03 September 2014 | Posted by Zachary
So, you’re concerned about how much damage you’re doing to the climate (not to mention the air and water) and you want to do what you can to cut your emissions. Where to start? Below are 5 key ways to cut your carbon footprint approximately 47%. First, though, what is your carbon footprint? How is it split up? And where am I getting this 47% figure?
I definitely don’t know what your carbon footprint is. This is a very personalized thing that depends on what you eat, where you get your electricity, how you transport yourself around, what products you buy, and much more.
I’m just using an American average for this article. The footprint of the average American is apparently 19 t CO2e, of which about 4 t CO2e is from energy used in the home and about 4.7 t CO2e is from driving. Other big sources are food, recreation, and health.
I’m not going to go into food (a no-meat or low-meat and no-dairy or low-dairy diet is best), recreation, or health matters, but below are a few easy ways to cut off that 47% or so of emissions that are coming from home and transportation energy sources.
With zero emissions and being the most efficient common means of transportation on the planet, if you are able to bike for your transportation needs, this can cut a huge chunk off of you carbon footprint.
If you own the roof over your head, or if you live in one of the few places where you can invest in a community solar garden, going solar is an excellent way to slash your electricity emissions and live guilt-free in this area of your life.
Those two options right there would have slashed the average American's carbon footprint approximately 47% if the person also made sure her or his home heating needs were all electric (not coming from gas or oil). But these options may not be available or practical for everyone, so below are a few more.
It's not quite as good as bicycling, but if you've got solar power behind it, driving an electric car is your next-best choice. With solar power covering all of your electric charging needs, you're essentially driving emissions free. The only emissions associated with your car are the emissions that were created for its production.
Also, there's an extra benefit not often discussed that driving electric offers. When people get electric cars, they tend to become much more aware of their electricity usage and they conserve electricity much more. They turn things off more when not using them and they buy energy-efficient products. Many people actually end up using less electricity after getting an electric car than they used before getting it.
The above solutions are excellent for completely slashing your home energy needs and most of your transportation energy needs, but another key step is almost always making your home more energy efficient. This allows you to get a smaller solar power system (which saves you money and may also be a necessity if you don't have a very large, open roof) and it is especially important if you can't go solar for some reason.
The biggest electricity draws in your home are likely your appliances: refrigerator, oven, washing machine, dryer, HVAC, etc. A lot of progress has been made in the past few decades to make these appliances more efficient. There are also rating systems that tell consumers which products are most efficient. If you're shopping for a new appliance, be sure to get one of the most efficient options.
Even if you aren't currently shopping for a new appliance, you may want to. Switching to a new, efficient model could potentially save you much more than the cost of the new appliance, while also cutting your carbon emissions.
Another top way to increase your efficiency and cut your carbon footprint is to keep your home better sealed and insulated. Even a do-it-yourself (DIY) home energy audit using your smartphone can show you where your home is leaking air. Then do a bit of sealing, caulking, and insulating and your place will hold warm air in the winter and cold air in the summer much, much better. The efficiency improvement and carbon savings from not having to heat or cool your home so much are often about as good as you can get... unless your home was already very well sealed and insulated.
There are other little things you can do, or sometimes significant things, but aside from moving to a smaller place, moving to a region that gets more of its electricity from renewable energy, or drastically cutting back on your use of appliances and electronics, these options above are probably the best things you can do on the home and transportation energy front.
Image Credit: Thomas Hawk (CC BY-NC 2.0 license)