Are you new to green living and want to learn more about reducing your carbon footprint? Or you’re just taking another step in the right direction to save our planet and preserve its resources? In any case, this article will help guide you through all the small changes every person can make in their household.
What is the Carbon Footprint?
This term refers to the amount of Carbon Dioxide people release into the atmosphere with their daily actions and everyday choices. CO2 is a part of the famous group of “greenhouse gases”. However, popular does not mean good, in their case.
Greenhouse gases create a layer in the atmosphere that traps the heat emitted from the sun, causing global warming. This, on the other hand, leads to several other problems for the earth, such as the melting of the ice, totally disrupted weather patterns, raising the level of the oceans and other harmful effects on nature, including plants and animals.
CO2 is the main greenhouse gas generated by humans. Hence, it’s also the one that has the most significant effect on the planet.
Why is reducing our Carbon Footprint so important?
In recent years it became clear that the only way to survive on our little blue marble is to protect and care for it. As much as it tries, our planet cannot rejuvenate and continue living without our help because of all the damage it’s done to it.
Yes, most of that damage is the fault of major corporations, but if every household opts for a green way of living, we can counter a big part of that pollution and destruction.
The Ecological Footprint Calculator
A lot of people don’t realise the impact they have on the planet. Recycling and using paper straws, unfortunately, is not enough to turn all of our actions around. Thankfully, a magical thing exists – The Ecological Footprint Calculator. You answer several questions that measure how precisely you’re hurting the planet and what you need to change. It’s an important step to take so you can start making a difference right now.
So let’s not lose any more time and jump right in…
Things we can do to reduce our Carbon Footprint
How to use Less Water
Many people don’t pay attention to the amount of water they use each day. How many times do we flush per day, how long does the sink run when you wash the dishes, or how much water you use for your plants. Those are things that just happen, part of your daily routine. However, minimising your water consumption is one of the most important things you need to do since water is not an endless source.
Let’s see what the changes you can make without feeling uncomfortable and keep enjoying life are.
Check for Leaks
Leakages are incredibly annoying, costly and harmful. Most of the time, you can quickly notice any leaks in your house since they can amp up your water bill significantly. Other times you’re just woken in the middle of the night by a constant dripping sound. In any case, it’s not a pleasant experience, and most of all – it’s wasting water.
Experts recommend checking your property for leaks every few months, including pipes, appliances, toilet tanks and faucets. Any money you might have to give for repairs will not be as much as you would have to give in case of severe water damage. And if you truly measure how much water you’ve wasted by leaving your toilet tank run for two weeks, chances are the results will shock you.
Shorten the Time you Spend in the Shower
We know that’s probably the last thing you want to hear, but it’s true. Most people use 10% of their time cleaning themselves, while the other 90% are just relaxing. It’s been measured that people don’t need more than 6 minutes to take a proper shower.
And if you want to go one step further, invest in a water-efficient showerhead. It’s important to mention that they don’t work well with an instantaneous hot-water system since the pressure is too low, and most of the time, it won’t be enough for them to start. The same goes for gravity-fed water systems. The best course of action is to talk with your manufacturer about the possibility to switch to a water-efficient showerhead.
Speaking of showers, bathtubs need to be mentioned, as well. Bathtubs can be great, we know. They are accommodating when you need to unwind after a hard day, but they waste more than 210 litres with each fill! If you think about it, this is entirely unnecessary.
Wash your Clothes Wisely
Choose a day of the week that would be your laundry day, and try to wash as many clothes at once as possible. Don’t run the washer only for a few pants and blouses. Still, be careful not to overload it. Not only will you use less water, but fewer cycles will extend the life of your washing machine.
Invest in a Dishwasher
Yes, washing your dishes by hand means you will be using less electricity, but the litres of running water will be a lot more. Dishwashers can be expensive, but they pay off in time since they use less water to take care of a full load. In time, you will notice your water bills going down significantly.
Use the Water-Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS)
These labels tell how water-efficient a specific product is, and you can compare them, choosing the one with the most stars. Nowadays, all new appliances need to have such a label, for example, showers, toilets, washing machines, dishwashers, urinals, and faucets.
A rainwater tank placed in your garden can be of great help. You can use this water for your plants, garden irrigation systems; to wash your car and house on the inside and out; refill your ponds, fountains and swimming pools, should you have any; wash your driveway and balcony. To install a rainwater tank, you have to contact the local council or the water authority.
This is the water you get from your dryer, laundry tubs, from when you shower, or you put the washing machine. Since it’s not very clean or filtered (except the water from your clothes dryer), we recommend that you use it only for your garden. You can do this by diverting the flow of that water with a plumbed-in diverter. Again, we recommend that you contact your local council for advice.
How to Use Less Electricity
Electricity is another resource humans waste without a thought, even if it hurts our pockets and planet daily. Luckily, a lot of that waste can be reverted since it comes from bad habits, not because we have no other choice.
Similar to our water consumption, simple daily changes can make a tremendous difference, and you can start saving electricity right away!
Switch to Energy-efficient Light Bulbs
We know it’s an obvious one, but many people still rely on conventional ones for their lighting. LED lights use up to 80% less electricity to run, their lifespan is a lot longer, and they don’t contain the highly toxic mercury that we find in CFLs. That makes them a lot more environmentally friendly when it’s time to dispose of them.
And to add to the saving, use as much natural light as possible. Nothing beats the sun when it comes to shedding light into our homes.
Skip the Dryer
Dryers are very convenient and time-saving; we understand that. But are they essential to your household? Yes, there may be times where you’re in a hurry, and the dryer will save your life. But on every other occasion, you can just hang them outside or on the balcony. It will save both water and electricity, especially in the summer.
Invest in Renewable Resources
Renewable energy can be a bit expensive at the beginning, but it indeed pays off in time, and they last for years. Even though it feels like solar, wind and water energy have been around for such a long time, it hasn’t been that much. This is why there aren’t many places that offer it as a service, especially for residential properties. Carefully research the companies that provide such an alternative and ensure they have good reviews from actual clients.
Unplug the Appliances which are not in use
Most home appliances have a “stand-by” mode. This means that your computer, TV, gaming console, microwaves, and even some washing machine models, use up electricity no matter if you’re using them or not.
Buy Appliances with a Good Energy Rating
This is similar to the water-efficiency rating – some appliances are way more innovative and don’t use as much energy as others. Those that are more efficient have more stars than the ones that are not. However, sometimes just being larger gives certain appliances more stars. For example, a bigger washing machine can take care of more clothes than a smaller one, but it will use up more energy.
Speaking of, when you choose a washing machine, go for a front-loader since they are a lot kinder to the environment, as they use less water, detergent and energy than the top-loading ones.
And when it’s time to shop for a new fridge, look for a model that consumes as little energy as possible since they are the type of appliance that is turned on constantly. For example, in Australia, there is the Minimum Energy Performance Standard. If you’re in another country, see what the equivalent is and go for it.
Heating and Cooling
Use less Heating during Winter
We know nothing beats the cosy atmosphere of a warm home during wintertime, but heating is not needed most of the time. Of course, we’re not telling you to freeze off, but when it’s not as cold, put on some warmer clothes and a fluffy blanket instead of putting your AC on the highest temperature.
Insulate the Ceiling and Roof
This is best done when constructing a home from scratch, but it’s not impossible even if you live in an old one. It will regulate the temperature in every season and will surely help with the energy bills.
Shade your Windows
Invest in some high-quality blinds or curtains to keep the heat out during the hot summers and the heat in the winter. Remember to pull the curtains or the blind before it gets too hot.
Warm and Cool down the House early
Thinking in advance can help you a lot. If you’re expecting a scorching day, don’t wait for the temperature to become unbearable. Pull the curtains and turn on the AC early on so that you don’t have to cool down a burning hot kitchen or living room.
Invest in a programmable timer and thermostat controls. They will make sure to regulate the temperature only when it’s needed, saving you a lot of energy in the process.
How to Limit the Amount of Garbage We Produce
The amount of waste humans produce is vast, and its damage to the planet is easily noticeable with long-term consequences. So it’s imperative to pay attention to this problem and make the necessary changes to reduce the piles of garbage that pollute our home and kill so many animals and plants.
Here are some easily implemented life changes that will help everyone minimise their trash.
Possibly the most obvious first step we all have to take if we haven’t already. In recent years, it’s become more and more popular, thankfully, and the locations where you can recycle your waste are not hard to find.
It might be challenging to get used to it initially, especially if you have children who don’t truly realise the harm they are doing by throwing away their candy wrappers in the standard bin. For the youngest members of your family, you can turn it into a game, let them decorate the recycling bags or containers in your home so that they can find entertainment in the whole process. Show them all the animals they can save since kids are more impressed by cute animals than the ozone layer.
In time, it will become a habit for all the family members, and they will carry on this tradition when they grow up, spreading awareness to the people surrounding them.
Old clothes can turn into rags for cleaning, jars from food can turn into containers to store other foods like rice, oats, beans, and much more. Almost anything can become something else if you have enough imagination or at least access to the Internet. So before you throw something away, think about what you can do with it.
Forget about disposable plates and cutlery
We think this is quite an obvious step. Most of those disposable items are made from light plastic that would serve you only once before you have to throw them away. The only possible reason to use them would be to save yourself some time washing the dishes, but is it worth it?
By using regular plates and cutlery, you will save a lot of money, it will look more pleasing, and you will help our wonderful planet. And this is what we’re trying to do, right?
Switch to reusable containers
As we mentioned a bit earlier, jars are an incredible container for all kinds of foods. Consider replacing all the short-term and disposable containers with long-lasting ones. The food quality will be a lot better, and it will also protect them from nasty pests.
Repair, don’t throw away
Almost 70% of the things we decide to get rid of can be easily repaired, even if you don’t have excellent DIY skills or a complete set of tools in your home. Experts from Fantastic Services Group advise that according to statistics, people lose a lot more money because they refuse to repair their broken items. They think that hiring a professional to repair your washer, for example, will cost a lot of money. In reality, it’s a lot cheaper than to just buy a new washer. Experts can actually tell you if the item is beyond repair or not, something regular people can’t tell from first glance and if they don’t have the experience.
The different types of transport are the most significant contributor to the immense amount of carbon emissions produced by humans, with the personal automobile taking the first place. Especially in the U.S., the exceptionally high number of cars constantly travelling around the country contributes to the overall amount of greenhouse gas emissions, damaging the ozone layer daily.
That’s why it’s essential to opt for alternatives and reduce the overall usage of non-eco-friendly transport to a minimum.
A single gallon of gasoline produces 20 pounds of Carbon Dioxide, meaning that the average car, truck, or whatever vehicle, creates up to 9 tons of CO2 per year. We don’t have to explain how much this is.
Thankfully, we can do many things to reduce that number, starting with the type of vehicle we choose to drive. Next time you have to buy a car, opt for an energy-efficient model that will not pollute as much as a normal one.
And since numbers are impressive, we will mention that switching from a 20-mpg vehicle to a 25-mpg one can lower the carbon emissions by at least 1.7 tons each year.
Another thing you can do with your standard, gasoline-powered vehicle is try some optimal driving techniques. These include the limitation of braking and hard acceleration since they waste so much fuel and even lower your mileage by 5% in town and 33% on a highway.
You can also spend less time idling and by using cruise control and overdrive.
Finally, one last crucial habit that will reduce the carbon emission from your car and prolong its life—simply maintaining your vehicle in top condition. You should clean up air and oil filters regularly, make sure you have inflated tires and no damage.
An even better alternative is buying an electric car. It runs on batteries, and it’s becoming more and more affordable each year. They are much easier to maintain and a lot safer as well. EVs have a lower centre of gravity, making them a lot less likely to roll over in case of an accident. In recent years, the number of charging stations is also increasing significantly. You can also charge your car at home, at your workplace, at a specially assigned destination or en route, with a rapid charger.
In any case, you should research if your home country offers conditions for owning an electric car before you take this important step.
Using public transport will save both money and the planet, and we are not overreacting. Research shows that you can save more than $10 000 each year if they take the bus/train/tram/underground instead of using their car. Not to mention the impact it has on the Earth. Just imagine if everyone uses public transport instead of their vehicle. It will lower the number of carbon emissions significantly – up to 37 million metric tons.
If you live in a place with a flawed public transportation system, ask for improvement! As a tax-paying citizen, you have the right to demand important things for the community and the planet we live on.
Even if it seems impossible, there are many things a single traveller can do to minimise the damage done by aeroplanes. One of them is choosing direct flights, even if they are a bit more expensive. However, take-offs and landings burn the most significant amount of jet fuel, so the more connections you have to make, the bigger your carbon footprint will be.
Another factor that leads to large amounts of jet fuel burning is the weight of the plane. If it’s very heavy, the machine will need more fuel to fly correctly. So if you can, pack lightly.
Biking and Walking
And last but not least, take a walk or bike to your destination, if possible. We know it’s not the optimal decision for long distances, but it’s entirely possible to implement in our everyday lives. You will not be affected by traffic, and it’s a great exercise that can turn into a fantastic family activity, as well.
We know it seems like a lot, but it isn’t. Our future depends on us and us only. Those little changes will shape the life of the next generations – our kids. And when you think about it, it’s not a high price to pay for a better future. And remember, it’s never late to start. We have the power!