9 Low-Cost Ways To Shrink Your Car­bon Foot­print


With Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s re­cent an­nounce­ment that the United States will with­draw from the Paris cli­mate agree­ment, many Amer­i­cans are con­cerned about the fu­ture of the en­vi­ron­ment. Less than a third of Amer­i­cans sup­port the de­ci­sion to leave the Paris ac­cord, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey by the As­so­ci­ated Press-NORC Cen­ter for Public Af­fairs Re­search. And 65% of peo­ple are very or some­what wor­ried about global warm­ing, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent Gallup poll.

What’s a green-minded cit­i­zen to do? While the wheels of big en­vi­ron­men­tal change move slowly, there are things that you can do on an in­di­vid­ual level to de­crease your im­pact on the planet—and they don’t have to cost much. (Or any­thing.)

Here are some sug­ges­tions:

1. Stop or re­duce beef and dairy con­sump­tion.

“All meat is rel­a­tively re­source in­ten­sive, but beef in par­tic­u­lar is a huge green­house gas emit­ter,” says Si­mon Alexan­der, edi­tor-inchief of en­ergy site Fur­nacePrices.ca. “Even switch­ing to eat­ing chicken over beef is prefer­able. Plus, beef is ex­pen­sive, so this can ac­tu­ally save money.”

2. Bring your own mug.

Most cof­fee shops al­low you to bring your own cup. “Some ac­tu­ally of­fer a dis­count

to those who bring re­us­able mugs,” says Lindsey Pasieka, a con­sumer rights in­ves­ti­ga­tor for Con­sumerSafety.org. “If you get cof­fee ev­ery week­day, that’s about 260 pa­per cups, plas­tic tops and straws that you are sav­ing from land­fills.” While you’re at it, get your­self a re­us­able wa­ter bot­tle, too.

3. Switch to pa­per­less billing.

“Not only is this eas­ier than the clas­sic drawer of end­less doc­u­ments, but it can help dras­ti­cally re­duce both pa­per us­age and the ef­fects of trans­port­ing that ex­tra mail to you,” Pasieka says. “You can also sign up for ser­vices to re­duce the amount of junk mail you re­ceive—most of which ends up in the garbage any­way.” Check out eco­cy­cle.org/junkmail for ideas.

4. Nudge your ther­mo­stat up a de­gree.

“Sim­ply al­ter­ing the tem­per­a­ture set point by one de­gree on your AC can make a huge dif­fer­ence,” says Brid­get Venne, en­ergy and sus­tain­abil­ity strat­egy ex­pert for Ecova, an en­ergy man­age­ment com­pany that helps com­pa­nies im­prove en­vi­ron­men­tal per­for­mance. “One large box re­tailer less­ened its im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment by set­ting the AC to kick on at 75 de­grees in­stead of 74. It now con­sumes 30,000 fewer kilo­watts and saves $3,100 ev­ery year.”

5. Check your bulbs.

“Make sure that all of the lights in your home are flu­o­res­cent, CFL or LED lights,” says Bar­bara Mc­gar­ity, ser­vice rep for Pay­lesspower.com. “You might not re­al­ize that the kitchen light is ac­tu­ally still an in­can­des­cent one. You’ll use 75% less en­ergy that way and they last four to eight times as long.”

6. Use cloth bags.

If you’re still us­ing plas­tic bags at the gro­cery store, you’re miss­ing an op­por­tu­nity. “We bought our cloth bags in 1988 and are still us­ing the same

ones,” says Kerri Five­coat-Camp­bell, au­thor of Liv­ing Large in Our Lit­tle House: Thriv­ing in 480 Square Feet With Six Dogs, a Hus­band And One Re­mote. “I stopped count­ing when I es­ti­mated we had saved 10,000 bags. I also use mesh pro­duce bags in­stead of the plas­tic ones as well.” Keep bags near your purse or keys or in your ve­hi­cle.

7. Buy lo­cal food.

“This will not only re­duce your car­bon foot­print, but can save you money as well,” says Kelly Harer, a sus­tain­abil­ity lec­turer at Coastal Carolina Univer­sity. “The av­er­age veg­etable trav­els ap­prox­i­mately 1,500 miles to get to your plate. Buy­ing lo­cal—from farmer’s mar­kets and CSAs—saves fuel and re­duces car­bon emis­sions.”

8. De­velop a min­i­mal­ist wardrobe.

“The fast fash­ion in­dus­try is poorly reg­u­lated and con­trib­utes to 2.5 bil­lion pounds in the USA alone of tex­tile waste,” says Me­gan Fale­tra, a global nu­tri­tion con­sul­tant and reg­is­tered di­eti­tian who works on sus­tain­able food sys­tems. “Not to men­tion, most cloth­ing is dyed, sewed and shipped from coun­tries with very poor la­bor and en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards. This means that your clothes are pro­duc­ing a lot of car­bon just to get to you.” Pay at­ten­tion to your cloth­ing’s ori­gins and see if you can get by on less of it.

9. Buy less.

This may seem ob­vi­ous, but the less dis­pos­able stuff you buy, the less waste you’ll pro­duce. “I stopped buy­ing pa­per prod­ucts and saved al­most $1,000 over the last three years,” says Kathryn K., who writes at Go­ingZeroWaste. com. “I stopped buy­ing food in pack­ag­ing and saved [more than] $7,000 in the last three years. In­stead of buy­ing dis­pos­ables, fo­cus on buy­ing reusables that can be used again and again.”

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