As society becomes more aware of the effect carbon emissions are having on climate change, federal, state, and local governments around the world are taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint. Several cities in Texas joined thousands around the world and signed the Paris Agreement on climate change, and the Austin City Council has also pledged to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
While government action will be key in helping to reverse the effects of global warming, individual action will also be critical in helping to reduce carbon emissions. Fortunately, there are a variety of steps that you can take to drastically reduce your household’s carbon footprint. Incorporating a few green initiatives into your routine could go a long way in helping your community to reduce its carbon emissions. Here is a look at just a few of the things that you can do to significantly reduce your carbon footprint.
Unplug unused devices
One of the simplest things that you can do to reduce your carbon footprint is to unplug your electronic devices when they are not in use. What many people do not realize is that electronics continue to draw a small amount of power when they are plugged in even if they are powered off. In fact, phone and laptop chargers will continue to draw power when plugged in even if they are not connected to a device. While the amount of power these devices and chargers use may seem insignificant, it can quickly add up. In the U.S. alone, this “vampire power” uses up to $19 billion in energy each year. To cut down on your carbon footprint, simply get in the habit of only plugging in chargers, devices, and appliances when you are actively using them.
Another great way to reduce your carbon footprint is to drive less. Every time you make the conscious decision to leave the car home and walk, bike, or take public transportation to your destination, you are immediately reducing your carbon footprint. In particular, walking to close destinations such as dinner out can help the planet while also providing an easy way for you to incorporate additional exercise into your routine. Of course, if you aren’t in the mood to walk, public transportation still helps reduce carbon emissions as more transit authorities are turning to green power sources including electric and natural-gas vehicles. In fact, it is estimated that a person who switches from commuting 20 miles alone by car to taking public transportation every day can reduce their annual CO2 emissions by 48,000 pounds per year. That represents a 10% reduction in carbon emissions for many two-car households.
Consider buying carbon offsets
Of course, there is only so much that you can do personally to make a real impact on climate change, which may leave you feeling frustrated and wanting to do more for the environment. If so, you may want to consider buying carbon offsets. A carbon offset is a means by which you can compensate for your carbon emissions by helping to fund projects/programs that reduce carbon emissions elsewhere. For instance, if you pay to offset one ton of carbon, the offset will help to capture or destroy one ton of greenhouse gasses that would have otherwise been released into the atmosphere. If your job requires you to drive or fly on a regular basis and there is only so much that you can do personally to reduce your carbon emissions, buying carbon offsets can help to compensate for this and reduce or eliminate your carbon footprint.
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Plant a garden
Gardening enthusiasts will be happy to learn that planting a garden can help to further reduce your carbon footprint. As you likely already know, plants absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, which is an extremely useful symbiotic relationship for humans. Thusly, the more plants you add to your garden, balcony, or windowsill, the more your carbon footprint will be offset. Consider adding some bee-friendly flowers to help threatened bee populations. You can also plant a vegetable garden to help reduce your grocery bill.
In addition to offsetting carbon emissions, planting a garden if you live in the city can also help to reduce the “urban heat island” effect. This is essentially localized warming that is taking place in urban areas due to the fact that there are more paved areas than in rural areas. Plants can then help to mitigate this effect and provide cooling by absorbing excess heat.
Eat local produce
You can also reduce your carbon footprint, and help the local economy, by buying local produce whenever possible. When you buy produce that isn’t locally in season, it has likely been shipped in from elsewhere; possibly from another country. This can have a profound effect on carbon emissions, as food may be taking a journey around the world to reach your dinner table. It is then important that you try to buy in-season products from local grocers, as well as farmers’ markets in your neighborhood, to ensure that your food is traveling as short of a distance as possible. You should also try to buy organic produce, as these products haven’t been sprayed with pesticides and chemicals that are toxic to the environment (in addition to being bad for your health).
Line dry your clothes
One of the biggest changes you should consider making in your home to reduce your carbon footprint is to stop using your dryer as much as possible. Opting to go with the traditional line-dry method of drying your clothes is much better for the environment, as dryers are actually one of the top energy-consuming appliances in your home. While line-drying may take some getting used to, and it can seem like an unnecessary hassle if you have never line-dried clothing before, doing so can go a long way in protecting the environment. Furthermore, line-drying has the added benefit of being better for your clothes, as tumble drying causes wear-and-tear, shortening the life of fabrics.