How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Reduce carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions by protecting EarthWe often have the initiative to adopt a “greener” lifestyle, but lack the proper information to actually do it. This is an easy guide to a better environment and a two-step process that allows you to become the change you hope to accomplish. Cheers to an eco-friendlier you!

During the year 2011, we learned that the climate is changing quite drastically. The U.S. was affected by the most extreme weather registered in recent history, but there is still room for change, and it begins with reducing our personal carbon footprint.

The term “carbon footprint” has been popular in the media, but it requires further explanation before anyone can attempt to use it as an environmental tool. It calculates the impact of our daily habits in the environment, by measuring individual greenhouse gas emissions, according to CarbonFootpring.com.

The formula is determining and combining our direct and indirect carbon dioxide emissions. Direct emissions come from burning fossil fuels for energy and transportation, meaning we can control them. Indirect emissions result from the products we use, and how they ended up in our hands. In other words, to reduce these emissions means to control what, how much and how often we purchase.

We must track down our energy usage, how we get around and what we buy regularly to calculate our personal carbon footprint. And to make things easier, there are many online carbon footprint calculators, such as the following one provided by The Nature Conservancy.org.

We know how much we are contributing to global warming, so it is time to learn what we can do about it. Thanks to CarbonFootprint.com, we can now reduce our carbon footprint through two easy steps: energy regulation and waste management.

Energy Regulation
We use energy for mainly three purposes: electricity, water and transportation. Let’s get the raw facts first According to Green Student U, the average American household spends $1,000 annually in electricity and uses 50 to 70 gallons of water daily. Cars also release 98 tons of fossil fuels for every gallon of gas used. That’s only 12 pounds less than “the Bean” monument in Chicago, Ill.

The Bean monument in Chicago uses large amount of energyYes, we do need energy every day, but reducing the amount we use is easier than expected. Here are some tips, provided in part by CarbonFootprint.com:

1. When using central heating and air, turn it down very slightly. By moving it one or two degrees at a time the energy usage is reduced by 8 percent. When leaving the house or not in use, keep at a moderate temperature or turn it off. The same also goes with water heating, in addition to taking shorter baths and showers. The less water used the better.

2. Unplug all appliances that are not in use, such as electrical chargers. This may reduce your electric bill by 20 percent.

3. Invest in energy-saving light bulbs. If on a budget, CFL bulbs cost around $3 to $5, and last for six years, for which you will end up spending $16.62 in energy cost. If you want to go all out, LED bulbs cost between $20 and $40, and last between 20 and 30 years. However, the energy cost for six years will only be $5, according to Apartment Therapy.

4. Always put large loads in the dishwasher or washing machine. It saves a lot more energy and water than doing small loads daily. Be sure to also wash your clothes on cold!

5. Carpool or use public transportation, since this reduces gas emissions. Always be mindful of the activities you do and how much greenhouse gas emissions they produce.

Managing Waste
To reduce waste, use the “Three R’s:” reduce, reuse and recycle. Why is this important? To put it simply, it takes 1 million years for plastic, soda bottles and gas to biodegrade, according to Green Student U. Making 14 plastic bags takes as much petroleum as running a car for one mile. The U.S. produces around 200 million tons of waste yearly, of which 70 percent is placed in landfills. In other words, each year the U.S. produces 20,942 Seattle Space Needles, which weighs 9,550 tons in waste.

What can we do about it? Recycle as much as possible. To help you separate your trash in the proper recyclable order, here are a few simple tips:

The following are recyclable materials:

  • Glass
  • Plastic
  • Metal (aluminum cans and scrap metals)
  • Paper
  • Tires (rubber)

When indicated, food and products are also compostable, so they should be kept in a separate pile.

Where do you take this separated material? There are recycling centers accessible to most neighborhoods around the U.S. To find yours, and even get involved, visit the Environmental Protection Agency.

Reducing and reusing waste is probably the best part of the “Three R’s.” It involves creativity, and allows you to explore an array of opportunities. Those old wine bottles make avant-garde candleholders, while plastic cups could be made into fun lamps or decoration. An old shirt transforms into your new cleaning cloth and can be washed as needed. The sky is the limit, and it invites everyone to play with their creative juices and make saving the planet a fun experience. For more examples, browse through the Recycle in Style photo gallery.

-Alexandra Gyarfas

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Flickr/ Vincent Desjardins, Flickr / Loco Steven (Steve Wilson)
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