With summer arriving, you might be considering ways to make a positive impact on our progressively troubled world. While there are many ways to improve your community, such as contributing to a local charity, there are also some easy and simple changes that can have a dramatic impact on reducing your carbon footprint.
Going green or being eco-friendly can seem intimidating, but reducing your carbon footprint doesn’t need to involve a radical lifestyle overhaul! From unplugging your devices to contacting your local solar professional and investing in clean energy, here are 10 unconventional (but easy) ways to save money while reducing your carbon footprint.
1. Unplug Your Devices
This might surprise you but all electronics use energy when they’re plugged in, even if they’re turned off. In the US, “vampire power,” devices and appliances that continuously use up electricity are responsible for approximately $19 billion in energy every year,1 which is about $165 per U.S. household on average. A simple solution is to leave your electronics unplugged at all times, unless you’re actually using them.
2. Minimizing Driving
When possible, walk or ride your bike in order to avoid carbon emissions completely. More and more people are opting to bike to work, especially with bike lanes becoming more prevalent. As of 2017 there are over 66 million cyclists/bike riders2 in the United States — a number that has risen dramatically since 2012. Additionally, carpooling and public transportation drastically reduces CO2 emissions by spreading them out over many riders. With an increasing population, effective and efficient public transportation is even more necessary than ever, and options like subways, trains, buses, and rapid transit continue to grow.
3. Reduce Your Water Usage
Avoid any unnecessary water consumption. Instead of showering for 10 minutes, shower in under 5 minutes. If you shower for 10 minutes you are wasting enough water to fill a pool in just one year. If you shorten your showers, you can save more than 16,000 liters of water each year. Additionally, by selecting cold water to wash your clothes you are offsetting five times more in greenhouse gas.
4. Shop and Buy Local
Whenever possible, try to eat local, in-season produce. By choosing to shop and buy locally in your own city or neighborhood, it helps to reduce the carbon footprint created from shipping foods from elsewhere. When your food can be grown in your backyard or at a local farm, the environmental cost (emissions) is significantly reduced. Just imagine the journey that your nonlocal food has to take — by plane, ship, train, or truck — plus produce needs to be kept at a specific temperature, so it doesn’t spoil during transit.
5. Replace Your Lightbulbs
If you want to help change the world while reducing your carbon footprint and saving money, start with changing your light bulbs. It’s one of the best things you can do for the environment — and your budget. Replace regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent light (CFL) or LED bulbs. Compact fluorescent light bulbs use at least two-thirds less energy than standard incandescent bulbs to provide the same amount of light, and they last up to 10 times longer.
FACT: If every home in America replaced just one incandescent light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified CFL, we would save enough energy every year to light 3 million homes and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from about 800,000 cars.3
6. Air Dry Your Clothes
Now is the perfect time to take advantage of the sunlight and hot days, and air dry your laundry. This amazing old-school method allows you to bypass your drying machine and drastically reduce your carbon footprint while reducing your electricity usage. Additionally, as an added benefit, it will help you preserve the quality of your clothes. This is an area which should save you money — generally, the less electricity you use, the less you have to spend and the more you will help the environment by using fewer fossil fuels.
7. Reduce Meat and Dairy Consumption
We cannot deny that farming has a major impact on global warming. Emissions of the greenhouse gas methane from livestock are larger than you might think, posing an additional challenge in the fight to limit global warming. Eating less meat and dairy products is one of the most effective ways to reduce your personal carbon footprint and to generally reduce your negative impact on the environment.
8. Buy Energy Efficient Appliances
Household appliances can use a surprising amount of energy, but buying new appliances is a relatively rare event for most, and it’s easy to get carried away by a salesperson’s pitch and the eagerness of the event. When buying electrical appliances, look for ones that are A-rated with Energy Saving Recommended labels — these consume much less energy and minimize your carbon dioxide emissions for the lifetime of the appliance. Buying the most energy efficient appliance makes environmental sense because it means that you will be minimizing your carbon dioxide emissions.
9. Quit Consuming Bottled Water
By consuming your water from plastic bottles, you are adding to an already significant pileup of plastic waste that even if it is recycled, requires energy and resources to create and then process. In addition, how far did your water have to travel and by what transportation? The carbon footprint of a bottle of water is far more than purchasing a high-quality water filter for your faucet and keeping the filters fresh.
10. 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Energy, and therefore carbon emissions, is associated with everything you buy — from the sourcing of its raw materials, manufacturing and its transports to the point of sale. Additionally, when goods are disposed of, more energy is used to transport them to landfill, incinerate them or recycle them. Plus, when we throw away things that could either be recycled or reused, we increase the number of new items that need to be manufactured and hence total energy use.
11. Install a Solar Energy System
Adding a solar energy system is a great way for homeowners to reduce their carbon footprint. The average American household produces 14,920 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) each year, but the good news is that you can drastically decrease your home’s impact on the environment by going solar. Furthermore, if you live in a state with a Net Metering4 law, you could eliminate your electricity bill or even earn money by selling electricity back to the grid while still helping the environment and significantly offset your carbon footprint.