Taking steps now to stop the progress of climate change can potentially have a dramatic effect on the environment. While many of the changes that are necessary must happen at the governmental or corporate level, there are still many things we can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as individuals and families. Here are some of the most important changes you can make to protect the environment and to reduce your carbon footprint organized by the amount of effort they will require from you.
If you are ready to commit to a green-friendly way of life, we recommend making these adjustments to reduce your impact on the environment and to slow the progress of climate change. These are not minor or cosmetic alterations to your lifestyle.
Commit with your dollar. By being conscious of who you choose to buy products from, you support companies and businesses that are ecofriendly, while putting pressure on other companies to meet buyer demand for better practices. A great example is Dr. Bronner’s soaps. They are the creators of a multi-tasking cleanser that is packaged in 100% post-consumer recycled bottles with recycled paper labels. The soap itself is completely biodegradable as well. Dr. Bronner is a shining example of a company using its brand to make an impact and has an impressive list of “feel good” campaigns such as drug policy reform in support of psychedelic assisted therapies and an animal advocacy donation program.
Drive an electric vehicle. According to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, the U.S. used 9 billion barrels of petroleum in 2020, with 2/3 of them being used for transportation. That translates to 252 billion gallons of fuel. If we average the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced when burning gasoline and diesel, this is the equivalent of roughly 5.2 trillion pounds of CO2 being released into the atmosphere. The combination of deforestation of trees that absorb CO2 with our reliance upon fossil fuels is far from sustainable. By driving an all-electric vehicle, you can do your part and reduce your annual emissions by around 60%. In addition, your wallet will thank you when you don’t need to fill a gas tank. If the source of energy used to charge your EV is from solar or wind, you can consider yourself an earth warrior.
Change your energy provider. Working with utility companies that obtain a large percentage of their power from green-friendly sources like solar power and wind energy will reduce the carbon emissions produced in powering your home or business.
Install solar panels. Federal tax credits and falling prices have made these energy installations much more affordable for average homeowners. Along with some impressive savings on your monthly electricity bill, solar panels also provide you with clean and sustainable energy that can replace electricity produced with fossil fuels. By investing now in solar power, you can make a real difference in the future of the Earth's environment.
Solar water heaters are another solid investment in environmental responsibility and in reducing the costs of your utilities. According to Carbon Footprint, a solar water heater can often supply 100 percent of your hot water demands during the summer months and about half of your consumption during the remainder of the year. This could reduce your household carbon emissions by about 5 percent.
Use public transportation. Even a short commute to work by private vehicle can add up to almost 10 percent of your annual carbon emissions. While public transportation options like buses and trains do not eliminate carbon emissions altogether, they can lower the amount of pollution and greenhouse gases created by passenger vehicles to a significant degree. If public transportation is not a practical option where you live, carpooling can have a reduced but still measurable effect on your carbon footprint and your impact on the environment.
Go vegan. Research conducted at the University of Oxford and published in the Independent indicates that cutting meat and dairy out of your diet is the single most important step you can take to protect the environment and to stop or reverse the progress of global warming. Meat and dairy production accounts for about 60 percent of the emissions produced by agricultural processes. Since as much as 30 percent of all global greenhouse emissions are the result of agriculture and food production processes, eliminating meat and dairy from your diet is a solid step toward slowing the rate of climate change.
Reduce your use of water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists treatment of domestic wastewater as a major source of nitrous oxide, which is a contributing factor in global warming. You can reduce your water use by installing low-flow toilets and water-efficient shower and faucet heads throughout your home. Limiting the duration of showers is another solid step in the right direction for reducing your impact on the environment.
Upgrading your washer and dryer to more energy-efficient options will also provide added help in managing your carbon footprint. Research published in the Journal of Integrative Environmental Sciences shows that energy expenditures associated with residential laundry are responsible for more than 8 percent of the total residential sector emissions measured.
Eliminate or reduce air travel. According to the New York Times, a round trip between the United States and Europe can potentially add the equivalent of two to three tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere for each person who travels using this method. This can increase the concentration of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Eliminating most or all air travel will help to combat climate change in a practical and measurable way.
We know that not everyone is ready to commit fully to the environmental movement. You can also contribute to the battle against climate change in smaller ways. The National Ocean Service recommends a few simple changes that can have a big impact on the environment:
• Choosing nontoxic chemicals for cleaning your home or office will reduce the impact of these chemicals on water quality in your area. Most people are unaware that organic ingredients like vinegar, lemon juice and vinegar are usually all you need for effective cleaning. Using nontoxic chemicals can also improve your indoor air quality by eliminating dangerous chemicals from these areas.
• Taking reusable grocery and produce bags with you when you shop will reduce demand for paper and plastic bags that would otherwise end up in landfills. You can also use reusable produce bags for bagging fresh foods and bulk foods. The manufacturing processes for plastic bags can contribute to our fossil fuel addiction and increase the release of greenhouse gases that can contribute to global warming.
• Eliminate plastics as much as possible. Single-use plastics such as cutlery, straws, and stir-stix are at the top of the list for simple changes you can make. Opt-out of accepting single-use plastics when getting food or drink on the go. You can also patronize ecofriendly restaurants and shops that provide biodegradable cutlery and to-go packaging. Another way to reduce plastic use is to purchase frequently used items in bulk and refill existing containers. A good example of this is hand soap or cleaning supplies. By using one dispenser, and refilling from a large container, you in turn use less plastic and create less waste.
• If you are not ready to go fully vegan with your diet, taking one day a week to eat vegetarian can not only have significant health benefits but can reduce the emissions associated with raising animals for meat.
• Upgrading the light bulbs used in your home or business to LED energy-efficient bulbs will save money on your electric bills. This will reduce the amount of energy needed to provide light and will help you to lower your impact on the environment.
• Unplug appliances and electronics when they are not in use. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that standby power accounts for as much as 10 percent of all residential energy use in the United States.
• Invest in a programmable thermostat for your home. ENERGY STAR notes that a properly set programmable thermostat can potentially save homeowners an average of $180 per year in utility costs. This will also reduce the carbon footprint for your household while providing added convenience for you.
Making major and minor changes to your lifestyle can have a real impact on the progress of climate change. We believe that if everyone commits to doing their part for the environment, we can create a greener and healthier future for the entire planet.