By now, we’ve probably all heard that we need to reduce our carbon footprint for the sake of the planet. However, sometimes it can be overwhelming trying to find exactly what we should do, which steps are the most important, and, importantly, where to start.
We have carefully compiled 16 ways for you to reduce your carbon footprint both at home and at work. Many of the steps listed below will also save you money. This truly is a win-win for both the planet and for your pocket.
You may be asking what is a carbon footprint?
A carbon footprint is a measurement of the total amount of greenhouse gasses that are released as a result of an individual, corporation or country’s actions. Normally a carbon footprint is measured in tonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent)
A carbon footprint is calculated by analyzing your transport use, electricity use, dietary choices, purchasing habits and waste created. If you are interested in knowing what your carbon footprint is there are many free calculators available online. We recommend the calculator by Carbonfund.org.
Tips to reduce your carbon footprint at home
1. Switch your energy provider
Where you purchase your energy from is an easy way to green up your electricity. If your current energy provider doesn’t have green energy as part of their packages then switch to a green energy supplier. Green energy includes electricity created from solar, wind, nuclear and hydroelectricity.
If you are able to install solar panels on your home then this is a fantastic way of knowing where your electricity comes from. Often there are grants and government programs to help you with the cost of the installation.
Be thoughtful about installing solar panels on your home, it may be more cost effective to simply switch to an energy provider supplying the power to your home with solar. We were fortunate enough to be able to make the switch and take advantage of some great federal and state tax grants – we’re now offsetting most of the electricity we use to power our home and charge our plug-in hybrid car!
2. Switch your banking
Who you bank and invest with can make a huge difference. Most of the world’s largest banks use your hard-earned money to fund the fossil fuel industry. If you don’t believe in supporting the fossil fuel industry then switch over to a bank that only supports renewable energy like Aspiration bank.
If you have any investments on the stock exchange, you may be accidentally supporting companies that support the fossil fuel industry. Take a few minutes to research who you are investing with and who they support you can truly put your money where your beliefs are. ESG ETFs and other sustainability-focused investments are becoming more popular and more widely available.
3. Vote for your future
Make sure you vote in every election that is available to you. Before you submit your ballot research the candidates and choose the one that aligns with your values and supports climate-friendly policies.
By voting with your beliefs, larger systemic changes can be hopefully introduced not only locally but also at a national level. This will not only reduce your carbon footprint but will reduce the carbon footprint of your entire area.
4. Insulate your home
Warming and cooling your home can be very expensive as it uses a lot of energy. By insulating your home you can make sure that your living quarters retains heat in winter and keeps cool in summer. The easiest way to insulate your home is by insulating your loft, walls and windows. Search for gaps in your doors or windows that may not close all the way and make sure they seal properly. Doing so can keep the outside air out and the inside air in.
This means that you will be using less energy which will reduce your bills and your carbon footprint. Once your home is insulated, you won’t have to run your cooling or heating systems in your home as often.
5. Look for energy efficient appliances
Most newer electrical appliances are now designed to be more energy efficient. When purchasing a new appliance, always look for the most energy efficient model – in the US, look for the Energy Star rating. Making a change as simple as an energy-saving LED light bulb or, if you’re in the market for a new appliance, one with a high energy star rating, can make a huge impact on your electricity usage. This will reduce your electric bills and have a positive impact on your carbon footprint.
If you can, think about buying appliances second hand. This is a great way to further reduce your carbon footprint as buying second hand prolongs the useful life of an item and reduces the impact of the carbon and energy that went into producing that appliance.
6. Be water efficient
By using less water you are saving the energy and resources that it takes to process and deliver the water to your home. For hot water it takes quite a lot of energy to heat it once it is in your home. By using less water you are saving energy as well as lowering your carbon footprint.
Simple steps such as turning off the water when you brush your teeth and taking shorter showers can all work towards reducing your carbon footprint.
For more involved water efficiency methods, consider taking the water you use to boil certain vegetables, like potatoes, and water your indoor plants – just make sure you don’t add salt to the water.
For your yard, consider a rain barrel as a another great option for watering your lawn!
7. Be mindful of your diet
The food we eat has an impact on the planet and adds to our carbon footprint. Some products including meat and dairy require a lot of water, energy and land to produce. By reducing your consumption of meat and dairy you can greatly reduce your impact.
Why not try to have meat-free Mondays or only eat meat at dinner time. This is an easy way to reduce your impact and improve your health at the same time.
Shipping food around the world increases the carbon footprint of the items. By shopping locally you can reduce the carbon miles that are added to that produce. Visit your nearest farmers market to find produce that is local and more sustainable.
8. Reduce food waste
Minimizing your food waste is a great way to save money and reduce your carbon footprint. Before going to the supermarket for more food look in your cupboard and fridge and use what you already have first. Take leftovers for lunch the next day or freeze them to eat later.
If you are able to compost your food scraps then returning your food waste to nature is a great way to reduce your impact. If your local area doesn’t have a compost collection why not enquire at your local community garden or ask a neighbor who may already have a compost bin on their property. Gardeners are often very happy to take other people’s food waste for their compost bins.
9. Sustainable clothing options
Avoid buying fast fashion at all costs. The average American throws away 80 pounds of clothing every year. However, 85% of this ends up in landfills. Instead of purchasing fast fashion, buy sustainability produced or second-hand clothing. This will lower your carbon footprint drastically and allow you to truly consider the purchase before you make it.
When washing your clothes, always wait until the machine is full and use a cold water cycle. This will reduce your electricity bills and will still clean your clothes to the same standard.
10. Embrace a minimalist lifestyle
This means living with less but not living without. This starts by decluttering your home and donating what you don’t need. If you need something that you don’t already have, why not borrow or rent it before purchasing it. If you have to purchase something, always look at the second-hand market first for options before purchasing something brand new.
11. Travel mindfully
Rethinking the way and reasons why you travel is important when reducing your carbon footprint. Planes are the most polluting method of transport and by reducing your plane travel you can reduce your carbon footprint drastically.
If you are able to travel closer to home this is a great option. Choosing train travel over plane or car travel can reduce your footprint by almost 85%. However, we understand that these are not always suitable options.
If you must fly then pick a direct flight as most of the carbon emissions are emitted during take-off and landing. Off-setting your carbon from your flight is always recommended. This will compensate for the carbon that is emitted by funding projects such as tree planting etc…
How to reduce your carbon footprint at work
12. Turn off lights
This might sound like such a simple step but so many office buildings have their lights on all of the time. This is obviously a huge energy drain so before you leave the office make sure that all lights and appliances are turned off. Why not request automatic or movement sensing lights that will automatically turn off after a set amount of time. Energy saving light bulbs are an easy fix for office buildings that have a lot of lights.
13. Digitize everything
Gone are the days of having to print off documents. By using cloud storage and video conferencing software you can save emissions and reduce your waste.
14. Getting to work
Cycling and walking to work are two of the most eco-friendly ways to travel. Not only is it great for the planet, but it is also incredible for your health. However, this might not always be a suitable option depending on where you live. Catching public transport is the next best option. Pick up a good book or catch up on Netflix and enjoy your train or bus ride to work without having to sit in lots of traffic.
If your workplace doesn’t already have a recycling program why not create one. It can be as simple as having a bin for paper that needs recycling or having a compost bin in the staff kitchen. There are many options to reduce the waste in your workplace and recycling is one of them.
16. Start a sustainability committee
If your workplace needs to improve its sustainability efforts then why not start an employee-led committee to make the changes. Pick an environmental issue in your workplace and go about solving it. There are so many resources online that will help you with your workplace’s sustainability. You may even make some new work friends in the process.