15 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Millie Jefferson | May 22, 2014
Topic category: Creating A Greener Home
Green Homestead
Ponsulak Kunsub

Everyday choices can make a huge difference in reducing your carbon footprint.

Many folks can't afford solar panels or a new hybrid car — and newly produced items like those can actually add to a personal carbon footprint, because of the energy and resources needed to make them.

But there are simple, constructive ways to reduce your carbon shoe size without the big price tag. Lisa Wise, executive director of the Center for a New American Dream, says everyday choices and actions can make a huge difference:

1. Buy organic and local.
 When possible, buy organic or "fair trade." There's a better chance the food was grown in an eco-friendly way, and if it's locally grown, it didn't have to travel that far. This also goes for those double lattes — coffee often has a large carbon footprint because of the distance those beans had to travel to get here, and how they were produced. Also, try eating at restaurants that serve locally produced or seasonal foods.

2. Pay attention to packaging.
 When out shopping, try to go to stores or co-ops that keep packaging to a minimum. For example, you may chose to buy the loose tomatoes rather than boxed or plastic-wrapped tomatoes. Also, take reusable bags to the grocery store. When it comes to resources, plastic is better than paper — but a reusable cloth tote-style bag is better still.

3. Ditch bottled water. 
Bottled water has a huge carbon footprint — it's bottled at one location in small plastic bottles and shipped all over. Try buying a reusable water bottle or canteen for your water. Also, a lot of restaurants have made the move from offering fancy bottled water, usually imported from an exotic source, to using in-house filtration systems that make tap water a good choice. Many plastic water bottles are recycled, but most are not, making the footprint even bigger.

4. Energy-proof your home.
 We're not talking major upgrades here... Make sure all of your windows close properly and that the attic in your home is properly insulated. This can save you big bucks on your energy bill. Also, keep your heating and cooling systems properly maintained, and switch to reusable filters when possible. Try switching from incandescent to compact florescent light bulbs. Compact florescent light bulbs use about 75 percent less energy than our normal light bulbs and last much longer. Compared to regular bulbs, the fluorescents are more expensive, but they will eventually pay for themselves due to lower energy costs.

5. Go native. 
Use native plant species to landscape around your home or business. The plants will probably grow better in a familiar environment, and the plants may also get shipped a shorter distance to get to your local nursery. Also, use organic soil when planting — it's made using more eco-friendly methods, and uses less resources. And remember, green plants are a good way to offset carbon. So plant something, anything — it helps.

6. Window shop.
 If you have the urge to spend, try window shopping or browsing first. This helps ensure you are only buying things you really need, or really want, and you're not just impulse buying. Remember, every item in a store, no matter how small, has a footprint — so if we are conscious consumers, we can reduce our own footprint and the overall footprint of our nation.

7. Take a direct flight.
 If you need to travel by airplane, try taking a direct flight when at all possible. Your impact is reduced when you take one flight, as opposed to hopping on a couple or more passenger jets to reach your final destination. You might also feel a little less harried when you arrive, because changing planes can be a real hassle.

8. Switch water heaters to vacation mode.
 Most water heaters have a "vacation" setting for when you are away from home for an extended period of time. Switching to that "away" mode still keeps the water warm, but will not use the energy it takes to keep a tank full of piping-hot water. Enjoy your vacation even more, knowing that you're saving money and reducing your footprint.

9. Unplug it!
 Unplug appliances that you don't use frequently. Most electronics have a standby mode that siphons energy even when not in use. Cell phone chargers, laptops, televisions, stereos — there's a whole list of items that should be unplugged when not in use. Try using a power strip for groups of electronic items. One flick of the switch and it's all off.

10. Keep your car.
 With gas prices seemingly always on the rise, it's tempting to buy a hybrid or electric vehicle. But if your older-model car is in good condition, you're better off keeping it in good running condition. Even hybrids create a big footprint when they're built, so consider driving that old clunker for a little while longer. Also, try more eco-friendly modes of transport when possible, like buses, trains, a bicycle, telecommuting or even walking.

To learn of the other 5 ways to reduce your footprint see Millie's post on NPR's Weekend America

Millie Jefferson |Apr 11, 2013
Tags: green home, carbon footprint, tips
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