bottles per person, per year, which totals about 50 billion water bottles a year across America!
7. Switch To A White Trash Bag
Here’s something you may not know:
The pigment in black trash bags isn’t biodegradable. They aren’t recyclable plastic, and will never break down either.
Switch to white plastic, which is recyclable. It’ll have a huge long-term effect on the environment.
As an aside, some companies produce clear garbage bags now, and if you need incentive to stop buying so much stuff, just try using these for a couple weeks. I guarantee, when you see how much trash you’re generating, it’s going to make you want to cut back!
8. Make Some Repairs
If you live in an older home, chances are your home is poorly insulated and drafty. Plug up those drafts by making sure your house is well insulated. Be sure to seal doors and windows with energy-efficient replacements, too.
If you want more in-detail steps, be sure to check out these 8 tips to making your home more sustainable.
9. And Update Your Old Heating…
Switch out your old gas and oil boilers for an electric model and save a third of your fuel costs. Methane gas and oil pollution are some of the biggest threats to our environment today, so cleaner energy is a must.
10. Turn Down Your Thermostat!
The simple act of turning off your thermostat while you’re not home can save you 15% on your energy bill. By keeping cool during the day, and warming up with blankets and sweaters instead, you can significantly reduce your carbon footprint.
An investment in a smart home thermostat may also be a good idea. A smart thermostat like the ones from Nest and Ecobee make it easy to control your home temperature wherever you are.
Over the long run, changing your home’s temperature by only a few degrees can make a big difference. Save money on your energy bill, and save the environment too!
11. That Goes For Air Conditioning Too!
Even the best window air conditioners are tough on the environment.
So, switching to central air or using more natural methods to cool your home is a better way to go. If you need to use window box air conditioners, keep them turned off at night.
Or, put them on a timer, to cut down your carbon emissions drastically!
12. Help Out Mother Nature By Planting Trees
Joining a tree-planting group or just planting trees in your yard is also a way to give back to the environment.
A single young tree absorbs 13 bounds of carbon dioxide each year. A single 10-year-old tree releases enough oxygen into the air to support the carbon emissions of two people, annually!
There’s a lot that you can do by planting trees and plants.
13. Plant Bamboo to Filter Air and Lower Carbon Dioxide
Bamboo is a great option for a house plant. And, it’s low-maintenance for those of us who don’t have the greenest of thumbs.
Bamboo is beautiful, and it grows quickly. As a bonus, it sucks up four times as much carbon dioxide than other trees! Inside or out, bamboo is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint.
14. Switch to LED Light Bulbs (and other Energy Efficient Alternatives)
Switching your light bulbs from incandescent to LEDs can reduce up to 1300 pounds of carbon dioxide over the life of the bulb! They can last up to ten years, meaning less replacing the bulb for you, and less bulbs end up in a landfill for everyone else!
You can also try getting dimmer light switches, which allow you to control the brightness of each LED bulb.
This means you will have the ability to save energy, and can reduce brightness of your lights during the night as well.
15. Spare energy in the kitchen (and garage, and office…)
It’s not just about the light bulbs. There are plenty of low-energy appliances on the market today, from stoves and fridges, to vacuums. even your basic outlets can sometimes be modified for low-energy alternatives.
When buying new appliances or electronics, make sure that your product is Energy Star rated.
These products will generally be energy-efficient and will help you save money in the long term.
16. Use a laptop instead of a desktop
You might be surprised to learn that a laptop counts as a low-energy electronic.
At least when compared to a big desktop computer, it is. Laptops are optimized for the maximum battery power, and they run best when they’re allowed to run out the battery before you charge.
That means they take a lot less energy than your big, bulky desktop. They’re also handier to have around, since you can do everything on the go.
17. Unplug Your Electronic Devices
In our wired-up world, this might seem a bit like sacrilege, but honestly, turning off and powering down your gadgets completely is better for them. They don’t overheat so fast, and tend to last longer.
Powering down or unplugging your tech when you’re not using it will make a small dent in your carbon footprint overall, but the $100 a year it saves you on your energy bills is no small change!
Plus, staying glued to your smartphone screen isn’t good for you or your eyesight. Turn your phones off for a while, and enjoy some nature!
Start Taking Action Today!
It’s surprisingly easy to make small changes to your lifestyle to lower your carbon footprint. Saving the environment doesn’t have to mean becoming a minimalist vegan growing your own crops overnight.
Just by doing a handful of small things that will save you money anyway, and keep you healthier, you can impact the environment in a big way!
Once you start, you’ll find there are lots of small things that will go a long way to reducing not only your personal footprint, but the carbon footprint of your family, and your community.
Do you have any other tips or strategies you use to reduce carbon (and ecological) footprint? Let us know in the comments below!
Don’t forget to share this article so your friends can also get started saving money and the environment. Small actions can make big differences!
About the Author: Patrick Holmes
Patrick Holmes is an indoor air quality specialist at Home Air Quality Guides. His passion is to help people create cleaner, healthier and more comforting environments inside their homes by sharing expert advice that’s easy to follow. He enjoys writing in-depth articles on the environment, air purification, household cleaning tips, home maintenance advice and more.
Edited by: Hugh
Never heard of black plastic before. Thanks!
Are all black trash bags non-biodegradable because of the pigment?
Black plastic is usually rejected by recyclers because it is difficult to sort by their machinery and thus won’t be recycled. All plastics (for the most part) will be non-biodegradable, but some plastics may be recyclable. In this case, black plastics are not recyclable.
I guess even the shirts we have been wearing causes some carbon footprints as well…
Nice subject and surprising facts tho, cheers!
No mention of pets. One mid-size dog has as much carbon footprint as many of the items listed. Pets are livestock with the same emissions and feed consumption issues, and worse, are carnivores so their feed has much more carbon impact and, even worse, competes with human food sources.
That’s a good point. People who don’t already have pets should definitely reconsider getting one. I’ll add this to the post when I get the time. Thanks!
Wow, I had never considered the possibility of changing my switches to dimmer lights and LED bulbs, so I am glad you bought that up. I went to have coffee with one of my friends the other day and she owns her own business, but she said that it is her goal to have better control of her business waste by next year. In my opinion, she should hire a professional to do that analysis and management for her.
You’ve got great ways to cut back on our environmental impact. I love how you said that taking public transportation is smart. We’ll have to start taking the bus instead of our car, when feasible.
Your point about eating less meat, er maybe even going full vegan is incorrect. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter one thing what you eat. Meat might be responsible for more greenhouse gasses, but for vegitarians they cut down millions of acres of forest eacht year to provide the room to grow their crops (Just look at the soy farms in Brazil and the palm olive fields in Malaysia). Deforestation causes far more greenhouse gas emission than cattle, and it also takes away the only means by which CO2 can be removed from the air. This problem is caused by overpopulation, not meat.
Keep in mind that meat requires the use of farmland as well, since crops like grain have to be grown to feed animals. Overall, eating less meat and more vegetables is the better choice for our planet. Regarding your second point, I agree that overpopulation and over-utilization of Earth’s resources is a big problem, although I don’t know how exactly this should be solved.
Thanks for your insightful comment!