Top 20 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Here are top twenty ways we can reduce our carbon footprint based on research by Union of Concerned Scientists and the groundbreaking climate solutions book Drawdown. Other top actions are also listed - from supporting climate reducing organizations to organizing community efforts to reduce our collective carbon footprint.
The first two are the most effective ways to make a big impact in just minutes - the bottom line is that as many of us as possible need to become carbon neutral ASAP and these steps accomplish that goal. They also support the creation of more efficient, long-term, large scale renewable energy plants and carbon reduction installations (such as methane capturing systems).
- Switch to a renewable energy option through your utility or a certified renewable energy provider (U.S. and Canada).
- Calculate your carbon footprint and buy carbon offsets from a certified provider (U.S. and Canada) (you can always reduce payments later as you make other changes).
The UCS chart offers guidance on the most effective steps we can take:
- Minimize driving by setting concrete reduction goals and walking, biking, carpooling and using public transit as much as possible. Set a goal of walking or biking anywhere within 2 miles of your home.
- Buy locally sourced, organic, plant-based, unprocessed foods from local farmers (Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)), farmers markets, green restaurants and health food stores. Minimize food waste by planning out meals ahead of time and freezing as much as possible.
- Take the time to research the energy efficiency of large purchases as these offer the biggest opportunities to reduce your ongoing impact:
- home (size, proximity to work/stores and energy efficiency)
- equipment and appliances (energy star)
- autos (buy used, electric/hybrid, lowest emissions or choose a car-free lifestyle)
- Reduce energy use. Quick steps:
- Focus mainly on reducing water heating and space heating/cooling (low flow shower and faucet heads, energy star heater, regular equipment maintenance, sealing air leaks)
- Minimize use of fireplaces or wood stoves
- Switch to LED lightbulbs
- Unplug unused electronics to minimize standby power consumption
- Wash clothes in cold water and hang them to dry
- Add insulation and weatherstripping - especially for doors, windows, attic and attic door
- Check lights, appliances, curtains and your thermostat every morning and night and anytime you leave home
- Install and program a programmable thermostat
- Buy certified energy efficient appliances and equipment
- Get an energy audit
- Support organizations that educate, protect and empower girls and women (and stabilize our population) such as Camfed.org, Girls Not Brides, Tostan, and Population Services International
- Reduce water use.
- Minimize purchases of new products, especially resource-intensive, heavy or heavily-packaged products.
- Embrace a minimalist lifestyle. Declutter your home and donate unneeded items to charity. Buy, borrow or rent used clothing, electronics, house decorations and furniture, cars and other products whenever possible.
- Recycle as much as possible, even when travelling, and buy products with recycle-able/minimal packaging. Search online for ways to recycle hard-to-recycle items in your local community.
- Compost your food waste.
- Fly less and, when you do fly, purchase carbon offsets (select "Individual" then click on the airplane icon to view the airplane carbon calculator).
- Reduce standby power consumption by taking the zero-volt challenge.
- Choose low energy-intensive activities (i.e., hiking vs. sky diving, kayaking vs. powerboats, electric vs. gasoline-powered yard equipment).
- Choose green hotels and encourage hotels you visit to green their practices.
- Support climate action organizations. Research the companies you buy from (especially ongoing purchases). If they aren't reducing greenhouse gases themselves and supporting action on climate change, switch to a company that is.
- Promote a carbon fee and dividend policy to provide incentives for companies and individuals to reduce carbon emissions.
- Learn more about climate change and share what you learn with others (PowerPoint Recent Findings on Climate Change and Climate Change: What Is It, Proof It's Happening and What You Can Do About It).
- Encourage and support greenhouse-reducing practices in your community: