What is a carbon footprint?
It is the total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).
In other words: When you drive a car, the engine burns fuel which creates a certain amount of CO2, depending on its fuel consumption and the driving distance. (CO2 is the chemical symbol for carbon dioxide). When you heat your house with oil, gas or coal, then you also generate CO2. Even if you heat your house with electricity, the generation of the electrical power may also have emitted a certain amount of CO2. When you buy food and goods, the production of the food and goods also emitted some quantities of CO2. *
How can I reduce my carbon footprint**?
As I mentioned earlier, every little action helps and the below will hopefully educate us to think more responsibly about our lifestyle decisions.
Drive better – Studies have shown up to 30% of the difference in miles per gallon (MPG) is due to driving habits alone. You could save more than a ton of CO2 per year by:
– Accelerating slowly and smoothly
– Driving the speed limit
– Maintaining a steady speed
– Anticipating your stops and starts
Maintenance – Keep your car tuned up and running efficiently.
More Maintenance – Replace your air, oil and fuel filters according to schedule.
Tires – Keep your tires properly inflated (just this can save 400-700 pounds of CO2 per year).
Make your next vehicle a fuel-efficient one – Check out EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide for info on miles per gallon as well as EPA SmartWay® certified vehicles, meeting rigorous air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions standards.
Household fuel efficiency – If your household has two cars and one is used mostly for commuting, make the commuting car a real gas sipper if you can’t for both.
A lot of our emissions come from just being inefficient or not deliberate with our daily decisions. Every day think about how you could reduce the miles you drive and pretty soon you’ll start identifying lots of opportunities:
Combine your trip with another.
Carpool – Just once a week saves 20%.
Check out your transit options – It may not work for you every time, but use it when it does.
What about your bike? – Get in shape, too!
Only a mile? – Walk.
Think it through – Do you need to take this trip at all?
Get it on the Internet.
Optimize – Save this trip for later and combine with another.
Telecommute – Work from home occasionally.
Programmable thermostat – Costs about $50 or less and will save you that much or more in the first year.
Weatherstripping and Caulking – Costs almost nothing while reducing your energy use, reducing drafts and improving comfort.
Lighting – Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) have that cool curly shape and save more than 2/3rds of the energy of a regular incandescent. Each bulb can save $40 or more over its lifetime. Read the box or instructions for safe disposal. LED light bulbs are even more efficient to run than CFL bulbs and are just as affordable. In addition, LED lights contain no harmful materials and provide the same amount of light as a 60-watt incandescent, using up to 85 percent less power. This helps you save on your electricity bill without compromising on the amount of light.
Heating and Cooling – Keep your heating and cooling system(s) tuned. When it’s time to replace, do your research and ask for ENERGY STAR.
Insulation – Weatherstripping, caulking and insulation work together to save you energy, improve the comfort of your home, make it quieter and help you save money.
Water-Conserving Showerheads & Toilets – You can reduce water and heating costs, even in your bathroom. To save even more water, turn the faucet off when brushing or shaving. These simple changes and steps can save many thousands of gallons of water annually.
Appliances – Always pay attention to the total lifetime cost, including energy—not just the price tag. Look for the ENERGY STAR label.
Bigger isn’t always better – Just get the size you need; do you really need that extra refrigerator in the basement?
Electronics – Look for ENERGY STAR. And do like your Mom said- turn things off. If you’re going away or not using an item for awhile, unplug it to prevent “vampire” energy loss from electricity usage on standby.
Windows – These can be expensive, but when it’s time to replace them, make sure they are ENERGY STAR rated.
Solar – We love solar, but make sure you reduce your energy load first to keep your costs down.
New Home – Consider an energy-efficient ENERGY STAR Home.
–Author’s note: I’m getting married very soon, so this is something we have definitely been conscious of and will be doing. —
Weddings are all about the couple, but they can still be a little about the planet, right?
Knowledge – There is a surprising amount to learn when it comes to planning a wedding. Though primarily a resource for training green wedding planners, New Wedding Planet is a great site for new couples to learn the ins and outs of planning everything from cake design to the elements of traditional or cultural ceremonies.
Invitations – Utilize recycled or post-consumer waste paper for all your invitations, thank you notes, place cards, etc. Or cut out the paper waste altogether by choosing to go digital and putting Save the Dates, maps, and reception cards on your wedding website.
Flowers and Food – Same idea for both: make it local, organic and seasonal. Almost all caterers and florists can help you with this, and you can get educated by going to your farmer’s market and asking what will be in season on your big day.
Décor – Let the natural beauty of your outdoor wedding shine or consider using potted plants to adorn your indoor event – guests can take them home and transplant them, as opposed to wreaths of cut flowers that only survive a day or two. If your heart is set on roses, get more bang for your buds by reusing floral arrangements from your ceremony at the reception.
Gifts and Favors – The Green Bride Guide had a wealth of resources for finding eco-friendly favors from beeswax candles to chocolate treats. For gifts, registering through the Green Bride Guide allows your guests to support sustainable businesses and even donate a portion of the sales to your favorite cause.
“Green” Wedding Tips – Check out this blog post for 50 eco-friendly tips to plan a “green” wedding.
Transportation – The biggest carbon footprint from any event is the transportation. Try holding the wedding in a location central to most guests. If that’s not possible, use Carbonfund.org’s wedding calculator to offset the travel and hotel impact.
Enable your power management – so your computer and monitor shut down.
Consider using ePlusGreen’s PC energy-saving technology – The system monitors/minimizes computer and printer energy usage. Do you need to print?- Consider saving a file on your computer, in a flash drive or emailing it.
Double-side print – Saves paper too.
Can you carpool or transit or bike to work? See above.
Open up – If you have windows you can open, use them to intelligently save energy.
Turn ‘em off – Only use the lights you need. If you’re using your computer you may not need your office lights on too.
Occupancy sensors – Shut off lights in unused rooms. Better, get your building to install occupancy sensors.
Bring your lunch – Or walk to the local eatery instead of driving.
6. REDUCE THE CARBON FOOTPRINT OF YOUR LIFE
Only 40% of the average American’s carbon footprint is due to their direct energy use. The other 60% is indirect; it comes from everything we buy and use—goods and services. Pay attention to your consumption and waste habits, and you’ll find lots of opportunities to conserve.
Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
You’ve heard it before, but it’s still great advice. Manufacturing products produces an average 4-8 pounds of CO2 for every pound of manufactured product.
Stop your junk mail with the help of 41 pounds, a nonprofit service that contacts dozens of direct mailers to remove your name from their lists.
Buy locally if possible. Shipping burns fuel. A 5-pound package shipped by air across the country creates 12 pounds of CO2 (3 ½ pounds if shipped by truck).
Eat less meat. If you’re already a vegetarian, you save at least 3,000 pounds of CO2 per year compared to meat eaters. If you’re not a vegetarian, just increase the number of vegetarian meals you eat each week by one or two. Also, poultry is less greenhouse gas intensive than beef.
Don’t waste food. Mom was right. About one-quarter of all the food prepared annually in the U.S., for example, gets tossed, producing methane in landfills as well as carbon emissions from transporting wasted food.