10 Tips to Shrink Your Carbon Footprint
By now, just about everyone agrees that carbon pollution poses a serious threat to our planet. They’re even building seawalls around Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in Ireland to protect the place against climate change.
At this point, we must accept the grim reality that some level of global warming is inevitable. But by taking action now as individuals, we can still avoid the worst effects. According to a recent study in the journal ”Environmental Research Letters,” the four steps that most substantially shrink a person’s carbon footprint are: eating a plant-based diet, living without a car, avoiding air travel and having a smaller family.
Americans emit 16.1 tons of carbon per person per year, according to the World Bank. This is less than in the 1970s when that number was around 22.5 tons, but it’s still far above the 2050 goal set by the Paris Climate Accords, which is 2.1 tons of carbon per person per year.
We’d better get started. Here are 10 steps you can take to shrink your carbon footprint.
Go car-free. Short of having one less child (which cuts the climate change impact by 120 tons of CO2 emissions per year, if you include carbon that the child’s children would emit), living without a car is the biggest step you can take. According to the EPA, the typical passenger vehicle emits around 4.7 metric tons of CO2 each year.
Inflate your tires. If you do drive, make sure your tires are properly inflated. This can cut your carbon emissions by up to 700 pounds a year.
Take a staycation. One round-trip flight from New York to Europe or New York to San Francisco creates a warming effect equivalent to an average year’s worth of driving.
But don’t worry about being cooped up too long. There’s hope that changes in both aircraft design and fuel source are on the horizon.
Eat less meat. People who eat more than 3.5 ounces of meat per day – a serving about the size of a deck of cards – generate 15.8 pounds of CO2 each day, vegetarians just 8.4 pounds and vegans only 6.4 pounds.
Try going vegetarian or vegan one or two days a week. And when you do eat meat, choose poultry, which is less greenhouse-gas intensive than beef or pork.
Recycle. You likely recycle to some extent already, but you may not know what an impact it can have. If you recycle half your household waste, you can save 2,400 pounds of CO2 annually.
Adjust your thermostat. Move your thermostat up 2 degrees in the summer and down 2 degrees in the winter. You’ll reduce your carbon emissions by 1 ton per year.
Wash in cold water. Almost 90 percent of the energy used by a washing machine goes to heat the water. Switching to cold water for your wash cycle will cut your carbon dioxide emissions by around 1,600 pounds a year. While old laundry soaps worked well only with hot water, new soaps are formulated for cold water and perform as well as or better than traditional detergents.
Dry on a clothesline. Drying one load of laundry in a machine puts 0.1 metric tons of CO2 into the air, so line-drying your clothes makes a real difference over time. Another plus: Your clothes will last longer because they won’t get roughed up in the dryer.
Buy an Energy Star fridge. Refrigerators 15 years or older use twice as much energy as a new Energy Star fridges. Replace your old fridge with an Energy Star model, and you can cut your carbon footprint by 8,200 pounds, and save as much as $260 in the first five years.
Tune up your water heater. There are two ways you can make your water heater more efficient. One, wrap it in an insulating blanket. It costs only about $25 at your local home center, and it will cut your carbon emissions by up to 1,000 pounds annually. Two, turn down the thermostat from 140 degrees (the standard factory setting) to 120 degrees. Each 10-degree reduction reduces your carbon emissions by 600 pounds (electric) or 440 pounds (gas) a year.
There you have it: 10 tips to shrink your carbon footprint.
What are some methods you’ve tried? We’d love to hear what’s worked for you.