5 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

By Anne Weaver | Energy, Lists, Sustainable Living

People often believe that even if they reduce their energy use and attempt to live a greener lifestyle, they won’t make a difference in a sea of over-consuming citizens. I believe this logic is detrimental to progress and should be put to rest. If everyone thinks their actions won’t make a difference, our society would be doomed for any sort of change.

When consumers start making minimal changes in their lives, we’ll begin to see a shift in consumption patterns. Even if climate change is irreversible, simple modifications in reducing consumption and waste can have significant impacts on the future of our planet. Here are a few simple tips on how to reduce your carbon footprint.

1. Curb Driving Habits

Paying attention to the way you drive is the first step in reducing the carbon footprint related to your car. Driving better – including accelerating more slowly, driving the speed limit, and maintaining your speed with little fluctuation – can make a huge difference in your miles per gallon (MPG) consumption.

In addition, proper maintenance of your car can also help reduce your carbon footprint. Make sure your tires are inflated correctly, and always replace your oil and fuel filters on schedule to ensure efficient car travel.

2. Alternative Transportation

If you live in an area where there are multiple options for commuting, try a new source of transportation when you’re traveling for work or leisure. Many cities are extremely bike-friendly, so invest in a bike if you don’t already have one (bikes don’t emit any CO2). If your commute is short (a mile or less), try walking! Personally, I almost always choose this option because it saves me money, it allows me to get some extra exercise, and it’s great for the planet.

Public transportation is always a great choice as well. Most of the time, taking a subway train or bus will take less time than driving during busy rush hours. Carpooling is another surefire way to be more carbon efficient.

Shopping at a farmer's market is a smart choice for indirectly decreasing your carbon footprint. Photo via Ian (flickr).

Shopping at a farmer’s market is a smart choice for decreasing your carbon footprint. Image via Flickr.

3. Alternative Food Consumption

While what you eat and where you get your food are indirect factors of your carbon footprint, they make a huge difference in your energy usage. Buying food from a local source, such as a community garden or farmer’s market, saves on carbon emissions; a five-pound package of food flown across the country to arrive at your plate creates an average of twelve pounds of CO2.

Unfortunately for meat-lovers, the consumption of red meat is another practice that creates a significant amount of CO2 pollution. By simply swapping out several meat-based meals each week for vegetarian ones (or even poultry dishes), you’ll save an astounding about of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

4. Be Mindful Around the House

There are so many little steps you can take to maximize the efficiency of your home while also minimizing its carbon footprint. Simple adjustments such as using a laptop rather than a desktop computer can reduce your energy usage (laptops are designed to be more energy efficient).

Adjusting the thermostat in the winter and summer is another trick to saving money and energy; turning off the heat or air conditioning when you’re not home can save over 15% on your energy bill. Being mindful with your gadgets is good for both the planet and the devices themselves; unplugging your phone charger or laptop is just one way to be energy smart. Lastly, adjusting the lighting of your home is a quick fix to reducing your electricity spending. Change your lightbulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs and you’ll greatly reduce energy consumption, thus reduce carbon dioxide pollution.

5. Travel Tips

Taking one large vacation infrequently is greener than taking frequent trips on airlines. This is because air travel is not very carbon-friendly. Choosing a nonstop flight rather than multiple connecting flights (if possible) is also a greener option. While you’re traveling, always remember to turn off all your electronics at home, unplug appliances, and turn down both the thermostat and water heater to save energy.

Be wary when you’re traveling; using public transportation instead of a rental car is a wise choice, as well as booking flights with airlines that have strong environmental agendas.

Featured Image: Subway Station in Santiago, Chile. Photo via Ricardo Cabrera Letelier.

About The Author

is a recent graduate of the University of Oregon where she earned a Bachelor of Science in environmental studies and a minor in business administration. Growing up discovering the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest gave her a passion for both conservation and sustainability. She hopes to expand her knowledge of climate change by earning a Master’s degree in environmental science and specializing in biogeochemistry. As a foodie, her interests lie in cooking and baking, as well as traveling, camping, and exploring the outdoors.