The steps you take in your everyday life are leaving footprints; carbon-enriched, fossil fuel-shaped footprints. Since you’re aware of the harmful effect carbon dioxide has on the environment, you’re ready to change paths and start treading more lightly. But where does this path begin?
Why not start by omitting the ten activities that contribute the most CO2 emissions? For the average American, thousands of kilograms of CO2 could be saved annually after making a few simple changes to their lifestyle. Your path to greener footsteps starts here!
10. Stop eating fast food.
Fast food is wrapped in single-use packaging and contributes heavily to the 108 billion pounds of food wasted in the US annually. Beyond the tangible forms of waste, fast food is also processed unsustainably and requires quite a bit of extra fuel for a single meal. Cutting out fast food could eliminate 220 kg of CO2 annually.
9. Take cool showers and wash with the water turned off.
The average American shower uses just under 16 gallons of water. Let’s do some math. A person who showers every day wastes 5,840 gallons of water a year just in their bathtub! After considering the energy required to heat the water heater, we’re looking at a lot of CO2 emitted just to clean our bodies. By using cool water and turning off the faucet as you soap up, you could save 220 kg of CO2 each year.
8. Purchase local groceries and products.
Transportation is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, and we must consider this fact when we purchase goods that require long-distance distribution. Vehicle emissions add up when you hop online to purchase products that reside hundreds or thousands of miles away. You could save 275 kg of CO2 per year if you buy your groceries and products locally.
7. Prevent food waste and save your leftovers.
Of all the devastating facts about food waste, let this one motivate you to stop contributing to the shocking numbers. About a third of the food produced for human consumption is wasted annually. That’s 1.3 billion tons of food that could have fed 3 billion people. Up to 275 kg of CO2 could be saved if you eat all of the food you buy or grow.
6. Don’t eat red meat.
The production of red meat requires vast amounts of land space and water to raise and feed livestock. Studies show that per unit of protein, this process generates more greenhouse gas emissions than any other protein source. By switching from red meat to another source of protein, you could save 280 kg of CO2 every year.
5. Avoid single-use plastic bottles.
Take a pledge to never again use a single-use plastic bottle. Instead, purchase one reliable stainless steel cup or reusable water bottle to bring with you on the go so you can save 350 kg of CO2 per year and cease your contribution to the 1 million water bottles bought by humans every minute.
4. Allow the temperature in your home to swing with the weather.
Lower both your energy bill and your carbon footprint by allowing the temperature in your house to fluctuate with the weather, between 60 (in the winter) and 80 (in the summer) degrees Fahrenheit. 375 kg of CO2 can be saved annually.
3. Resist excessive packaging and recycle the rest.
As only 8% of plastic is recycled in the US, we can’t rely on the recycling system to take care of our packaging. Instead, we can choose to buy products that are package-free or are packaged lightly and reduce our annual CO2 emissions by 400 kg.
2. Carpool or use public transportation.
Consider how many gas-fueled cars line the parking lots at malls, the grocery store, or your work. You’re looking at a lot of toxic chemicals leaving those tailpipes and swirling up into the atmosphere. If you can, hop on a bus or train already heading in the direction you need to go. Or, plan a carpool ride to work. You could save 925 kg of CO2 every year by being more mindful about personal transportation.
1. Be frugal and only buy quality products you need.
The most significant change you can make to reduce your carbon footprint is to think differently about what you’re spending your money on. If you preface each purchase with the question, “Do I really need this?”, and if you prioritize buying high-quality, long-lasting materials, you could save up to 1,200 kg of CO2 annually!
After you’ve made these ten changes, you could be saving up to 4,520 kg of CO2 per year, or over 25% of the typical American's emissions! All that is required to reduce your carbon footprint is a desire to make the world a cleaner place, education on how to do so, and the discipline to form healthy, green habits.