How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint: 17 Eco-Living TipsImage by Sustainable Jungle#howtoreducecarbonfootprint #howtoreduceyourcarbonfootprint #waystoreduceyourcarbonfootprint #reducingcarbonemissions #carbonfootprintsolutions #sustainablejungle
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How To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint: 17 Eco-Living Tips

If everyone lived like an American, we would need 5.1 Earths. 3D printing is impressive, but it’s not planet-producing impressive. If we don’t do something, the planet will continue warming, and we all know how that ends. 

But if we commit to collectively reducing carbon emissions, carbon dioxide build-up in the atmosphere might actually slow down, minimizing ice melt, keeping sea level rise down, and making our planet habitable for future generations.

While governments and corporations have a major role to play, we can all take steps to cut carbon. If you’ve been wondering how to reduce your carbon footprint at home (and beyond!), read on for our top tips. 

Carbon Footprint Solutions For Travel

1. Ditch The Car

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According to the EPA, transportation accounts for 28% of U.S. GHG emissions. Cars are responsible for most of these emissions—over half of the total transport emissions in the U.S. Trucks, airplanes, trains, boats, and ships, make up the remainder. So before you reach for the keys:

  • Consider if there’s another way to get to your destination. Can you safely walk or ride your bike? Is public transportation an option? Can you carpool?
  • Minimize journeys. Ask yourself if a trip is essential. Do you really need to go to the grocery store today, or can you wait until the weekend, when you already have to run another errand?
  • Are you heading into rush hour traffic? Being stuck in traffic is not only an unnecessary waste of gas, money, and time, but it also emits unnecessary emissions. Avoid peak-hour traffic if you can. 
  • Can you work from home more often? Many employers now provide more flexibility to work from home. Although be sure to think through your home energy strategy (more on this below). 

2. Maintain Your Ride

We know ditching the car isn’t always an option. You could live in a rural area like us without public transportation or many walkable options. There are still ways to reduce CO2 emissions from car travel. 

  • Invest in a low-carbon vehicle. A hybrid or electric vehicle will emit less CO2 emissions, especially if you live in an area that uses cleaner energy. You may even be eligible for an EPA tax incentive. 
  • Steer clear of SUVs. Not only do they have poor fuel efficiency, but many big vehicles also run on diesel, which produces 14.5% more greenhouse gas emissions per gallon. If you only want the extra space for an occasional weekend adventure, opt for a cargo rack or pop-up rooftop tent instead.
  • Slow down. Speeding, combined with rapid acceleration and braking, can reduce your gas mileage by 10% to 40%. Use cruise control on the highway to regulate fuel consumption. 
  • Keep your car maintained. Proper maintenance (e.g., using the right motor oil and keeping tires fully inflated) keeps your car running more efficiently. 
  • Offset. Some providers, like MyClimate enable you to calculate and offset your travel, including car journeys—handy if you’re looking for ways to offset carbon emissions from those big holiday trips. 

3. Fly Less

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Flying is cheaper than ever. In the last ten years, airfares have dropped by 15%. With cheaper prices comes more accessibility and you can now take to the skies with just a few clicks. 

By 2040, it’s anticipated that the number of air journeys will reach 7.8 billion. While it’s great to connect with loved ones and explore the world, our planet is picking up the extra baggage costs. 2.5% of the world’s total CO2 emissions come from air travel, and it has a greater overall effect on climate change, due to condensation trails and other impacts. 

  • Consider another mode of transport, such as train travel. There’s something to be said for taking the slow, scenic route.
  • We’re all Zoom experts now, so instead of zooming across the country for a work meeting, join the board room digitally. 
  • Skip the free bubbly and choose an economy seat. On average, a first-class ticket costs the Earth around four times as much emissions as an economy seat due to the extra space and weight from the seat. 
  • For unavoidable flights, offset your impact. Some airlines offer built-in options or you can buy your own offsets from a carbon offset program.

How To Reduce Carbon Emissions From Food

4. Put Your Food Waste In Check

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If food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gasses. Fortunately, keeping food out of the trash requires just a bit of thought and creativity.

  • Learn how to preserve food, even if it’s something as simple as proper freezing and storage. Most foods can be frozen (including meat), extending their life for several weeks to months. 
  • Creatively incorporate leftovers. Instead of letting your leftovers live in the back of your fridge, add some extra veggies, rice, or eggs to whip up a culinary feast. If nothing else, boil your veggie scraps and meat bones with salt to make soup stock.
  • Take inventory. Before heading to the grocery store, see what you already have. Then, stick to your list (avoid those carefully placed cookies vying for your attention).

5. Eat Less Meat And Dairy

Animal agriculture has a serious impact on our planet. A 2019 report from The Lancet came to a daunting conclusion: in order for us to “remain within a safe operating space,” global consumption of red meat needs to drop by 50% by 2050. While red meat was caught red-handed, animal agriculture as a whole (including dairy) is responsible for 11%–17% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. 

  • Try incorporating more plant-based protein from beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
  • Start by swapping a few meat meals to vegetarian or vegan ones. If only ⅓ of Americans adopted Meatless Mondays for one year, it would be the equivalent of removing 1.6 million cars from the road.
  • Sourcing still matters. Many vegan meat substitutes are soybean-based, and considering that most soybeans are now largely grown through environmentally devastating, pesticide-soaked monocropping practices, they can have just as high of an impact as meat products. Not to mention all the processing that goes into turning them into that Impossible Burger. Help mitigate this by sourcing from organic, small-scale, and ideally local producers.
  • If meat is still on the menu, aim for pasture-raised chicken, (wild-caught) fish, or, for the occasional steak, something locally raised and grass fed. Another option is to choose regenerative agriculture, where grass-eating animals help restore soil quality, supporting carbon drawdown. 

6. Eat Locally, Organically, And With The Seasons

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Most food travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to your plate. 

Eating seasonally usually means eating locally, both of which are better from health and environmental standpoints. Supporting local farmers through a farmer’s market, cooperative market, CSA, or food buying group also helps to support your local economy and the transition to more sustainable food systems

Or if you have the space and time, do what we’ve done and start producing your own food by starting a garden or raising some backyard chickens (or in our case, quail) for eggs. It doesn’t get more local than your own backyard, after all.

Opt for organic wherever possible. Fewer chemical inputs are not only better for health (ours and the planet’s), but it means reduced GHG emissions, too. Regenerative farming practices also help sequester soil carbon and can help to mitigate the effects of climate change. 

7. Buy In Bulk

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The world’s obsession with plastic means an emissions contribution of nearly 1.8 billion metric tons of CO2 every year.

Plastic packaging is hard to avoid, but it is possible when you buy your food in bulk. Many shops now offer bulk options for dry pantry staples (like grains, teas, nuts, seeds, coffee, and snacks), liquid cooking essentials (like oils and vinegar), beauty and personal products, and cleaners. B.Y.O. jar to fill and refill—no plastic required.

If you can’t find a local shop or don’t have an organic chain store (like Whole Foods) near you, look into online bulk stores

How To Lower Your Carbon Footprint When Shopping

8. Adopt A Minimalist Mindset

The less you consume, the less you waste. You don’t necessarily need to sell everything and move into a tiny house (although we did exactly that and can say it definitely doesn’t hurt!), but here are a few small ways we can all adopt a minimalist mindset:

    • Take stock. Without knowing what you already have, it’s more difficult to see what you need—or don’t need. This also involves out what’s really important to you, or as Marie Kondo would say, “What sparks joy?”
    • Ponder it. Instead of hitting that “Add to Cart” button, sleep on it and then ask yourself some questions: Could you live without the item? Do you already have something like it or something you could repurpose? Can you borrow or buy secondhand?
    • Be extra mindful at holiday time. It’s easy to succumb to buying pressure, especially when you’re bombarded with sales—gift meaningful experiences or minimalist gifts instead. 

    9. Avoid Fast Fashion

    At 10% of annual global carbon emissions, the fashion industry is responsible for a carbon footprint higher than international flights and shipping combined. 

    Slow fashion means slowing down our rate of clothing consumptio, and there’s no better advice than to wear-wash-repeat (and repair if necessary). In other words, only buy something when it’s absolutely necessary, and even then, first explore not-new options like online secondhand stores or fashion rental services

    10. Prioritize Pre-loved

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    Revive those retro looks and refresh your wardrobe with stylish vintage clothing or pre-loved designer pieces. Whether popping tags at your local thrift store or browsing your favorite vintage Etsy shop, there are plenty of ways to achieve a new planet-friendly look. 

    Shopping pre-loved isn’t just for clothing, of course. Embrace a sustainable interior design ethos and prioritize secondhand when shopping for furniture and decor, too. Buying reclaimed wooden items helps save trees (and their essential carbon sequestration services).

    11. Use Reusables

    Join the reusable revolution and build a zero waste kit: bags, containers, coffee mugs, cutlery, sandwich bags, beeswax wraps, cloth paper towels, safety razors, and more. By making just a few of these swaps, you can drastically reduce your contribution to the physical waste stream. 

    Before purchasing something new, try to reuse something you already have. Repurposed glass jars, for example, make ideal plastic-free food storage containers for bulk goods.

    12. Support Carbon Neutral Brands

    When you do need to buy new, you can help support the planet by buying from brands taking concrete action to reduce their carbon footprints. 

    There are a myriad of ways that brands can cut carbon including the use of low-carbon materials, supporting regenerative farming, using renewable energy, using sea freight for transportation, and carbon offsetting unavoidable emissions. Ideally, look for brands that are Carbon Neutral certified and share progress against clearly defined carbon reduction targets. 

    Reducing Your Carbon Footprint In The Garden

    13. Create An Ecological Garden

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    Following ecological gardening practices has heaps of benefits, like capturing carbon, tackling biodiversity loss, reducing food waste, improving health, and conserving traditional seed varieties. Try:

    • Avoiding synthetic inputs. Use natural fertilizers and pest control methods such as companion planting, and remove weeds by hand or with a sheet mulch.
    • Going peat-free. Peatlands are hugely important carbon sinks, sequestering 42% of all land carbon. Harvesting peat destroys ecosystems and releases vast amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Buy peat-free compost, or better still, make your own. 

    14. Compost

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    Food is an organic material, which means that when it breaks down in a landfill, it biodegrades anaerobically and releases methane gas, which is 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide. No wonder composting food waste (thus ensuring it breaks down aerobically instead) is one of the best and most impactful things anyone can do to reduce their impact.

    Even if you don’t have the space to make a compost heap outside, you can get started indoors thanks to the invention of some clever indoor compost bins. Just do a little learning what is and isn’t compostable, and in no time, you’ll have created a valuable natural fertilizer. 

    15. Grow Your Own Food

    Hello zero food miles! Buying local and seasonal produce reduces your carbon footprint, but growing it yourself takes that to the next level, especially if you follow sustainable gardening practices. 

    Interestingly, one recent (albeit controversial) study found that home-grown food in urban areas could be responsible for more CO2 emissions (up to five times as much) than conventional agriculture. However, this is due to the infrastructure used, including landscaping and sheds, rather than growing the crops themselves. The study’s authors advise repairing existing infrastructure before replacing it, using reclaimed and recycled materials, and avoiding synthetic fertilizers.

    Some crops, such as tomatoes and asparagus, also have a lower carbon footprint when grown domestically rather than on traditional farms, so prioritizing these will keep your garden footprint low.

    Ways To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint At Home

    16. Minimize Your Energy Consumption

    In the US, residential energy use accounts for about 20% of total greenhouse gas emissions. That’s on par with the total emissions of Brazil (the world’s sixth-largest carbon emitter). It’s time to flip the switch and learn how to conserve energy at home

    • Turn off the lights and unplug any equipment and chargers when not in use. They drain phantom energy, which amounts to 5-10% of electricity consumption.
      • Adjust the heat/air conditioning a few degrees and add/shed layers to stay comfortable. Better yet, snuggle in with a cozy, sustainable blanket! Every extra degree of heating or cooling (above 68F and below 78F) means a 6-8% increase in energy. 
        • Insulate/weatherize your home, including energy-efficient windows.
        • Keep your refrigerator and freezer at their recommended temperatures. They’re also more efficient when full (just like your dishwasher, washer, and dryer). 
        • Wash your clothes less often (smell test, ladies and gents). This also prevents a lot of wear and tear on the clothes and extends their life. Use cold water and line dry if possible.
        • If you need new eco-friendly appliances, look for the ENERGY STAR label, which can also save their owners 10% to 50% on energy costs compared to their conventional counterparts.

        17. Switch To Renewables

        Solar panels aren’t a silver bullet with some big drawbacks yet to be solved (like raw materials and disposal), but they remain a cleaner, greener alternative to fossil fuels. And the trajectory of renewable energy based on current R&D and investment can only mean we’re just getting started.

        So, if you’ve got the time and money, install solar panels.You may even get a tax rebate in the US or Australia for doing so. They might not absorb enough to power your home fully, but they certainly make a difference (even if you live in Seattle).

        If solar panels aren’t practical or possible, switching to a renewable energy provider is one of the quickest and easiest ways of reducing CO2 emissions at home while supporting the transition to a clean energy future and help us all hit those carbon footprint reduction goals.

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        2 thoughts on “How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint: 17 Eco-Living Tips”

        1. Thanks for the article. I strongly recommend a CookSmarts subscription for people that don’t have strong kitchen abilities and need specific help to implement some of these food tips. Cook Smarts produces recipes each week that focus on seasonal produce, incorporate some leftovers in new and creative ways, and help minimize food waste by giving clear grocery list plans each week it has helped me so much that I’ve been a member now for 4 years, and I had no clue what I was doing in the kitchen before that. It also helps you regulate meat serving sizes, has limited dairy use, and offers vegetarian alternatives to every recipe.


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