7 ways to reduce your carbon footprint
Updated: Jan 30
Dr Gargi Das, Director, LEAP
Carbon Footprint Calculator
What is your carbon footprint?
It's how much greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, fluorinated gases a person produces daily.
Why do we need to reduce it?
So that the earth's temperature does not rise, as this spells disaster in the long run.
What should your carbon footprint be annually?
About 1.87 tons by 2050 per person, to stop global temperature rise at 2˚C or less (Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project).
Today's average carbon footprint per person is 18.3 tons - 10 times what it needs to be.
How to Lower your Carbon Footprint
§ Eat foods low on the food chain, which means mainly a healthy diet made up mostly of fruits, vegetables, grains and beans.
§ Meat and milk/milk products make up about 15 % percent of manmade global greenhouse gas emissions. This comes from feed production and processing and the methane animals produce, which traps a great deal of heat. Each day on a low food chain meal plan, the carbon footprint falls by 8 lbs or almost 3000 lbs a year.
§ Eat organic foods to prevent use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers which add to the carbon and greenhouse load.
§ Eat local, seasonal foods from local farmers and local stalls. Transporting food from distant places uses fossil fuels for fuel and refrigeration.
§ Buy foodstuffs in bulk.
§ Choose fresh produce which is unpackaged and/or in degradable packaging.
§ Eat only what you need, reduce food waste - by planning meals ahead of time, freezing and reusing leftovers.
§ Compost your food waste.
§ Buy good quality clothing that will last and recycle clothing. Fast fashion clothes which go out of style quickly end up in landfills, making methane as they decompose. Also, most high street clothes are transported from China and Bangladesh, which means a large amount of fossil fuel is used, creating a large carbon footprint.
§ Wash your clothing in cold water instead of hot or warm water, since enzymes in cold water detergent clean better in cold water. Washing two loads of laundry weekly in cold water can save up to 500 lbs of carbon dioxide each year.
§ Buy only what you need, buy used or recycled items whenever possible. Waste not, want not, as the old saying goes. This will help greatly in reducing your carbon footprint and save you money.
§ Use your own reusable bag when you shop.
§ Choose goods in simple paper or no packaging.
§ Laptops require less energy to charge and operate than desktops. So a laptop will help save the environment.
§ Support and buy from companies that are environmentally responsible and sustainable.
4) Home Energy
§ Check how you use or waste energy and identify ways to be more energy efficient.
§ This could mean simple things such as choosing light emitting diodes (LEDs) over incandescent light bulbs which waste 90% of their energy as heat). Sure, LEDs cost more - BUT, they use a quarter of the energy and last about 25 times longer. LEDs are also preferable to compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs, which emit 80% of their energy as heat and contain mercury.
§ Switch lights off when you leave the room and unplug your electronic devices when they are not in use.
§ Turn your water heater down to 120˚F. This can save about 550 lbs of CO2 a year.
§ Don't waste water - use a low-flow showerhead and take shorter showers. Less heated water is used and this too, reduces your carbon footprint and saves you money.
§ Lower your thermostat in winter and raise it in summer.
§ Sign up to get your electricity from clean energy through your local utility or a certified renewable energy provider. Solar panels are a great way to do this.
§ Walk and cycle wherever you are able, take public transportation, carpool, rideshare, since an average car produces about five tons of CO2 each year . Plan your journeys to enable you to get more done in a single journey rather than making several. This cuts CO2 emissions and reduces traffic congestion and air pollution.
§ Use GPS to help avoid getting stuck in traffic jams.
§ Use less air conditioning while you drive, even when the weather is hot.
§ If you're planning on buying a new car, consider purchasing a hybrid or electric vehicle. Before buying, do your homework with the help of an app which rates cars based on their mileage, fuel type and emissions from both the production of the car and, if they are electric vehicles, from generating the electricity to run them.
§ Air travel - Since air travel creates a hefty carbon footprint, avoid flying if possible.
Go economy class. Business class is responsible for almost three times as many emissions as economy because in economy, the flight’s carbon emissions are shared among more passengers; first class can result in nine times more carbon emissions than economy.
6) Offsetting carbon emissions
If you have to fly, offset the carbon emissions of your travel / or any or all of your other carbon emissions.
A carbon offset is an amount of money you can pay for a project that reduces greenhouse gases somewhere else.
Offsets promote sustainable development and increase the use of renewable energy. The money you pay goes towards climate protection projects. Various organizations sponsor these projects.
Carbon Offset Calculator:
Use this to estimate carbon emissions of your flight and the amount of money needed to offset them. For example, flying economy roundtrip from New York to Los Angeles produces 1.5 tons of CO2; it costs about GBP 32 to offset this carbon.