10 Ways to Reduce your Carbon Footprint

A lot of people confuse zero waste with zero emissions, but they're not the same. Zero waste is more focused on the landfill and moving to a circular economy where nothing goes to waste. 

Zero emissions is focused on producing no greenhouse gasses which is almost impossible to do unless everyone moves completely 100% off-grid and we leave behind modern society. 

However, there are ways we can drastically reduce the amount of carbon we're responsible for. Here's a great tool to calculate your carbon footprint

I thought this would be a great post to celebrate the upcoming Zero Emissions Day. 

Zero Emissions Day falls on September 21st and is a day to raise awareness about how much our individual actions contribute to greenhouse gasses. 

According to the website zeroemissionsday.org there are four rules: 

  1.  Don’t use or burn oil, gas, or coal.  
  2. Minimize (or eliminate) your use of electricity generated by fossil fuels. 
  3. Don’t put anyone in harm’s way: All essential and emergency services operate normally. 
  4. Do your best, have fun, enjoy the day! 

It's really about being conscious of our consumption. They recommend not turning on any lights, not charging your phone unless it's with a solar powered charger, even eating all of the food in your fridge and turning the fridge off! 

It's a pretty extreme challenge, but it is only for 24 hours. 

It can be fun to participate in, but I don't think anyone would be able to live without a working fridge for any extended period of time. So here are a few ways you can drastically reduce your carbon footprint all year long! 

1. Buy Offsets:

Like I said earlier, I calculate my yearly carbon footprint. Then, I go onto sites like National Forest Foundation which will plant a tree for every dollar you donate. One full grown tree absorbs one ton of carbon. 

I like to donate to the National Forest Foundation because the trees are planted in North America (my continent) and they're planted in protected forests. 

The tree must reach maturity to absorb my carbon, by planting it somewhere protected, I can guarantee that it will be able to absorb carbon into adult hood. 

2. Switch to Clean Energy:

If you're in a position to install solar panels on your home, that's a great option! I would love to get a battery to house the solar energy so it can be used even when the sun's down.

If going solar isn't an option for you, many energy providers have programs where you can choose to purchase your electricity through clean alternatives. 

Head to your provider's website and poke around a bit to see what you can find. If you have PGE here's the page for California. 

3. Turn it Off!

I still distinctly remember my dad ALWAYS enforcing lights off, water off, close the fridge, close the doors, close the windows etc. etc. etc. 

Not only does this save a lot of money; it saves A LOT of resources. So, turn it off! 

  1. When you're brushing your teeth, shut off the water. 
  2. When it's hot outside open a window before turning on the A/C
  3. When the A/C is running close all of the windows. 
  4. Don't stare at the fridge with the door open. 
  5. Turn the lights off when leaving the room. 
  6. Shut doors to cool and heat the living areas more efficiently.

4. Live Local:

Stuff typically has to travel a long way for it to get to us. Ever notice how a lot of things say Made in China? 

Well, things Made in China have taken quite a journey to adorn our store shelves. First and foremost, shop less! Like wayyyyy less. 

There are so many things we buy that we don't really need. Before making any purchase really think about it. Do you really need it? 

And, you'll find that once you stop buying so much junk, you'll be saving a lot of money. Then you can take that money and hopefully invest it in your own community where you can buy quality goods that will last FOREVER.

You'll also be really proud to pass them down. Buy less and buy well. Having a home full of a few gorgeous pieces is always better than a home stuffed to the brim full of just stuff.

"Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication." - Leonardo Da Vinci

This also applies to food too. Try to buy food from local farms and focus on eating seasonally. In the northern hemisphere, it's not normal to have tomatoes or strawberries in the winter. 

If you do see them in the store, they've most likely been flown in from the southern hemisphere which add a pretty hefty carbon price tag to those (probably lackluster / lacking in flavor) berries. 

5. Make You Home more Efficient:

Another great way you can reduce your emissions is by making your home more efficient. This might be updating your plumbing with new low-flow fixtures.

Maybe it's investing in better windows or sealing your existing windows and doors? 

See if there are areas where you can improve your home's efficiency. 

6. Eat More Plants:

Think about how many plants you'd add, and then double or triple it. Animal products like meat and cheese have a huge carbon footprint. 

You can improve your health (because literally the only thing all nutritionists agree on is that we need to be eating a lot more vegetables) and the planet! 

Make vegetables the star of your plate and make meat and cheese the garnish. Or try out a few fully plant-based recipes and opt for meatless days during the week! 

7. Drive Less:

It's no surprise that our daily commutes aren't super eco-friendly. Try to bike to work a few days a week. Or grab your local public transportation like the train, bus, or ferry. 

If none of those options work for you try to carpool. Carpooling helps out the planet and you can save a little bit of gas money cause your co-workers can chip in! 

If you're in a place financially and you have a fairy long commute, it might be worth looking into an electric vehicle or at least a hybrid. 

8. Shop Secondhand:

Like we talked about in tip four, we buy a lot of stuff! So, when we really and truly need an item, try to find it secondhand. 

You'd be surprised what you can find on the secondhand market. There are so many amazing almost brand new items out there waiting for you to snap them up! 

When you shop secondhand you prevent new resources from being extracted and used thus lowering your carbon footprint. 

Every item you buy, uses resources, and it's typically pretty substantial. For instance it takes 8 gallons of water for one paper plate or 2,700 liters of water to make one cotton t-shirt. That's CRAZY! 

Just by opting secondhand you're saving TONS of resources. 

9. Divest:

Thought about your 401k? Well, you should see if your portfolio is funding fossil fuel companies. 

It really boils down to do you think the future is full of fossil fuels or do you think the future is going to be based around renewable energy? 

I definitely think it's going to be based around renewable energy. So, I don't want to invest my money in something that's harming the planet and isn't going to be profitable in a few years. 

10. Find Contentment:

One of the most radical things you can do in this day in age is just be content.

Marketers try to grab our attention and make us buy, buy, buy. They constantly tell us that having their purse or couch or latest iPhone will make us popular, cool, have status, and be happy.

None of that is true. Stuff doesn't define us. Don't waste money, time, or the carbon price tag of chasing trends. Learn to be content with what you have. It's a radical act of self-love in a material driven world.