It’s 8am on a Saturday. I wake up, grab my phone, and start perusing my news streams. I’m immediately hit with this: 20,000 Scientists Give Dire Warning About The Future In ‘Letter To Humanity’ I don’t know about you, but I’m so tired of seeing headlines like this that I dread opening my phone.
So, let’s do something about it.
If you believe most scientists, the world is in a bad place. Sure, you can deem this fake news and go about your lives assuming it’s another Y2K. But what if it isn’t? What if scientists are even partially right? If veterinarians started saying that Purina was probably causing cancer in dogs, would you throw caution to the wind and keep giving it to your pup? You wouldn’t.
Why, then, do we refuse to believe warnings about the environment and climate change? My theory is that it’s because most of us don’t understand the science behind it, the media has made us so jaded and desensitized that we have no idea what to believe or who to trust, and it’s really inconvenient if scientists are right because it means we need to change. I get it; I feel the same. That’s why I’m writing this. And if you’re reading it, that’s a great first step because it means you give a shit.
How To Lower Your Carbon Footprint and Reduce Climate Change
The #1 thing you should do to reduce your impact is get informed, and start making changes to your lifestyle. Once we start changing our lifestyles and putting pressure on the government and corporations to react in kind, they’ll start making the larger scale changes that are necessary to combat this crisis.
Below is a list of the highest impact lifestyle changes you can make to benefit the environment, live more healthily, and save money.
#1 – Have Fewer Children
Before you write me off as another career-obsessed, childless hag (To be fair, it’s true other than the ‘hag’ bit), I’ll just drop this direct quote right here: ‘Recycling and using public transit are all fine and good if you want to reduce your carbon footprint, but to truly make a difference you should have fewer children. That’s the conclusion of a new study in which researchers looked at 39 peer-reviewed papers, government reports, and web-based programs that assess how an individual’s lifestyle choices might shrink their personal share of emissions.’ According to the study, having one fewer child reduces a parent’s carbon footprint by 117,200 pounds, which is roughly the same emissions savings as having 700 teens recycle as much as possible for the rest of their lives. Beyond the environmental benefits, it goes without saying that you’ll save tons of money by not having as many kids.
There are a lot of ways to minimize your kid’s carbon footprint. Here’s how a Sr. Director at World Wildlife Fund offset her child’s impact.
#2 – Power Your Home With Renewable Energy
Don’t skip to the next section – This isn’t as hard as it seems! Powering your home with renewable energy can equate to massive carbon emissions and cost savings. There are a couple of ways you can do it, which are both covered extensively in this post. Below is a brief synopsis of each…
Most Realistic Option – Source Renewable Energy – Setting up a solar / renewable energy farm that powers your entire house probably isn’t realistic for most people. But it’s super simple to source renewable energy. All you have to do is sign up with Arcadia Power. At no extra cost to you, Arcadia will take 50% of your monthly energy bill and put it toward renewable options. (They’ll put 100% of your bill toward renewable energy for an extra monthly fee that’s calculated based on your location and grid options). This is a great option that costs no extra money, and effectively allows you to invest in renewable energy for your area. It also takes little-to-no extra effort on your part. My Co-Founder, Scott, signed up for it, and has been happy with it so far. If you have questions, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for help.
Greenest Option – Go Off the Grid – Generating renewable energy for some or all of your energy needs is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, and save money. My boyfriend and I recently built a solar system that powers the truck camper we live and work out of. It has helped us be more independent – since we can park and camp anywhere there’s sun without worrying about plugging in – and saved us a good bit of money (not to mention lowered our footprint considerably by being 100% solar powered). Learn how to do it here.
#3 – Fly and Drive Less
Unfortunately fellow travelers, our wanderlust is really bad for the environment. Especially if we’re taking a lot of long flights. According to our calculations, flying emits nearly 2x as many emissions as driving. Each flight hour emits ~551 pounds of CO2e directly into the upper atmosphere, whereas each driving mile emits a little under 1 pound of CO2e (Note – These numbers are based on national averages, and should be used directionally as opposed to absolutely).
If you’re like me and can’t cut back on travel entirely, try offsetting instead. Each time you take a long flight or drive a lot, make a donation to One Tree Planted or CarbonFund.org. Each $1 donated to One Tree Planted funds planting and care for one tree in a deforested area (You can choose the area too!). Since each tree sucks up 48lbs of CO2e per year, this is a great, inexpensive way to make an impact. Similarly, you can donate to CarbonFund.org to offset atmospheric carbon. Each $1 donated offsets 200lbs of CO2e.
Another great way to reduce your travel impact is to switch from a gas-powered vehicle to an electric vehicle. Based on our research, this will cut your carbon footprint by 3,600lbs CO2e per year, and save you around $1,650.
#4 – Eat a Plant-Based Diet
Oh you didn’t think I could get any less fun?! Hold my beer…
Now I’m going to tell you to eat less meat and cheese. Unfortunately, the raising, rearing, and production of livestock creates a lot of emissions (As do their farts – No joke! Cow farts are killing the earth!). Also, most cheese is shipped long distances, which creates a lot of emissions. Below is a quick guide to reducing your food consumption emissions:
- Become a vegan, vegetarian, or pescatarian (Obviously). Potential emissions reductions per day: -5.5lbs CO2e (for vegans). -4.4lbs CO2e (for vegetarians).
- Eat less red meat (lamb, beef, and ham). Potential emissions reductions per day: -3.3lbs CO2e.
- Hunt, fish or buy your meat from locally-owned, small farms (This cuts down on shipping and production emissions while supporting local farmers).
- Eat less cheese (A sacrilege), or buy local cheese (Everyone move to Wisconsin). Potential emissions reductions per pound not eaten: –6lbs CO2e.
- Limit the amount of pre-packaged, pre-made foods you buy since creating and preserving these creates a lot of emissions. According to one study, each premade breakfast sandwich is responsible for nearly 3lbs of CO2e.
- Stop eating. Starve yourself (Just kidding… Sort of…).
#5 – Buy Less Stuff
America’s rampant consumerism and need for instant gratification are taking a major toll on the environment. A constant increase in demand for ‘things,’ leads to a constant increase in production, carbon emissions, and waste. Believe it or not, living as a minimalist was really hard for me. I don’t have lots of electronics or furniture, but boy do I love clothes. And my collection took up every wall in my Chicago apartment. So, I get that it’s hard. However, some of the best things we can do for our finances and the environment is to do more with less, and buy higher-quality, multi-purpose consumer goods that will last a long time.
There you have it – The top ways to reduce your carbon footprint, and get everyone to stop harping on climate change. As Bill McDonough says, ‘We—all of us—have a lot to do. We know that this work requires all of us and it will take forever, but some of this work is urgent. Let’s start now.’
To better understand CO2 emissions generated by various activities and how to offset them, see our carbon emissions calculator.