A Beginner’s Guide: Easy Things You Can Do To Reduce Your Carbon FootprintLea Goldstone
In 2020, the United States produced 5,222 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. While that staggering amount has decreased in the past two years, it still evokes the urgency of reducing our carbon footprint. This article highlights a few easy ways individuals, households and businesses can reduce their carbon output.
Cutting Down Individual/Home Energy Use
Calculating a Household’s Carbon Footprint
The Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project determined that in order to hold the global temperature rise to 2℃ or less, everyone on earth will need to average an annual carbon footprint of 1.87 tons by 2050. Currently, the average annual carbon footprint is 18.3 tons per capita. However, this figure varies across urban and rural landscapes, and changing one’s output will require different methods depending on where one is situated. To calculate a household’s carbon footprint, use the free resource Carbonfootprint.com to identify areas of excessive energy use or carbon production. This includes calculations for one’s home, car, flights, or bus and rail use.
Carbon dioxide emissions from transportation are one of the top sources of greenhouse gases. While electric vehicles are rising in popularity and accessibility, in the meantime gas-powered vehicles would benefit from regular service. Keeping car engines and tires at their highest efficiency will not only prolong the life of the car (thus saving resources in building more vehicles), but will cut down on their overall carbon emissions.
Switch lights off when leaving the room and unplug devices when not in use. Any switched-on plug that is switched on will still use energy whether the device is attached or not, so plugging in only when needed is a quick solution.
Energy Efficient Appliances
Installing low-flow shower heads to reduce hot water use, and lowering the water heater to 120℉ can be combined to save 900 pounds of CO2 per year. Installing energy-efficient appliances, particularly windows which protect insulation throughout the seasons. Excess AC uses in summer, and heating in winter, not only contribute to climate change over time but can affect communities through large-scale energy blackouts in severe weather conditions. Switch to compact fluorescent lightbulbs, which use 75% less energy than incandescent light bulbs and can last up to 10x longer.
Cutting Down Carbon Footprint in Businesses
This goes beyond simply using less. United States Offices use 12.1 trillion sheets of paper per year, the production of which requires 535 million trees and 12 billion gallons of oil. Incorporating conservative measures as well as seeking out recycled (and easily recyclable) products on an industry-wide scale would make a significant impact in reducing our global carbon footprint.
Pay for Carbon Offsetting
There are many avenues available now by which businesses can purchase carbon offsets, which fund projects reducing emissions of another party. For example, for a business whose goal is net-zero emissions, they may pay another entity directly or indirectly to reduce the emissions by the amount purchased. This system allows businesses with more resources available to put towards carbon sequestration to receive support for their projects through business funding.
Prioritize Energy Efficiency
Monitors, fans, lights, and other general desk equipment contribute to any business’s overall carbon output. This applies particularly in offices with older equipment which has not been subject to the wave of energy-efficient tech updates over the past 5-10 years. Similarly to in one’s home, completely turning off all appliances when leaving the office can reduce “phantom power” usage. On a company-wide scale, these small changes can make a big difference. For example, a study by Native Energy found that if you leave an individual computer on all the time, even in sleep mode, it would cost a business $87 a year, with each PC producing about 1,000 pounds of carbon each year. While on its own this is not significant, extending this company-wide, and including all other office-related appliances, one can see why checking these figures can save big — both in dollars and in carbon output.
Educate Employees About Sustainability
Business leaders have a great opportunity to positively influence their businesses and employees through sustainability education. Informing one’s employees about their business’ commitment to sustainability and implementing an ecological office ethos, office leadership can improve their business’ longevity and foster a community of climate-minded individuals. With just 90 companies contributing 63% of greenhouse gasses emitted globally between 1751 and 2010, it is critical that companies take action, both within and outside the circles of leadership, to educate those they can about the power and necessity of sustainability and climate-minded consumption.