When you think about reducing your family’s carbon footprint, you might feel overwhelmed. Most of us assume that we need to spend thousands of dollars on solar panels or build our own wind turbine to help the environment. Yet, you don’t have to go to the extremes to be green. There are simple and easy ways for your family to reduce your carbon footprint, ways that you can implement today!
Before we discuss these steps, you first have to know what your carbon footprint is. So, what is your carbon footprint?
What Is Your Carbon Footprint?
A carbon footprint is “the amount of carbon dioxide or other carbon compounds emitted into the atmosphere by the activities of an individual, company, country, etc.” Simply put, your carbon footprint is how much carbon dioxide (CO2) you contribute to the earth’s atmosphere.
Why does it matter if you increase the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere? Well, CO2 is a greenhouse gas, which means it prevents heat from escaping the earth’s atmosphere. As the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere increases, more and more heat is trapped. As temperatures rise, the earth’s climate radically changes. Ecosystems all over the world are thrown out of balance. Deserts expand, polar ice caps melt, and sea levels rise. Any animals and plants that can’t adapt quickly enough die, resulting in mass extinction and famine.
How Do You Reduce Your Carbon Footprint?
Now you know what your carbon footprint is and why CO2 emissions are so important. The next step is to learn a few ways you can reduce your CO2 output. To do this, you first need to know where all your CO2 emissions are coming from.
Most CO2 emissions created by humans are from energy production. In fact, 87% of all human CO2 emissions are from burning fossil fuels to create energy. This energy is used to generate electricity, heating, and gas for transportation.
This means that if you want to reduce your family’s carbon footprint, you should reduce how much electricity, heat, and gas your family uses. Here are some specific tips on how you can decrease your family’s energy consumption.
- Use CLF and LED Light Bulbs
14% of your electricity is spent on lighting, making it an excellent area to start cutting back. One of the easiest ways to reduce how much electricity your family uses is to replace your light bulbs with compact fluorescent (CFL) or light-emitting diode (LED) light bulbs.
As a matter of fact, these eco-friendly bulbs use 25-80% less electricity than traditional light bulbs and last 3-25 times longer. Even though they are initially more expensive, CLF and LED lights actually cost less annually than incandescent light bulbs since they last so long.
- Wash Your Clothes on Cold
90% of your washing machine’s energy is used to heat the water. If you wash your clothes on cold, your washing machine doesn’t use this energy and uses less electricity. As an added bonus, the colors of your clothes won’t bleed when they’re washed in cold water.
You already have to do laundry so why not make one small adjustment to help save the planet?
- Adjust Your Thermostat
To lower your electric and heating costs, adjust your thermostat by 10-15°F before you go to bed and before you leave the house for the day. Turn your thermostat down in the winter and turn it up in the summer so your air conditioning doesn’t have to work so hard. By lessening the burden on your air conditioning, your family can reduce your energy consumption by 15%.
While 10-15°F may sound extreme at first, remember you’re only adjusting the temperature when you’re not really using your air conditioning. For instance, you don’t need to waste energy heating and cooling your house when you’re not even there. You also don’t need as much air conditioning when you’re sleeping. You’re either piled under a mountain of blankets in the winter, or if it’s summer, you’re just sleeping under a thin set of sheets. In summary, making this small adjustment won’t make your home unbearable to live in.
However, if you’re still worried about being uncomfortable at night, try swapping out your bed sheets with bamboo sheets. Bamboo sheets help keep you at the perfect temperature all night long so you don’t have to worry about any adjustments you make to your thermostat. To discover how bamboo bedding regulates your temperature, read Sleep Soundly with Bamboo Bed Sheets.
- Caulk Your Windows
Another way you can reduce your family’s heating bill is to caulk your windows. Caulking your windows seals any cracks and prevents heat from escaping. Since you aren’t losing heat to the outside, it’s easier for your home to stay at the right temperature and you use less energy. In fact, properly sealing your windows can reduce your family’s heating costs by 20%.
Here are some instructions on how to caulk a window.
- Drive Less
22% of human CO2 emissions are from burning fossil fuels for transportation. 72% of this amount is from road transportation. This means that you and your family can significantly reduce your carbon footprint just by driving less.
So, how do you drive less when you have to some much to do? You need your car to get to work, drop kids off at school, go to the grocery store, run to the bank, etc. Here a couple of tricks you can use so you can drive less.
- Carpool with your coworkers
- Take public transit
- Have your kids ride the school bus
- Consolidate your errands into one trip
- Bike whenever you can
Depending on your lifestyle, some of these steps may be harder to implement than others. However, they may not be as hard as you think.
For instance, carpooling with your coworkers just takes a little bit of planning. Once you start, it’ll become a habit and just another part of your life. Taking public transit takes time, but you can use this time to go over your meeting notes or dive into that book you never have time to read at home. Consolidating your errands also takes a little bit of forethought, but it actually frees up more of your time to do other things.
In conclusion, all of these energy efficient tips are simple and easy; they don’t take a lot of effort and they don’t drastically affect your comfort. In some cases, they even make your life easier.
For example, a direct result of reducing your energy consumption is you lower utility bill. If you use eco-friendly light bulbs and wash your clothes on cold, you lower your electric bill. If you adjust your thermostat and seal your windows, you lower your heating bill. If you drive less, you don’t spend as much on gas. When you can save money and the environment, why wouldn’t you make these little adjustments?
What other small changes can you make in your life that will benefit the environment and your family?