Reduce Carbon Footprint In Your Life
Wondering how to reduce carbon footprint in your daily life?
First, we need to understand what is a carbon footprint.
“Carbon footprint” is the negative impact we leave on our planet as we go about our daily activities.
Technically, “carbon footprint” refers to our impact in terms of carbon dioxide and other green house gases emissions, which in turn have been associated with global warming and global climate change (read more about what carbon footprint is
Nonetheless, as you may know, the negative impact that man leaves on this planet goes beyond just green house gasses, global warming or climate change. The impact that man leaves on this planet also includes areas like pollution, and the rapid depletion of natural resources, etc. So increasingly, “carbon footprint” is also used to refer generally to man’s overall impact on the earth and its environment.
In this article, we will be discussing about the ways to reduce carbon footprint, both in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, and beyond.
It is an encouraging first step that you are looking for ways to reduce carbon footprint in your daily life. The journey that you are going to embark on may not be an easy one, especially when you are surrounded by people who don’t know or don’t care. But be assured that you are not alone, and that your efforts do count. It is because our planet really requires every single one of us to do our part in living responsibly and sustainably.
So below are some general guidelines on how to reduce carbon footprint in your daily life. You can find the elaborations on these guidelines in separate pages that I have done up – simply click on the relevant links.
If you find the guidelines and tips useful, share the pages with your friends and family using the Facebook and Twitter buttons at the end of the article, and help to spread the word. Our planet really needs more people to start living a green life.
Reduce carbon footprint in your energy use
There are several ways to reduce your carbon footprint in your energy use.
One of the ways to reduce carbon footprint is to conserve energy in your daily life. In today’s context, where many aspects of our lives (e.g. cooking, lighting, transportation, etc) are driven by energy from fossil fuels and other non renewable sources of energy, conserving energy means that you will help reduce the emission of green house gases and other air pollutants (produced when fossil fuels are burnt for energy) into the atmosphere. Conserving energy also means that you will help contribute less to the rapid depletion of our limited sources of non renewable energy supplies.
When it comes to conserving energy, it could mean, one, adopting energy efficiency tips, so that you use less energy for the same amount of task performed, or two, you could reduce your use of energy totally.
A very simple way to conserve energy by being energy efficient is simply to make use of appliances (eg. refrigerators, air-conditioners, heaters etc) that are energy efficient. Look out for the Energy Star appliances. They have been identified to be more energy efficient. You can also make your home more energy efficient by reducing the avenues by which your house loses energy unnecessarily. Read about the energy efficiency tips that you can adopt at home. Besides the home, there are also energy efficiency and green driving tips that you can adopt to help you save on fuel consumption and reduce carbon footprint on the roads.
As for reducing your energy use to lower your carbon footprint, some simple tips include switching off electrical appliances when they are not in use, not driving unnecessarily, using the fan instead of the air-conditioner as much as possible, etc.
Besides conserving energy, another way to reduce carbon footprint in your energy use is actually to switch to green energy. Green energy sources like solar power energy and wind energy are renewable, and less or sometimes even not polluting, and hence leave little or no carbon footprint in their production and use. Read more about the various green energy sources and their advantages.
You can actually learn how to build your own solar panel today, and reduce your dependency on grid electricity, which comes mainly from non renewable sources like coal or natural gas. And if you manage to produce excess green energy, you might even be able to sell that extra back to the grid companies and earn yourself extra income. It’s a win-win situation in many sense (or cents)!
Reduce carbon footprint in the food you eat
Do you know that you can help reduce carbon footprint through the food you eat?
Buying locally grown or reared food reduce carbon footprint – less fossil fuels are burnt in transporting the food from one part of the world to another, and as such, less greenhouse gas and other forms of pollution are produced. In addition, when food needs to be transported over distances, additional resources need to go into packaging the food to ensure that it does not go bad. This packaging contributes to additional waste, i.e. additional carbon footprint. Yet, because time is needed for transportation over large distances, some of the food is bound to spoil regardless of the packaging. This wastage is also another form of carbon footprint, and the food could have been put into better use closer to home.
Not all the food that we eat are grown or harvested in sustainable and environmentally friendly ways. In some farms, inappropriate farming methods such as overglazing, overcultivation, overfishing, or the excessive application of synthetic fertilizer, have led to serious environmental problems like massive soil erosion and land degradation, soil acidification, extinction of fish species and water pollution via eutrophication – all of which are big carbon footprints on the earth.
So if you really want to make sure that you do not leave more carbon footprint with every bite of food that you take, then you will have to switch to sustainable and organic farms as your source of food. Such farms make use of sustainable farming techniques like natural organic fertilizers and pesticides, sustainable harvesting (e.g. seafood) or crop rotation to ensure that the land doesn’t get strip off its nutrients after years and years of cultivation, etc.
Your switch to sustainably grown food matters, because when the demand for sustainably grown food increases and the demand for food from conventional farms drops, more farmers and other food producers will be “pressurized” to do things differently – i.e. grow their food in more environmentally friendly ways. You might not be aware, but you are actually “voting” with your money. So remember to place your “vote” where it counts.
There is one more thing you can do. Choose to eat food that are lower down in the food chains, and eat less food that are found higher up the food chains. This actually means eating more plant food and less meat. For food that are higher up the food chain, more energy is needed and a larger carbon footprint is left behind in order to produce that type of food. For example, rearing livestocks require more water and land, as well as produce more pollution and green house gas (methane) than the cultivation of plant crops. According to a 2006 report by the United Nations known as the “Livestock’s Long Shadow – Environmental Issues and Options”, as cited in Wikipedia, the livestock industry worldwide produces about 9% of the man-made emissions of carbon dioxide, 37% of the anthropogenic methane emissions and 65% of nitrous-oxide emissions.
If you must consume animal proteins, consider eating meat that is found lower down the food chains, such as anchovies. Size is usually a good guide – the smaller the animal, the lower down the food chains it is usually found. Consuming organisms lower down the food chains is not only good for the environment and helps you reduce carbon footprint, it is also better for your health. This is because eating lower-order organisms actually exposes you to less of the toxins (e.g. mercury) that bioaccumulate and biomagnify in the bodies of higher-order animal as they consume lower-order ones.
You can also consider cutting down the portions of meat that you consume every meal to reduce carbon footprint in your food. Too much meat is also bad for health – in the long run, it can bring about conditions of high cholesterol, obesity, high blood pressure, etc.
Reduce carbon footprint in your purchases
There is a lot of room to create, or reduce carbon footprint through the things or services that you buy, or not.
There’s actually a few points made in the preceding statement. Point 1 – the things or services you choose to buy matters. Point 2 – the things or services you choose NOT to buy also matters. And point 3 – you can either create carbon footprint, or reduce carbon footprint, depending on the decisions you make in points 1 and 2.
The things that we buy could range from household items, gardening materials, electronic products, cars, the gifts we give, etc – the list is almost infinte. In turn, the services that we use is also a large range, from transport services, hotels and hospitality or tourism services, services from businesses, as well as event venues/suppliers for weddings, etc.
Point 1 – the things or services you choose to buy matters. For example, when you choose eco-friendly products (e.g. organic food items, natural household cleaning agents, eco gifts, etc) or recycled products over non-eco-friendly versions, you are actually choosing products which environmental impact or carbon footprint over their life-cycle (e.g. production, use, disposal, etc) is less (than its conventional counterpart) or minimal.
For another example, when you choose a green car over a conventional one that has high fuel consumption, you definitely reduce carbon footprint in terms of the greenhouse gas you emit into the atmosphere when you travel in your car. The same goes when you choose energy efficient appliances over the non energy-efficient ones, or when you choose an eco-friendly tour or hotel over a conventional one.
And as mentioned above, how you choose to vote with your dollars matters. As more consumers demand for more eco-friendly, sustainable and non-polluting products, corporations would automatically be more driven to develop and produce more of these green products to meet the increasing demand. So what you get is probably a market of a variety of eco-friendly items, at competitive prices.
In the same way, the things or services you choose NOT to buy also matters, which is Point 2. When demand for conventional and environmentally-unfriendly products drop, corporations would be less motivated to produce these harmful products. In this way, our planet would be better rid of these pollutants. There may also be instances where corporations might be found guilty of irresponsible and environmentally unsustainable behaviors – when consumers say “no” to such organizations by “voting” against them with their money, these organizations would be left with little choice but to review their behaviors and regain consumer favor.
So in fact, consumers have much swaying power over corporations – we must remember to exercise it, but with care.
But there’s actually more to point 2. When you choose NOT to buy unnecessarily or excessively, but instead seek to reduce (your consumption and waste production) or reuse (old items), you can actually reduce carbon footprint substantially. This is because large amounts of energy and resources are needed to produce new things, as well as dispose of the waste we create. Not only that, waste disposal often brings with it pollution issues. Waste disposal via incineration also brings about large amounts of green house gases.
So if we are able to cut down on our consumption and waste production, we can actually reduce carbon footprint in our daily lives terms of energy and resource usage, as well as the pollution and green house gases we are creating.
Besides choosing not to consume unnecessarily and excessively, for the items that you really do need to purchase, choose brands that cut down on packaging in order to reduce carbon footprint. The carbon footprint that product packaging leaves can be substantial – for example, it makes up 60% of household waste by volume in Japan. Yet, the contributions that packaging have in our lives could be minimal – more than half the time, the packaging is discarded immediately after the product is purchased. So reduce carbon footprint in your purchases by “voting” for less packaging.
What if you can’t reduce carbon footprint
If there are instances where it is hard or impossible for you to reduce carbon footprint in the ways I have suggested above, fret not, there is one last thing you can do. While you should always reduce whatever carbon footprint you can, for the remaining that you are not able to eliminate, you can offset it.
Offsetting your carbon footprint means to help make a reduction in green house gas emission so as to compensate for (i.e. offset) the emission you have made somewhere (e.g. when you took a flight home to visit your parents).
In turn, you can offset your carbon footprint by planting a tree (e.g. in your garden or your community). Alternatively, you can buy carbon credits.
Carbon credits are often sold by companies that have links to environmental projects. In turn, these projects (e.g reforestation programs, renewable energies programs and development, etc) have a direct or indirect contribution to reducing carbon emissions, or even removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. This means that when you buy carbon credits, you are actually helping to finance these programs. You can actually find out more about carbon offsetting at Carbonfund
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