By now, most people — environmentalist or not — are familiar with the concept of a carbon footprint.
It’s the measurable impact that your lifestyle has on the Earth’s environment. Everything, from the kind of toothbrush you use to how many kids you have, contributes to your personal carbon footprint.
You’re probably also familiar with the looming anxiety that pops into your head when you think about your carbon footprint. Attempting to measure and construct your lifestyle around minimizing the damage you do to the world can be downright debilitating.
Thankfully, each individual person can make a huge difference. We’ve assembled some of the most common and easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint and positively impact the world.
The Small Stuff
It’s easier to make a difference on a small scale first. Here are some of the quickest methods to reduce your carbon footprint without changing too much of your lifestyle.
We will touch more on the larger energy-efficient upgrades later in the article, but there are actually a huge number of products that take it upon themselves to waste as little energy as possible.
Check out Energy Star’s list of home energy-efficient appliances. You can see just how many aspects of your home can be more streamlined for cost-effectiveness. Everything from your television to your ceiling fan can have an impact on your home’s carbon footprint, and as such, they can also be controlled.
When you’re looking to reduce your home’s carbon footprint, you need to do a whole-home evaluation. Everything from top to bottom can likely be replaced with something that impacts the environment less. It’s up to you to determine what amount of effort you want to put in.
Amending your grocery list can have a huge impact. There’s a reason organic and locally-grown produce has been all the rage in the past couple years. They not only support local farmers and economies, but they cut back the energy wasted from massive food production plants. Getting your vegetables from the farmer’s market also cuts down the amount of gas used during large-scale transport across states and regions.
It will also benefit you to cut back on eating out as much as you can. Not only will this positively impact your wallet, but it will reduce the number of emissions created by chain restaurants and outlets who ship their food materials from around the country.
Cutting certain foods can also help reduce your home’s carbon footprint. The beef, dairy, and livestock industries are responsible for a greater degree of carbon emissions than other industries. It takes a lot more resources to properly raise and manage livestock, and even more resources to ship their many products around the world. You don’t have to go vegetarian or vegan, but simply cutting back on the number of livestock products you consume can make a world of a difference.
The Big Stuff
Insulate and Seal Home
All the heating, cooling, and maintenance energy that your home produces can be wasted without the right insulation and air sealing methods. Check out this Minnesota Star Tribune write up on air sealing and attic insulation methods for the nitty-gritty details. For the layman, these methods are critical because they prevent outside air from infiltrating your home, and your indoor air from escaping it.
Your energy bill suffers a lot from poor sealing and insulation. This is especially true if you live in a climate that has long or severe winter or summer seasons. Consider multi-layer reflective insulation as a boost to your home’s current energy saving systems.
It might not seem like the biggest difference maker, but the way you light your home can leave a mark on your carbon footprint. Residential LED lighting can use up to 75% less energy than incandescent lighting, as well as last 25x longer.
The Department of Energy reports that LED lighting, if implemented at a widespread rate across the United States, has the potential to have the greatest impact on energy savings. Modern LED lights come in a wide variety of colors, tones, and brightness levels, so they can accommodate whatever lighting needs you’re looking for.
Similar to their variety of colors and hues, modern LED lights are available in a myriad of home and industrial products. No lighting component of your home is required to have incandescent lights, so take a look around your abode and see just how much of a difference you can make.
There’s a lot of basic saving tips that you can use to cut electricity consumption in your home. Similar to water usage, be sure to monitor and selectively use the appliances in your home that use electricity. Lamps, computers, and TVs are some of the obvious ones, but be sure to consider how much electricity all of your appliances use. Don’t use them unless absolutely necessary, and don’t let them stay on for longer than you need them.
Unplug your electronics when you’re leaving the house for long periods of time. Idle electronics still use electricity, but completely detaching them from the outlet will cut off any residual wasted energy that you might be worried about.
Measuring and maintaining the electricity consumption in your house doesn’t have to be done at the end of the month. There are ways to stay up to date on how much your home uses on a more frequent basis. Check out the ePOD, a product that reduces the active power and kilowatt demands of electrical appliances in your home.
Home Water Usage
This one sounds easy. The basic stuff — don’t run the sink when you’re brushing your teeth, take shorter showers, don’t use your toilet as a trash can — is all valuable and useful ways to reduce your home’s carbon footprint. But there’s always more you can do.
Consider replacing your home’s faucets and showerheads with low-flow or energy-efficient alternatives. These are easy to install yourself and cut water usage tremendously.
There are always larger energy-efficient appliances than the ones we named above. Dishwashers, laundry washers, dryers, refrigerators, and water heaters are all big water users. Installing the right kind of large-scale appliance can be a massive aid to help reduce your home’s carbon footprint.
There are other places around your home that you may not think of your water usage. Take, for instance, your backyard or garden. Maintaining the growth you want takes a lot of water, so don’t over-water your grass, and be sure to invest in climate-native garden plants or ones that don’t require extra watering and can survive without special care. Installing a drip irrigation system would be the best route to take.
Recycle, Reuse, Repair
We’ve all seen the photos. The human waste collages that populate the Google Images page; garbage piles high as the eye can see, floating barges of old toys, Styrofoam, and debris — suffice it to say we create a lot of trash as a society. So managing your own personal contribution is a great way to reduce your home’s carbon footprint.
If you aren’t already, recycle as many materials as you can. Plastic and cardboard are incredibly valuable materials when it comes to re-purposing. Paper and paperboard accounted for nearly 26% of recycled materials in a recent EPA study. Make sure to clean them before recycling, as they need to be in fair condition to be utilized properly.
Consider reusing or repairing older materials and products around your house instead of throwing them out.
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