My “carbon footprint” – a nice way to say “how much I’m polluting”.
Whether you believe in climate change or not…it’s happening. While I concede that climate change is a natural process, we must accept our role and responsibility in accelerating the changes faster than the earth is able to adapt. Each and every one of us has a carbon footprint. Let’s take a look at how we can do our part to reduce ours, and help educate others about doing the same.
Driving: It’s convenient, it’s easy, and it’s quick. But if you have the option, consider biking, walking, taking public transport, or carpooling. Think how great you’ll feel after biking to the store; not only have you gotten fresh air and exercise, you probably didn’t even have to yell at anyone for being a terrible driver!
If you must drive, plan your trip so that you’re as efficient as possible. For example, stop at the grocery store on the way home from work instead of making a separate trip, or map out the most efficient route to run errands. I highly recommend stopping at the florist on your way home from work to surprise your partner with flowers 🙂
And drive smart; accelerating quickly wastes gas and releases more carbon into the air. Consider a fuel-efficient vehicle, or swap family cars so that the person with the longest commute takes the more efficient car. This will save you money on gas too! Speaking of saving money, keeping your tires inflated to the recommended levels and getting regular oil changes and tune-ups will also increase your fuel efficiency, not to mention extend the life of your car.
Home: Make sure your home is well insulated. This will cut down on your energy use and bills. It helps with noisy neighbors too! You can help by closing blinds or curtains during the hottest part of the day to keep out the sun in the summer months, and opening them to let in the sun during the winter.
When you replace appliances, look for the Energy Star rating. There are plenty of affordable appliances these days that are much more energy efficient than they used to be. Turn off lights and televisions when you leave the room, and instead of setting the AC to 65, use a fan to help you feel cooler. Misting a little peppermint oil into the room will help cool it down as well.
While solar panels can be cost prohibitive for many people, if you live in a place with lots of sunshine and favorable laws towards solar power, it might be worth the upfront cost. Some areas even let you sell energy back to the grid!
Food: Eat locally grown and organic food as much as possible, and focus on eating things that are in season close to where you live. Check out your local farmer’s market to see what’s growing! Remember – the longer the food has to travel, the more fuel it takes to get it to you.
Organic fruits and vegetables have become much more widely available. Unfortunately, many come from thousands of miles away. I often opt for locally grown food that does not have the organic label over organically labeled foods from overseas. If you’re worried about pesticide residue, check out this list of foods and how they rank from EWG: https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php
Start your own garden, or get in on a community garden and grow some of the things you love most. I live in a townhouse, but you better believe I have pots lining the driveway loaded with herbs and hot peppers. Nothing tastes better than something you’ve grown yourself. It’s a fact 😉
Limit the amount of beef and dairy you consume. Both of these take immense amounts of resources, especially land and water, to raise and process.
Make Smart Choices: Instead of buying packs and packs of water bottles, buy a water filter and refill a stainless, glass, or BPA free water bottle. If you really want to impress people, check out these amazing glass bottles made right here in the good old USA: https://www.lovebottle.com Water your lawn/garden early in the morning or late in the evening when less evaporation occurs, and be sure to set a rain delay so you’re not over-watering.
Buy energy efficient lightbulbs, and environmentally friendly cleaners and detergents. It’s amazing how useful baking soda and vinegar can be! Consider wool dryer balls instead of fabric sheets…they help cut down on drying time, leave your clothes feeling soft, and don’t leave any of that chemical residue that dryer sheets do. And you can use the same set again and again. I get mine from an awesome family farm in NC: http://www.stoneymountainfarm.com
Reduce-Reuse-Recycle: Buy products with minimal packaging, keep reusable bags in the car for shopping, and recycle whenever possible. Use plastic bags as garbage bags, or old yogurt containers for storage or organizing. Get creative. And if you’re unsure what to do with something, ask a child – they often have great ideas for using things as toys or for projects. Once you start, you’ll see that it can be pretty fun!
Accept Responsibility: Most importantly, accept responsibility for your contribution to pollution. Do your best, but don’t beat yourself up. No one is perfect.
If there are changes you can make, make them. If you have friends and family members you can educate, educate them.
And when you’re out and about in nature, thank Mother Earth for all she provides you. A healthy planet means healthy soil, air, and water. We need all three to survive, and we’re not doing a great job protecting them. Without her strength and resiliency, we would have gone extinct years ago.