Written by Meryl D’Sa-Wilson
In recent years, we have witnessed a rise in natural disasters, not just in the number of disasters but their intensity as well.
Amidst news about the global pandemic, national elections, and other social issues, we see news about widespread forest fires, record-breaking flooding, high-intensity hurricanes, and the melting of glaciers. According to the 2021 IPCC report, human-caused greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have resulted in worsening weather and extreme climate conditions.
This has led to more activists, organizations, and individuals bringing awareness to our collective need to reduce our carbon footprint.
Here we will discuss the importance of cutting down on carbon emissions and our ecological footprint, and how we can do so.
Why Is It Important To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint?
For some, we are already past the point of saving our planet, but others find hope in climate change advocacy and reform. And the reason for this hope is that there is still much we can do — from changing our diet to support local businesses.
When we reduce environmental footprint, we can help:
- Reverse the effects of global warming and climate change.
- Reduce GHG emissions.
- Promote cleaner air.
- Create a better place for wildlife, animals, and plants.
- Improve our physical health.
- Reduce personal and business-related costs.
- Support local communities and businesses.
The first step is willingness, followed by action. So, where do you start?
How To Calculate Your Carbon Footprint?
Before you make a plan to reduce your environmental footprint, you first need to measure it. Our ecological footprint covers the food we eat, appliances we use, clothes we buy, ways we travel, and more. It helps to use a carbon footprint calculator to understand the different areas of impact. There are a few websites that can help you calculate your or your household’s carbon footprint:
- EPA Carbon Calculator
- Nature Conservancy Calculator
How To Reduce Environmental Footprint at Home?
Reducing your carbon footprint means reducing the amount of carbon you or a business you support emits. From choosing cleaner energy to make changes to your lifestyle, there are quite a few things you can do within your household and workplace. Here is where you need to make changes:
- Electricity and energy — reducing energy consumption
- Food — changing your diet
- Shopping — paying attention to what you buy and where it comes from
- Travel and transportation — choosing a different mode of transport
- Carbon offsetting — purchasing carbon credits to offset emissions
- Advocacy — educating others and supporting climate change activism.
Ways To Reduce Your Environmental Footprint
Reducing our environmental impact may seem like an overwhelming prospect, especially if you do not know where to start.
There are different ways to contribute to reducing our overall carbon footprint and impact on the environment:
- Avoid carbon emissions
- Reduce environmental impact
- Remove carbon emissions from the atmosphere
Here are some ways you can reduce your carbon footprint at home and your small business:
1. Get The Basics Down
Before you begin with more involved initiatives to reduce your carbon footprint, it is a good idea to start by getting the basics right:
- Reduce waste of water when cooking and cleaning.
- Recycle and compost whenever possible.
- Reduce food waste.
- Conserve electricity by turning off lights and appliances when not in use and setting your AC on automatic mode.
- Avoid single-use plastics — opt for paper bags and straws or reusable plastics instead.
- Modify transport — Choose buses, trains, carpooling, walking, or biking whenever possible instead of using individual vehicles.
- Grow a plant and support a local community garden.
2. Reduce Use Of Electricity & Electronics
There is no doubt that devices and appliances make our lives easier. But their use and production are quite a significant factor in growing carbon emissions. Technology companies realize this and have worked to create eco-friendly products and smarter technologies.
For example, using energy-efficient appliances or purchasing multi-purpose devices that can complete multiple tasks in one. For instance, using a laptop for personal browsing, checking work email, making business calls via softphones, video conferencing, and so on. Or, Getting a printer that can also copy, scan, and fax documents, so you do not need additional devices.
When you want to reduce your home or small business’s carbon footprint, here are some ways to conserve energy and electricity:
- Unplug devices when not in use.
- Avoid purchasing new devices or gadgets unless necessary.
- Buy appliances that have an Energy Star certification.
- Buy smart devices such as efficient LED light bulbs, smart switches, thermostats, and so on.
- Switch to low-flow faucets and showerheads.
- Consider smart home automation to control your devices and energy consumption.
- Choose cloud communication services to cut down on the need for additional hardware.
- Buy multi-purpose devices.
- Talk to your energy provider about installing solar panels.
- Air dry your laundry instead of using the dryer.
3. Change The Food You Eat
What we eat directly affects our health and the health of the environment. But over-dependence on certain foods, lack of diversity and flexibility, and consumption of unsustainably produced food harmfully affect the environment.
Because of this, we need to watch what we eat and where these foods come from. Here are some factors to consider:
- Consider switching to a more planet-friendly diet — high on health benefits and low on environmental impacts.
- Buy sustainable and organic food.
- Eat locally grown and produced food.
- Check and follow national dietary guidelines.
- Consider adopting a variety of plant-based foods within your diet.
- Eat less meat, eat more fiber-rich foods, and cut back on dairy.
- Avoid eating excess calories.
- When possible, grow your own produce.
- Ask suppliers (grocers, butchers, and fishmongers) how they source their products.
- Look for trusted certifications and accreditations, or ask your supplier where your food comes from.
- Opt for sustainably produced meat and fish — avoid over-harvested fish.
4. Consider What You Buy
Pay attention to the things and items you buy: where do they come from, what all do they constitute, what went into their production? How are they supporting climate control efforts?
Here are some things to consider when buying new items and services:
- Reduce and refuse — do you really need this new device or item?
- Consider wrapping and packaging — does the seller offer sustainable packaging? Can all items be delivered in a single package instead of multiple packages?
- Support sustainable businesses — support brands who are transparent about their ingredients and production process.
- Support small and local farmers — buy locally.
- Invest in sustainable fashion.
- Buy second-hand (thrift stores) and recycle and donate items.
- Purchase carbon offsets to offset your footprint or support companies that use carbon offsets to balance their footprint.
5. Educate And Advocate
Finally, once you have done all you can at home, at your workplace, and with businesses you love, go out and advocate for climate justice. Here are some ways to get involved in climate advocacy:
- Fine and buy eco-friendly products and alternatives to everyday items such as straws, kitchen napkins, detergent and cleaning products, toothbrushes and toothpaste, diapers and menstrual products, and so on.
- Learn about your favourite business’ sustainability efforts. If there aren’t any, urge them to start.
- Engage in conversation in your social circles.
- Support sustainable companies via social media and other avenues.
- Participate in local initiatives such as beach cleans, restoring nature and parks, etc.
- Support local wildlife and discover the nature around you.
- Explore and restore nature locally.
- Find out how you can influence local politics and encourage local and national government to prioritize renewable energy.
We Still Have Time, Start Now
It may seem like we are running out of time — and that very well may be true — but it shouldn’t mean we don’t continue to do the best we can. That means making a few adjustments to the way we live. We can make our planet a healthier place for ourselves, our families, and our wildlife. If you haven’t yet, start now. Make the easier changes and go from there!