Top 20 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Below are top twenty ways we can reduce our carbon footprint based on the sources of average household carbon emissions.

SECTIONS: housing, transportation, products and services, food, educate and advocate

U.S. Household Climate Emissions (Domestic and Overseas)


  1. Switch to renewables: Switch to powering your home with renewables through:
  2. Reduce energy use: Quick steps:

    Union of Concerned Scientists - Average Americans Carbon Emissions

  3. Embrace minimalist or slow decorating: Slow decorating is an eco-conscious approach to interior design, focusing on gradually curating spaces with thoughtfully chosen, sustainable (ideally used), and often locally sourced pieces. It emphasizes quality and longevity over speed.

  4. Conserve water: Using less water reduces the energy required to process and deliver it, thereby reducing carbon pollution. Buy low flow shower and faucet heads, water (and energy) efficient toilets/clothes washers/dishwashers, check for leaks often, and create a native, xeriscape garden.

  5. Plant trees: Trees not only absorb CO2, but planting trees and bushes strategically near your home helps to reduce both your cooling and heating bills.

  6. Offset your carbon footprint: While not a substitute for reducing emissions, investing in carbon offset projects can help compensate for your unavoidable emissions. Calculate your carbon footprint and buy carbon offsets from a certified provider (U.S. and Canada).


  1. Embrace slow travel: Limiting air travel or choosing lower-carbon transportation options can significantly reduce your carbon footprint. If you do fly, purchase carbon offsets (select "Individual" then click on the airplane icon to view the airplane carbon calculator). Support green hotel practices.

  2. Drive less: Minimize driving by walking, biking, carpooling, telecommuting, and using public transit as much as possible. Set a goal of walking or biking anywhere within 2 miles of your home. Consider buying an e-bike if it will make it easier to skip the car and expand your biking range.

  3. Drive a fuel-efficient vehicle: If needed, choose a used car with Alternative Fuel and Advanced Vehicle Search (or EPA's Smartways search) to reduce fossil fuel consumption and emissions. If you live in a city, consider using car sharing services instead (scroll to member logos).

Products and Services

  1. Choose sustainable clothing (aka slow fashion): Buy clothing that supports both the environment and garment workers. Buy used whenever possible and build a second hand capsule wardrobe to help speed the shift away from trendy clothing.

  2. Buy used: Manufacturing products requires energy and resources, contributing to carbon emissions, habitat destruction and pollution. Minimize purchases of new products, especially resource-intensive, heavy or heavily-packaged ones.

  3. Embrace a minimalist lifestyle: Declutter your home and donate or sell items to give them another life. Online bartering or swapping groups can turn this effort into a fun way to meet people in the community.

  4. Reduce, reuse, recycle: Minimizing waste by reusing items, recycling, and buying products with minimal packaging (especially for repeat purchases) helps cut carbon emissions from waste management. Research ways to recycle hard-to-recycle items in your local community. Choose zero-waste solutions wherever possible.

  5. Replace single-use items: Finding long-lasting alternatives to single-use items made of plastic and other materials is a great way to reduce emissions, pollution and waste. Next time you're putting together your shopping list, note any single-use products and research sustainable (ideally used) alternatives for each.

  6. Support sustainable brands: Purchase from companies that are committed to reducing their carbon footprint and prioritize sustainability.

  7. Choose lower carbon products, services and activities/hobbies: When considering purchases, look for the lowest carbon option (i.e., tap water vs. bottled, shampoo bar vs. bottle, massage vs. spa, kayaking vs. jet skiing, bicycling vs. motor biking). Be conscious of how your income and reference group (the people we compare ourselves to and identify with) may be impacting your GHG emissions:

Household Carbon Footprint by Income Level


  1. Adopt a plant-based diet: Animal agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gases. Eating more plant-based foods can substantially lower emissions.

Greenhouse Gases by Type of Food

  1. Minimize food waste and compost what's left: Minimize food waste by planning out meals ahead of time and freezing as much as possible. Composting reduces methane emissions from landfills and returns nutrients to the soil.

  2. Eat locally produced and seasonal foods: This reduces emissions from transportation, refrigeration, and storage of food items. Buy from local farmers (Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)), farmers markets, green restaurants and health food stores whenever possible.

Educate and Advocate

  1. Encourage and support greenhouse-reducing practices in your community:

Greehouse Gas Emissions per Type of Food


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