The problem of greenhouse gas emissions and environmental waste is an undeniably huge one. And sometimes, when we’re faced with huge problems, humans have a tendency to feel paralyzed and like nothing they do can make a difference.
Luckily, the reality is that none of us is in this alone; we all have opportunities, both large and small, to make a difference. Here are four changes you can make to permanently reduce your carbon footprint:
1. Understand where you start
In the same way that you can’t make a realistic budget until you know where your money is going, you can’t meaningfully change your carbon footprint until you know what most needs changing. Start with a carbon footprint calculator like this one from the Nature Conservancy. It will walk you through your carbon usage in categories like travel, home, food, and shopping, plus offer tips for reducing your energy expenditure. The more accurate you can be with the information you put in, the better prepared you’ll be to make real changes that make a difference.
2. Reduce in the grocery store
According to the journal Nature, approximately a third of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are due to agriculture. There’s a lot you can do to reduce your own impact when it comes to food: buy more local products when possible, especially if you can get them organic. The less distance food has to travel, the less fuel is consumed in getting it to you. Similarly, look for options that use less packaging (in other words, grab your zucchini at the farmer’s market and not on a Styrofoam tray wrapped in cellophane!). Finally, choose more meat-free options. Beef and lamb are especially high carbon-producers; poultry and vegetarian choices are better for the environment.
3. Reduce at work
You may not be able to control a lot about your environment at work, but you can control how you get there. Carpooling, biking, and taking public transportation are all great ways to reduce the energy cost required to get you to work. If you’re able to telecommute – even if it’s just one day a week – that’s another great option for getting more cars off the road (and not producing emissions). It’s also worthwhile to look into any environmental initiatives your company might have, or see if you can band together with some of your workmates to suggest green alternatives in your workplace.
4. Reduce at home
Your home is full of hidden energy hogs, and much of that excess is just going to waste – without benefiting you at all. Small changes at home can make a huge difference. According to National Geographic, replacing 10 incandescent bulbs with Energy Star lights can reduce up to 332 pounds of CO2 every year. Standby power – the energy used by devices in their “off mode” to power clocks, LEDs, etc. – is estimated to account for 5%-10% of residential power usage. You can significantly reduce that by unplugging appliances that are not in use, or using a smart power strip that does the same thing for you. And switching to a Clear Genius reusable filter pod can save nearly a ton of CO2 emissions every five years.
Even a little change can make a make a big difference – but you have to take action to see results.