You’ve heard about the climate crisis and the bleak view for the future of our planet. If you really dive in to learn more, it’s terrifying… It’s tempting to shut it all out because it all seems so beyond your control. I know how you feel, but the good news is we really do have the power to make a difference.
Start here with some simple changes at home to reduce your carbon footprint. I offer several ideas below and a few more involved ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Take a look at all of them and pick a few – or more – to get you on your way to a green life!
How Do I Calculate My Carbon Footprint?
The first step to reducing your carbon footprint is to calculate your current footprint. This can be tricky because each stage of an activity has a carbon footprint associated with it. Fortunately, there are online calculators to help give you a rough estimate of you and your family’s footprint.
Make Your Home More Energy-Efficient
Do Some Energy-Efficient DIY Projects
According to the Department of Energy, the typical American family spends nearly $2,000 per year on their home energy bills. Much of the money is wasted through leaky windows or ducts, old appliances, or inefficient heating and cooling systems.
The DOE’s Energy Saver DIY Project Guide provides easy, step-by-step instructions on several home energy-efficiency improvements that will save you energy and money.
- Buy energy-efficient appliances. They’ll reduce your carbon footprint and you’ll save money on your energy bills.
- ENERGY STAR. The ENERGY STAR label on an appliance is a good indicator that the product is energy efficient. These products have been independently certified to save energy “without sacrificing features or functionality.” Try out the ENERGY STAR Savings Calculator to help you look beyond the sticker price for energy savings.
- Refrigerators and freezers. Set these at energy-efficient temperatures. Fridge: between 38-42º F. Freezer: between 0-5º F.
If you haven’t started already, swap out incandescent bulbs for energy-efficient alternatives. You’ll also save some money.
According to the Department of Energy, replacing your home’s five most frequently used light fixtures or bulbs with ENERGY STAR rated alternatives will save you $75 each year.
- Insulate your home. Install weather stripping or caulking around doors and windows. It’s estimated you’ll reduce heating costs by more than 25%.
- Insulate yourself! In the winter, we set our thermostat at 68º and bundle up with socks, sweaters and a cozy blanket when lounging on the couch.
Turn it Off to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
- Turn off lights when you leave a room, even those LED lights!
- WaterSense Label. Look for water efficient products with the EPA’s WaterSense label. WaterSense has a product search tool to search a wide variety of styles and price points.
- Turn off the water when brushing teeth or washing dishes.
- Leaks. Fix those leaky faucets, toilets, shower heads, and more to reduce water usage and save money. Check out the Fix a Leak page on WaterSense for more information and tips.
- Clothes washing. Wash full loads of clothes in cold water. According to a recent study, washing clothes on the cold setting reduces CO2 emissions by 1.2-14.9 pounds per laundry load (depending on washing machine type, temperature, and electricity source).
- Avoid the double-rinse cycle on your washing machine.
- For your next purchase, consider a front-loading washing machine that uses one-third to one-quarter the water compared to top loading models.
- Bathing. Take a quick shower and use a low-flow shower head.
- Toilets. Make your next toilet purchase of a dual-flush one. The dual feature allows you to select how much water per flush is needed!
Pull the Plug
- Chargers. Put all your chargers on one extension. Turn it off when not in use.
- Appliances. Pull out the plugs on appliances and devices when not in use. “Vampire electronics” continue to use energy even when they’re turned off or in sleep mode.
- Air conditioning. Set air conditioning thermostats to 75-78°F.
- Instead of air con, open the windows and turn on the fans to save money and keep cool.
- Heating. Set heating thermostats to 67-68°F during the day and less at night. By turning your thermostat back 10-15º for eight hours a day, you can save 5-15% per year on your heating bill.
- Water heater. Reduce the temperature setting on your water heater. 120º is adequate for most homes.
- Flush the tank every year to eliminate mineral sediment that can reduce the tank’s capacity.
- Insulate an older tank to prevent heat from escaping.
- Vacation mode. Turn your air conditioning, heat, and even your water heater down when you’re out of town.
Check Your Diet
- Eat less red meat. A study by researchers at the University of Chicago finds that the greenhouse gas emissions of animal vs plant protein diets vary by as much “as the difference between owning an average sedan versus a sport-utility vehicle.”
- Eat more plants. It’s not only healthy, but the carbon footprint is less.
- Eat less processed, packaged foods. Again, a healthier option, but you’ll also reduce your carbon footprint as these types of foods are major contributors to GHG emissions.
Don’t Waste Your Food!
This fact always amazes me: If food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Food waste really is a huge waste and if you do anything else to reduce your carbon footprint, take some steps to reduce your food waste.
- Plan ahead before shopping for food.
- Compost. It’s so gratifying to compost and divert food from the landfill or incinerator. For resources and ways to compost, read more in Section 5 of my food waste post.
- Eat your leftovers. Take a careful look at your food purchases to determine whether you’re buying too much and then throwing it all away. Use up those leftovers! I offer tips on how to “repurpose” leftover food here.
- Freeze your food. If you’re sick of leftovers, freeze it for a future meal. Green That Life’s Guide to Freezing any Food will show you how.
Reduce Junk Mail and Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
It sounds unbelievable, but reducing junk mail deliveries to your home can help reduce your carbon footprint.
With over 77 billion pieces of marketing material mailed in 2018 alone, consumers are deluged with paper. Just imagine how many millions of trees (between 80 – 100 million) are needlessly cut down, not to mention the carbon emissions from manufacturing and processing this mountain of unwanted junk.
What can you do? Reduce your unwanted junk mail! Use these organizations to remove your name from mailing lists:
- Catalog Choice is a free service that allows you to select specific catalogs and junk mail to cancel. Choose from nearly 10,000 titles.
- DMA Choice Organization. For a $2 fee, DMA categorizes direct mail and offers consumers a simple, step-by-step process that enables them to decide what mail they do and do not want.
- OptOutPrescreen allows you to opt-out from unwanted credit card mailings. You can choose from a five year or permanent removal.
- Charity Watch Organization provides helpful tips for reducing unwanted mailings from charities.
- PaperKarma‘s app stops junk mail in a snap. Take a photo of unwanted junk mail and catalogs and PaperKarma will unsubscribe you from the mailing list.