The Earth has undergone drastic changes through time.
In the 21st century, these changes have only become more radical due to modern human activities. Industrialization, technology, and other advancements brought about by humanity have forced the surroundings to evolve. Negatively, in particular, to meet our ongoing demands. Today, convenience is our top priority so that we can live our day-to-day lives with ease and relief. Thus, increasing the carbon footprint as a nation, as well as in our personal life.
Over the years, it has only become more evident that climate change is indeed happening. Some may not believe this claim and ignore the complex science involved in proving that human activities have worsened the state of our environment. However, we cannot deny that we should also be the ones responsible for reversing its effect. It can be overwhelming since no one is actually sure if we can escape the consequences of our actions.
The least we could do is try.
While it is a global initiative to provide a real solution to this pressing problem, you still have ways to make your day-to-day life lessen its impact on the environment and leave a smaller carbon footprint.
A quick look at what you can do –
- Eat more vegetables
- Save more water
- Commute smartly
- Waste less, recycle more
- Follow the 4Rs
- Shop mindfully
- Invest wisely
- Maintain a to-do list
Now don’t just stop here, keep on reading to learn how you can actually do these.
What does carbon footprint mean?
Before jumping to our list, let’s take a quick look at the concept of carbon footprint itself.
Generally speaking, carbon footprint refers to the amount of carbon emitted by our activities, as an individual or as a group. One of the main components of GHGs (greenhouse gases) is Carbon Dioxide (CO2), so the name “carbon footprint” refers back to it.
As mentioned above, carbon footprint is calculated by different aspects of our everyday lives – the activities we do, the services we use, and the lifestyle we maintain. For example, the type and quantity of food we eat contribute to the overall carbon footprint that we leave behind.
To further explain the concept of carbon footprint, let’s consider one of the most common activities we do every day – going to work or school. It’s a perfect example to demonstrate how carbon footprint works. Do you use your car to get to work? Do you take the bus going to school? If you gave a yes to either of the two, then you probably have left a massive carbon footprint behind. ‘Massive’ – not because of a single day of using ride, but having used it for a large portion of your life. Vehicles that run by fossil fuel emit carbon from fuel combustion in the engine. Not to mention all the carbons exhausted from extracting the oil underground, refining in the factory, transporting it to the city, and distributing it to your local gas station. All these activities produce carbon and are parts of the carbon footprint you leave every time you drive your car or take the bus.
Simpleshow explains the carbon footprint in a fantastic way:
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), about 28% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2018 came from the transportation sector, primarily by burning fossil fuels. Let alone by the fact that carbon emission brought by the production of electricity and the fashion industry collectively contribute to half of the yearly greenhouse gas emissions. These numbers are quite alarming. To get a sense of what to expect in the future, just take a quick look at what happened in 2020.
Starting from the vastly devastating wildfires all across Australia, to the immense record-breaking Arctic heatwave of Siberia, in 2020, the effects of climate change have truly been experienced in every part of the globe. On top of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change has brought us to the brink of socio-economic destruction. Despite the world having been put on lockdown, the crippling impacts of climate change have still been deeply felt. By now, we should realize that drastic actions need to be taken if we want to solve the global crisis at hand.
What can you do to reduce carbon footprint?
So, what does all of this imply? Although meaningful strategies would take measures on a worldwide scale, there are life choices that you can make to reduce the size of your carbon footprint from today. By making small yet noticeable changes in our lifestyle, collectively, we can all begin to make a huge difference.
Here are some direct ways you can make sure your carbon footprint is kept minimum.
Life choices you can make to reduce your carbon footprint
1. Eat more greens
Yes, we’re saying it too;
Replace your red (meat) with green (vegetables).
Eating is one of the most mundane things that we all do daily. Nonetheless, being more mindful about the food you consume (and how you consume them) is actually a good start in minimizing your carbon footprint. This is because the processes involved in placing food on (and off) your table are actually one of the key contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. You may not see it or feel it, but it’s happening.
Although this may sound a bit extreme, you don’t really have to drastically change your diet to reduce carbon footprint. Instead, start with little things like reducing your food waste. Not that you are forced to finish the whole plate even when you are full but at least try to keep the leftovers for another meal or leave your scraps for proper composting. These simple acts help reduce the amount of food that decomposes in landfills that emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
To reduce your food waste, you can plan your meals ahead and keep a strict list of ingredients when buying your groceries. Sounds hard? You won’t feel the same when you start doing it.
Speaking of grocery shopping, try to ditch those plastic bags, wrappings, and packages. Single-use plastics are notorious for contributing greenhouse gases once they are discarded. As an alternative, bring your own reusable bags and store your food in glass containers. You may want to avoid take-outs, too, since they often come packed in Styrofoam or plastic.
Meanwhile, if you are up for the challenge, shifting your diet to eating less meat and more greens goes a long way in reducing your carbon footprint. This is because meat (and dairy products) goes through livestock production, which is found out to represent 9.9% of the global human-induced greenhouse gas emissions (source: US EPA 2018).
It doesn’t have to be drastic, though. Limiting to one meat-based meal a day, going meat-free once a week (Meatless Monday), or testing out vegetarian or vegan recipes are also practical options. If you can afford it, you may go for plant-based meat solutions or buy clean meat.
2. Conserve fresh water while it’s there
Much like food, water is vital in our everyday lives. This is not limited to drinking water, though, but also other errands that involve its consumption.
Efficient and mindful use of water is one of the easiest ways to help lessen one’s carbon footprint and consequently curb climate change. Since the freshwater that we can consume is already limited, it is only right for us to economically delegate the supply that we already have.
It may not be common knowledge, but you should be aware that water takes a lot of energy to pump, treat, and heat. The water you use to take a bath, brush your teeth, or wash your dishes has actually gone through a number of greenhouse-emitting processes before you can use it. So, conserving water is indeed one of the best ways to save energy and ultimately reduce your carbon footprint.
Simple conscious acts like:
- Checking faucets for leaks
- Taking shorter showers
- Turning off the water while brushing your teeth
- Washing a full machine load of clothes
- Washing your car with a bucket and a rag
And other basic chores that you can do at home are already big steps in combating water waste. You HAVE to save water for your future generations. It’s not a suggestion anymore, it’s mandatory!
3. Travel or commute smartly
Going around the city or neighborhood to run some errands or simply just for fun requires you to either drive your car or hop on a bus. As mentioned earlier, the transportation sector alone contributes to around one-third of the annual GHG emission to the atmosphere. However, this is before electric-powered vehicles became popular.
We know it’s hard to roam around the city, trying to cross out that to-do list of yours without a reliable mode of transport. We’re also aware that driving your own car will just worsen the amount of your carbon footprint. So instead of settling for fossil fuel-powered cars, maybe it’s time to switch to more eco-friendly and greener transportation – e-vehicles (or EVs).
Electric cars, electric scooters, and electric bikes, are just some of the most common electric-driven vehicles that people use today. However, Electric bikes specifically are the most preferred ones. Not only are they zero-emission vehicles (meaning their by-products do not emit any pollutants) they also offer the same health and practical benefits as conventional bicycles. They are electric-powered; therefore, they do not use fossil fuels which is more environment-friendly and costs you less in the long run.
Related: 14 best electric bikes of 2021
4. Send less waste to landfills
Now that sanitary landfills are being constructed and required by the local governments worldwide, it’s the perfect opportunity for us to make the most out of these landfills. Because in no time, these designated sanitary landfills will be filled up, and the best way to slow down the accumulation of garbage is to segregate as much as we can.
Keep as much stuff out of the landfill as possible by separating biodegradable ones from the non-biodegradable ones. Recycle the things that are broken but are still usable in one way or another. Reuse objects and stuff that are not completely exhausted yet. Most importantly, try different DIY indoor composting at home for biodegradable waste.
By following these simple tricks, together, we can save a lot of space in the landfill and consequently lengthen the life of these modern sanitary landfills.
5. Practice the 4Rs and encourage others to follow
Most of the items we use in our everyday life and our activities, whether these are necessities or not, produce greenhouse gases and increase our carbon footprint. For the past decades, scientists and local authorities have been trying different ways to reduce waste and find ideas for a more sustainable future. This is where the importance of 4Rs (Reduce-Reuse-Recycle-Recover) becomes more prominent and beneficial.
- Our first step is to reduce the amount of waste we produce by using less stuff. For instance, instead of using disposable plastics and items, we should buy long-lasting products that can be used for many purposes.
- Next, we identify waste that can be reused without the need for new materials or manufacturing processes. It means that we need to continue using items that are still functional.
- Furthermore, in the case of products that cannot be reused, we can transform them into different items through recycling. This will help us save natural resources and also bring out our creativity.
- Lastly, recovery involves converting our waste into resources such as electricity, fuel, and compost through both biological and thermal methods. For example, organic waste materials can be converted into fertilizer through composting.
Adopting 4 Rs in our daily life requires a lot of patience and continuity, but if most of us can do it, it will return a significant benefit for our later part of life and to our next generations.
6. Be mindful about buying clothes
According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), 10% of global emissions yearly are produced by the fashion industry, and 20% of wastewater comes from fabric manufacturing and dyeing.
If this pattern continues, global consumption will spike from 62 million metric tons (2019) to 102 million tons, and the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions will rise more than 50% in 10 years. Considering these facts, the call for a more environmentally friendly approach becomes evident, including manufacturers and consumers.
To make a change as an individual, we must be mindful of what we wear. One easy way to do it is to prioritize buying only what we need and consider quality over quantity. This will save money and help minimize substandard production, which can be detrimental for the environment in the long run due to more waste and natural resources used.
Moreover, we can be imaginative by recycling and repairing our existing clothes and innovating garments to make them look new and fashionable. Besides, we can also consider donating clothes that we do not use and buying pre-loved clothing. Lastly, we should also be critical about where to buy, considering the manufacturer’s use of sustainable measures and principles.
Sounds too hard? You’ll feel the benefits when you get used to it.
7. Invest wisely in energy-hungry appliances
The use of energy-consuming appliances in most households all over the world is one of the major causes of harmful GHG. As a consumer of these appliances, we can do various methods to save money and energy through energy-efficient devices to reduce our carbon footprints and help protect the environment.
If we choose to purchase energy-efficient home appliances, we help prevent emissions of harmful gases and excess electricity use. In most countries, electricity is produced through burning fossil fuels which create a massive amount of carbon emissions contributing to climate change. As consumers, we have the responsibility to check not just the use of the appliances that we buy but also its impact on the environment.
For instance, we can check for the energy rating, which indicates an appliance’s energy consumption. With this, we can better choose the most suitable and sustainable appliances for our home. Indeed, we should know to invest wisely, not just financially but environmentally.
8. Reduce unnecessary activities in daily life
At this age, everything we do contributes to the size of the carbon footprint we have. However, if we manage these activities properly, we wouldn’t have to contribute that much carbon to the atmosphere.
A simple example – instead of going back and forth to get groceries every day, why not make it a weekly habit? That way you won’t have to spend much on transportation plus you can plan your meals wisely for the rest of the week. That’s how you get the best of both worlds!
Another way to reduce unnecessary activities is to plan your day explicitly by making a detailed to-do list. By doing this, you’re not only helping yourself keep track of your accomplishments, but it also enables you to lessen non-essential activities that can take much of your and the world’s energy.
In the end
There is no doubt that climate change has done enough damage already to our only living planet. There are still many aspects that we don’t know about what the future holds. If we don’t take action today, climate change will surely bite us and the next generations in the back.
Knowing the environmental impact of an action is crucial when it comes to taking steps and launching measures to minimize our average carbon footprint to the lowest possible extent. Every one of us needs to pitch in to cut our emissions. It all begins with what each person does every day and how mindful they are about it.
We hope you learned a thing or two on how to start reducing your carbon footprint from today. We only have one planet to live on; let’s not take it for granted just for the sake of our personal interests. So the next time you take the bus or drive your car, think of how big the mark you’re going to leave behind. Because it’s not just you who’s walking on Earth, there are billions of people on this blue planet.
It takes a global-scale initiative to deal with a global issue, but we’re not going to get there if we don’t start from today.