I recently wrote an entire post on simple ways to reduce your carbon footprint in your home, so it seems only fitting now to provide some tips on how to lessen your carbon footprint while you’re out and about.
If you haven’t done so already, the first step is to calculate your carbon footprint. There are a number of carbon footprint calculators that can give you a rough estimate. My picks below.
- EPA’s Carbon Footprint Calculator
- The Nature Conservancy’s mobile version
- CO2logic’s CO2 Calculator. It also has a carbon calculator for companies and organizations.
Reduce Car Use
Leave the Car at Home
Plan ahead and set some goals to reduce your car usage. Even if it’s just twice a week, it’ll help cut back on carbon emissions from your car. Instead of driving to your destination, try these other modes of travel:
- Biking to school, work, or to shop.
- Carpooling to school and work.
- Mass transit, where possible.
Choose an Alternative Fuel Vehicle
For your next car purchase, consider an electric, hybrid, or fuel-efficient vehicle. The EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide will help you select the best model for your budget and lifestyle needs.
Change Your Driving Habits and Save Some Money!
Aggressive driving wastes gas and money! The Department of Energy provides estimates on gas and cash savings from driving more efficiently. It’s worth checking out. You’ll be surprised by how the savings add up simply by making a few easy changes:
- Avoid rapid acceleration and braking. Gas savings can be as high as $1.10 per gallon.
- Don’t speed! (Use cruise control when possible.) Fuel economy decreases rapidly at speeds over 50 mph. Observe the speed limit and save up to $0.38 per gallon.
- Avoid hauling cargo on your car. It can reduce fuel economy by as much as 25%.
- Remove excess weight inside your car. That drag can reduce your MPG by about 1%.
Give Your Car a Check-up
A few tips to maintain a low carbon footprint on your car:
- Maintenance. Keep your vehicle in good running condition and have it inspected on a regular basis.
- Tires. Make sure tires are properly inflated and aligned. It’s not a big improvement in gas mileage – 0.6% on average, and up to 3% in some cases – but every little bit counts to reduce your carbon footprint and save some money in the process.
Turn Off the Engine!
Don’t idle and pollute the air! Turn off the car when parked.
Reduce your carbon footprint by walking or biking to your local market or shopping center for your purchasing needs.
Purchase Locally Sourced Food
When possible, purchase food that’s been locally sourced. The greater the “food miles” associated with transporting a product, the higher the carbon footprint. What does this mean? It means that foods transported over longer distances – either via truck or by air – will use more fuel and emit more greenhouse gases than foods sourced and sold locally.
For example, the lettuce you purchase from the local farm will have a lower carbon footprint than the packaged version trucked or flown in from hundreds of miles away. (The local lettuce will probably taste better too!)
One study actually showed that if you were to consume only locally grown food for a year, it would save the greenhouse gas equivalent of 1,000 miles driven! Unrealistic, yes, but it demonstrates the positive environmental impact of buying local.
Purchase Seasonal Produce
Tomatoes in February? Apples in June? It all sounds appealing until you realize what’s involved with producing, packaging, and distributing these products to the consumer.
Seasonal produce will vary depending on where you live, so check your local farmer’s market to see what’s in season. For further reference, check out the USDA’s Seasonal Produce Guide, which lists dozens of fruits and vegetables by season. It also includes descriptions, nutritional content, and recipes for each item.
Still want produce that’s out of season? Buy (or make) canned, frozen, dried, and/or bottled!
Bring Your Reusable Items and Avoid Packaging
Single-use plastic items are made from fossil fuels. Lower your carbon footprint by remembering to bring your reusable bags and containers.
Avoid heavily packaged products in favor of ones with little or no packaging.
Reward Low Carbon Footprint Products
Look for and purchase products that certify a low carbon footprint in their production. Check the Ecolabel index for descriptions of various carbon certifications.
Reduce Carbon Footprint at Work or School
Getting to School or the Office
- Reduce car usage. Walk, bike, or take mass transit to school or the office.
- Telecommute. Work from home whenever possible.
- Print double-sided to reduce paper waste.
- Recycle! Place a recycling bin near or under your desk for paper waste.
- Bring your lunch and utensils to cut down on all that packaging and to save a drive to a restaurant.
- BYOM. Instead of grabbing the disposable cup, bring a reusable mug or thermos for your coffee.
Keep Your Office or School Energy Efficient
- Turn off computers, printers, and lights when not in use and at the end of the day.
- Buy energy efficient products. For your next school or office purchase, do a little research to buy the most energy efficient products. You’ll save some money too. The EPA’s ENERGY STAR page lists numerous approved products, including electronics, office equipment, lighting, and heating and cooling equipment.
- Take the stairs. Instead of using the elevator – which uses electricity – get some exercise, and take the stairs.
- Air conditioning. Keep the temperature on a moderate setting; around 75-78°. Where possible, open the windows to reduce air conditioning usage.