Spring Cleaning: Clean Up Your Carbon Footprint
Caroline "EPC Extraordinaire" Coppola
Have you ever wondered what a “carbon footprint” is? A carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) we generate through our everyday lives. The greenhouse gases we emit through our actions- like carbon dioxide and methane- are partly responsible for the destruction of our natural world. According to Nature.org, in the United States, the average carbon footprint for one person is 16 tons, almost 12 tons over the global average for one person. 16 tons per person is terrifying, but not as terrifying as the fact that, “the average global carbon footprint per person needs to drop under 2 tons by 2050.” By this logic, Americans need to reduce their average carbon footprint by over 14 tons each. This number may be daunting, but there is no better time to start than right now! So, this article will detail ways to reduce your carbon footprint this year and every year after that.
To understand what work needs to be done, it may be best to calculate your carbon footprint, first. Using the EPA’s Carbon Footprint Calculator is a good place to start. Once the biggest areas for improvement have been identified, it's time to find ways to reduce emissions! There are three areas that could use improvement: transportation, food consumption, and home energy use.
Transportation is one of the areas that will need the most attention. Unfortunately, if you are big on flying, you probably have an extremely large carbon footprint. Air travel is one of the biggest polluters on the planet. If you travel for work, try using video conferencing like Zoom instead of flying out for every meeting. If you are a fan of leisure travel, take fewer vacations that require flying, and choose to take vacations closer to home. Transportation in the form of cars (commuting, running errands, etc) also emits a lot of GHGs. When possible, try and take public transportation or ride a bike to work. If that’s not an option, you could look into hybrid or electric cars for yourself. If a new vehicle or public transportation is not an option at this time, you can always change your driving style! Avoiding traffic, keeping your tires inflated, and scheduling regular maintenance help to reduce your carbon footprint.
Food consumption is the source of greenhouse gas emissions we neglect to see most. However, food consumption can be the biggest contributor to your carbon footprint. The father food needs to travel to get to you, and the kind of food you eat both play a role in your carbon footprint. By choosing to shop for more local food, and eat more fruit and vegetables, the lower your carbon footprint will be. Shopping local reduces the distance food has to travel to end up on your shelves, so the shorter the distance, the less emissions. Also, the more processed a food is, the bigger the carbon footprint of that food item. This is why fruit, vegetables, and beans are your best friends when it comes to combating your carbon footprint.
Finally, reducing your home energy consumption, or changing your source of energy could reduce your carbon footprint exponentially. We all know that a great way to save electricity and, by default, reduce your carbon footprint, is to turn the lights off when you aren’t in the room. But, there are other methods that can help reduce your footprint even more. Turning the lights off is great, but paired with an energy efficient LED lightbulb makes it even better. Also, making sure all of your appliances are energy efficient helps reduce your carbon footprint.
A great way to reduce your carbon footprint quickly and efficiently is to go solar! Solar systems provide clean energy to your home- meaning that all of the appliances, lights, HVAC, etc. in the home are powered by clean energy. With the price of solar at an all time low, there has never been a better way to reduce your carbon footprint!