Reducing Your Carbon Footprint (And Saving Money): Five Easy Steps

 

 Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

It is becoming more and more common to hear words like “sustainability” and “carbon emissions” used in the media, in politics, and even in consumer advertising. We’ve all seen ads for electric cars and know that solar panels are an alternative to costly electrical bills. Yet many of us are stuck wondering what exactly is a carbon footprint, and what does “going green” entail?

 

A carbon footprint is the measure of the amount of greenhouse gas (carbon dioxide, or CO2) that is produced by an individual or organization through basic human activity. This measurement is usually given in tons of CO2-equivalent per year. According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) the average American generates about 20 tons of CO2-equivalent each year, whereas the global average is around 4 tons of CO2-equivalent emitted per year. This measurement is a major implication of the effect our consumer behavior has on the Earth itself. Everything from our daily commute to our morning coffee and breakfast wrap contributes to our carbon footprint.

 

Unfortunately the average American consumer can’t afford an electric car or to install solar panels on his or her rented apartment. However there are in fact dozens of small behavioral changes we can make in our everyday lives. Check out these five easy steps to reducing your carbon footprint every day. Not only will they contribute to reducing carbon emissions at a local and national level, they will lead to a much healthier lifestyle and can even save you money.

 

Bike, Walk, or take Public Transit

Taking the bus or train to work reduces the number of cars on the road and subsequently reduces traffic congestion, noise and improves air quality. With the rising cost of gasoline around the globe, alternatives to taking the family van to the office are increasingly appealing. Even better, walking or cycling to work is an even greener alternative to driving and burns many calories along the way.

 

Unplug Electronics

Did you know that even when our laptops, PCs, TVs and even mobile chargers are switched off but remain plugged in it is costing us money? We pay electrical costs even when these gadgets are not in use. Not only that, it is also a major waste of energy. A great way to slash electrical bills and even reduce your carbon footprint is to simply unplug these items when not in use.

 

Buy Local

Purchasing local produce and meats saves time and money. In addition, when buying from an independent, locally owned business or grocer rather than a multinational, a significant percentage of that money is used to make other purchases from other local businesses, farms or service providers, strengthening the local economy. Buying tomatoes grown at a farm in your own community instead of from thousands of miles away contributes to the local economy and reduces the amount of travel-time and CO2 emissions used to bring the fruit to your table.

 

Avoid Bottled Water

Bottled water is expensive, wasteful, and has no more health benefits than tap water. When consuming water from plastic bottles, we not only are supporting the mad global dash for more petroleum (a finite, limited resource), but most of these bottles end up in the trash bin instead of being recycled. Food and Water Watch states that every year bottled water alone produces 1.5 million tons of plastic waste (which required 47 million gallons of oil per year to produce). Try installing or purchasing a filter for your home sink and enjoy the health benefits of drinking more water. You will save big on your weekly grocery bill and reduce the amount of plastic bottles piling up in the house.

 

We have all heard it before, yet this phrase has never been so important.

Western countries are famous for excessive and wasteful consumption. The Environmental Protection Agency claims that in the US alone, citizens created 4.4 pounds of waste each day in 2012. Striking numbers. We can reverse these statistics by adhering to the above four principles and trying to use products with less packaging, and being conscious of what we really “need” before buying.

With energy costs rising beyond control, energy efficiency at home is important. A great way to cut costs is installing a solar panel for your home. Making these small changes does not have to be a prison sentence, rather on the contrary. There are plenty of everyday behaviors we can change in order to reduce our carbon footprints. They can help us lose weight, save money, and decrease our impact on the Earth.