Episode 6 – Easy Ways to reduce your carbon footprint
Welcome to episode six! This week on the podcast, I discuss easy ways to reduce your carbon footprint for 2019! There are dozens of free and inexpensive things that you can start doing right now to reduce your carbon footprint. I also included a few ‘investment’ options as well, for those of you looking into buying new appliances, a new vehicle, or making your home more environmentally friendly. Listen to find out!
Want to learn more?
What is a ‘carbon footprint’?
Your carbon footprint is the sum of all emissions of green house gasses (typically carbon dioxide) which were created by your activities in a given time frame – typically a year. Its usually measured in tons of CO2.
So for example, each activity you participate in would cause a certain amount of CO2 to be released. Any energy you use would apply. So, for example, driving to the store would release a certain amount because of the gas burned in your car. The foods you buy have a certain ‘carbon footprint’ because of the way they were grown, packaged, and transported. The energy used to heat or cool your home, has a footprint. The water heated for your shower, the amount of water you use, etc.
Why do we need to reduce carbon emissions/energy usage?
A few months ago (at the beginning of October) The UN released a report written by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It essentially outlined the impacts of a global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius (which is 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit.) You can read this report here. 1.5 degrees is our best case scenario, and its detrimental to our way of life. If current trends continue – and we do nothing – we are on track to reach 1.5 degrees of warming by 2040 – thats 22 years from now. I’ll be 48.
If we are able to curb our warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius – the best case scenario – we are up for:
- Nearly all coral reefs will have died out
- Wildfires & heatwaves will sweep the planet annually
- The interplay between drought, temperature, and flooding will mean that the worlds food supply will be dramatically less secure.
So what happens if we go past this 1.5 degrees ‘best case scenario’?
At 2 degrees, only slightly higher than our best case scenario, the melting from the polar ice caps will result in massive flooding and sea level rise across the world. 400 million more people will suffer from water scaricty and even in northern countries, heat waves will kill thousands every summer. Along the equator in places like India, there will be 32 times as many extreme heat waves, each lasting five times as long and exposing 93 times more people.
At 3 degrees, southern Europe will be in permanant drought. The average draught in Central America would last a year and a half, and in the Caribbean – almost 2 years. In Northern Africa – 5 years. The areas burned by wild fires would be twice as large in the Mediterranean, and six times as large in the US. Beyond sea level rise, which will already be swallowing cities from Miami to Jakarta, damages just from river floods will grow 30 fold in Bangladesh, 20 fold in india, and as much as 60x in the UK.
At 4 degrees, there would be 8 million cases of dengue fever each year just in Latin America. Global grain yields could fall by as much as 50% – leading to annual or close to annual food crises.
Ways to reduce your carbon footprint:
- Reduce your meat & dairy consumption. The single best thing you can do to curb carbon emissions is to go vegan or at least reduce your meat consumption.The agricultural industry accounts for about 25% of all greenhouse gases globally. 80% of that is specific to animal agriculture. Animal agriculture produces more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector!Livestock production accounts for 70% of agricultural land use, and 30% of all the land on the planet. Livestock production also accounts for over 8% of global human water consumption.Cut back on red meat, eat one vegan meal per day, try ‘Meatless Mondays’ etc.
- Keep your house a little cooler in winter, and a little warmer in summer. Lowering or raising the thermostat by even just one degree has a impact. In Winter, open blinds to let light in to warm the room. In Summer, keep them drawn to keep it cooler. Invest in a ‘smart’ digital thermostat – you can easily set it to turn off when you aren’t home or raise & lower the temperature when you’re out or asleep to save money (and it can be controlled from your phone!)
- Limit how much you drive (or carpool). Run your errands all at once, instead of running out individually. Take public transport if you can. Use Lyft or Uber pool. Bike. Walk. Public transport saves 37 million tons of carbon emissions every year.
- Avoid buying into ‘fast fashion’ as much as possible. You can try alternatives like investing in higher quality clothing that will last you years and years, go thrifting, do clothes swaps with your friends, and support small businesses who create handmade garments.
- Be aware of lights left on, things plugged in when not in use, TVs left on, etc. Unplug when not in use, or use power strips. Unplug laptops, phones, and devices once they are charged. Devices that are turned off still suck energy from outlets. You can put things like your television, stereo system, DVD player, etc all on a power cord so you can easily unplug when not in use.
- Be more efficient with water usage – if you have a dishwasher, use it (it is more water efficient than washing by hand). Turn water off when brushing teeth, scrubbing a large pan, etc. In summer if you have space, you can collect rain water to water plants with. You can even do things like putting a ‘brick’ in your toilet which raises the water level in the tank and ultimately results in less water used when flushing. Take shorter showers – you can even use a shower timer.
- Reduce trash/waste: Compost or order a composting service for food scraps. Recycle (make sure things are cleaned and can be recycled locally). Recycle plastic bags. Find ways to reuse things or avoid getting more bags when shopping (check out my first podcast about reducing plastic waste).
- If you can, grow some of your own food, buy local, buy organic, or at least buy in-season. Visit your local farmers market when in season (typically Spring through Fall), and opt into buying a CSA box through Fall/Winter. CSA stands for ‘community supported agriculture’ – basically a farm share. If you miss out on the deadline, or they are full of ‘shares’ – you can look into companies like ‘Misfits Market‘ (by clicking on that you get $5 off your first box) which deliver local produce to your door – typically left over or ‘ugly’ produce.
- Line dry clothes – if possible. One dryer cycle uses 5x more electricity than a washing machine load. One dryer load is equivalent to turning on 225 light bulbs for an hour! Try using an indoor rack and hang dry delicates. Even washing clothes in cold water can help since the energy doesn’t have to be used to heat the water.
- Seal drafts and fix leaks when they occur in your home. Replace incandescent bulbs with compact flourescet (CF) or LED bulbs.
Long term/investment options:
- Look into alternative energy for your home – solar panels, geothermal, wind, passive solar heating, etc. Some states even have incentives for these options, and you may even end up getting paid every month selling energy back to the grid.
- Look into getting a hybrid, electric, or more gas efficient car for your next purchase. Ideally, you’d be able to charge an electric car with solar panels. But if that isn’t possible, go for a hybrid or high mileage gas car. Some states even offer incentives to switch to electric cars so do a little research if you’re looking into a new vehicle. Something free (and easy) you can do is to drive carefully and avoid speeding/reckless driving/tailgating/ speeding up and braking or avoiding rush hour traffic– it reduces milage by up to 33%. Properly inflated tires improve gas milage by up to 3%. Remove excess weight from your car.
- When purchasing new larger appliances (dishwashers, ranges, washers dryers AC units, refrigerators etc) look for Energy Star Efficient ones. Look for shower heads, washing machines, toilets, and dishwashers that are more water efficient.