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.”