how to reduce your carbon footprint and save the planet

How to Reduce your Carbon Dioxide Footprint

Your carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases -not just carbon dioxide- you release into the atmosphere as a result of your everyday activities such as; transportation, electricity, food, etc.

In much simpler words, your carbon footprint is the impact your everyday activities have on the environment.

Needless to say, these greenhouse gases you emit every day destroys the environment, as they trap heat in the atmosphere causing numerous environmental issues such as global warming, rising sea levels, droughts, and many health issues.

For more information on how greenhouse gases impact our plant, check this short video:

According to the latest studies, the earth is now 1 degree hotter than it was in the 20th century.

If it doesn’t seem this bad, then let me tell you that it only took 4 degrees increase to end the ice age 12,000 years ago.

We have only 10 years left to prevent the permanent damage to our plant and even if we completely stopped emitting greenhouse gases right now, global warming would continue to happen for at least a few more decades.

We are heading to the day when climate change can be irreversible. So, our goal here is to keep the global temperature rise under 1.5˚C or hopefully less.

Luckily, according to the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project, this can be easily achievable if everyone on earth kept their annual carbon dioxide footprint under 1.87 tons by the year 2050.

Right now, the average adult U.S. citizen’s carbon footprint is 18.3 tons. So in other words, we have ِA LOT of work to do.

There are numerous easy ways to reduce your greenhouse emissions, but before getting into how to decrease your carbon footprint. 

First, let’s calculate how much greenhouse gases you emit every year. You can easily calculate your annual carbon footprint using this calculator.

Don’t worry, it doesn’t matter how you scored, as long as you intend to make active moves decrease it. 

And in the next sections, we will provide you with easily actionable ways to decrease your impact on the environment.

1. Drive Less to Save the Environment

Did you know that emissions from transportation surpassed emissions from electricity generation?

Yes, in fact, the average car produces 4.6 tons of CO2 a year and according to the EPA, vehicles produce more than 28% of all the U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Further, the toxins emitted by vehicles aren’t only dangerous to the environment, they also have a direct impact on human health.

This is because the tailpipes are at street level and humans can breathe this toxin air directly into their lungs, which causes plenty of health issues such as cancer, respiratory irritation, nervous system problems, and birth defects.

So, should we just throw away our cars and start riding horses?

Well, not really. Although vehicles are one of the main sources of air pollution, there are a few ways to make your trip more climate-friendly:

  1. Take more walks: We spend most of our time sitting and studies showed that taking more frequent walks will help to lighten your mode, lose more fat, improve circulation, and many more health benefits 
  2. Buy a bike: Regular cycling is a great workout that will help to decrease stress levels, increase muscle strength and mobility, improve your cardiovascular fitness, and many more. And in addition to all these great health benefits, you will no longer be stuck in traffic jams 
  3. Use public transportation: Public transportation such as trains, buses, or even Uber is a great way to reduce your emissions and save hundreds of gas money
  4. Carpool and Rideshare: This way, you are splitting the emissions between people in the car, spend more time with your friends, and save a lot of gas money each month
  5. Combine errands: combining errands will reduce your overall driving time, which in return reduce your carbon footprint
  6. Use traffic apps: Traffic apps are a great way to avoid getting stuck in jams, which won’t only save you gas, but also precious time
  7. Use less air conditioning: As you probably know, Air conditioners use so much gas, so try to use it less often
  1. Cruise Control: Cruise control is a system that automatically controls the speed of your car and maintains a steady speed, which will eventually save gas
  2. Avoid excess weight: Keep your car light by getting rid of extra things you don’t need on your trip (less weight = less power needed to power the car = less gas = less emission)
  3.  Drive more efficiently: Studies showed that avoiding unnecessary braking and acceleration can result in 40% less fuel consumption. A great advice from Brian West, an expert in fuel and engine research, is to drive like there is an egg under your foot
  4. Keep your tires inflated: Studies showed that properly inflated tires can increase your fuel efficiency by 3%
  5. Take care of your car: Regularly maintaining your car can increase your fuel efficiency by 4%, and in some cases, it can improve your gas mileage by up to 40%
  6. Buy high-efficiency cars: If you are shopping for a new car, you should definitely invest in an electrical or a hybrid vehicle, but if this isn’t an option, then at least opt for a SmartWay car. Although high-efficiency cars might be more expensive at first glance, in fact, buying a green vehicle will save you tons of gas money in the long run

These 13 tips won’t only help to reduce your transportation CO2 emissions, but they will also save you a lot of money every month. 

Just think of how much gas money you can save each month if you bought a bike or took the subway more often.

Remember, for every gallon you save, you reduce your CO2 footprint by 18.07 pounds.

2. Avoid Flying

Airplanes are responsible for around 2% of all CO2 emissions in the world and 12% of all greenhouse emissions from transport sources –compared to 74% from road transport.

Airplanes produce about 53.3 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per mile. For example, a flight from New York, NY to Los Angeles, CA (2,450 miles) will generate more than 130,585 pounds of CO2, which is a tremendous amount of emissions, especially when divided per seat.

Although air travel is pretty bad for the environment, it’s still ok to fly occasionally, as long as you reduce your other sources of emissions. 

For example, if you use public transportation, bike, and take a lot of walks, it’s still fine to fly home and visit your family, as your overall emissions would still be low. 

On the other hand, if you drive and fly a lot, your emissions will be really high and in this case, you need to make an offset, which we will cover in the next sections. 

Let’s be realistic, sometimes you just can’t avoid flying. So, if you can’t avoid flying at all, then here are a few tips that can help you minimize your carbon dioxide emissions:

A. Fly nonstop

As you know, landings and takeoffs use A LOT of fuel and produce a tremendous amount of emissions. Thus, make sure to have nonstop flights, as it will really reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions

B. Travel economy

In airplanes, the overall carbon emissions are divided by the number of passengers. In other words, the more people on the plane, the fewer emissions per passenger.

Traveling economy will make sure the emissions are divided by more people. Thus, fewer emissions per passenger

C. Travel light

Carrying too much luggage won’t only slow you down at the airport, but it will also weigh down the airplane, which causes it to use more gas. 

If you think your 20 pounds bag impact on the plane is negligible, then you should read this funny story. 

In 1978 the American Airlines decided to remove a Single Olive from each of the salads, and this saved them $40,000 a year. 

They saved 40 grand by cutting off a single olive, now think of how much gas your 20 pounds bag would save.

3. Reduce Your Energy Usage

As you probably know, the U.S. gets 81% of its total energy from oil, gas, coal, and other fossil fuels. 

And according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the U.S. electric power sector produces 1.619 million metric tons of CO2 emissions every year, which is about 32.4% of the U.S. yearly greenhouse gas emissions.

Luckily, there are a few ways to help reduce these emissions, and in this section, we will go through some tips that will help you to not only reduce your CO2 footprint but also save tons of money each month.

A. Get an Energy Audit

Doing an energy audit is the best way to determine where your home is losing energy and how you can reduce your energy consumption and save hundreds of dollars.

You don’t have to make big changes right away, even the smallest changes to the insulation and the design of your home can dramatically reduce your greenhouse gas emissions and reduce your energy consumption by 30%.

So without further ado, here are a few things you can do to improve your home’s energy efficiency:

  1. Improve your Sealing: Having better sealing will reduce the amount of air leaking in and out of your home, which will improve your heating efficiency. Thus, reduce your heating costs
  2. Have a better Insulation: Insulating your home will help to keep the heat in and prevent it from leaving your home, which will keep the temperature stable and improve your energy efficiency
  3. Check the energy-efficiency of your windows, doors, and skylights
  4. Do a regular maintenance check-up
  5. Find a Green Vacation Rental

For more information on how to improve your home’s energy efficiency, check this awesome DIY energy audit tutorial:

B. Go Renewable to reduce your carbon footprint

Obviously, the best way to reduce fossil fuel emissions is to switch to more clean and sustainable sources of energy such as wind or solar. 

Although going off-grid might be quite pricey and not suitable for everyone, In fact, switching to renewable is a great passive investment that will save you tons of money.

Also, if you are cash tight or don’t have a suitable roof, you can join a community solar farm.

In case you don’t know, community solar farms are remote solar power plants that generate electricity and share it among properties without the need to install anything on your property.

In simple words, solar farms are a way to go off-grid and reduce your energy bill if you don’t have a suitable roof or live in a shared building.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars and go totally off-grid, you can start small by switching to solar lights, or solar heaters for example. Remember, every watt matters.

C. Sign up for energy-saving programs and incentives

Nowadays, utilities have plenty of programs and incentives that can help you reduce your energy usage and save a few bucks every month.

For more information on the policies and incentives available in your state, check this database.

D. Invest in energy-efficient products

You need to always opt for products with the energy star logo. This certification means that the product meets the energy efficiency standards for the United States.

Although these products might be a little more expensive, they are a great investment in the long run. 

According to the Energy Star official site, by only opting for energy star products, you can save up to 30% of your energy bills while avoiding more than 5,500 pounds of greenhouse gasses emissions.

For more information on how much you can save using energy star products, check this amazing article.

Further, most electronic devices nowadays have something called standby power mode in which they drain power 24/7 and won’t shut down completely unless you unplug them.

An easy solution for this problem is to make sure to unplug all unused lights and appliances every night and anytime you leave home.

Also, you should consider investing in a smart power strip or a turn-on outlet, as it will save you a lot of time and money as well.

E. Replace your Light Bulbs

Did you know that you can save around $75 a year just by replacing your home’s five most frequently used lights?

Lighting is responsible for 5% of the total electricity consumption in the U.S. residential sector and one of the easiest ways to save energy is to switch to LED lights.

LED lights use 85% less energy and last 25 times longer than ordinary incandescent bulbs, which will highly decrease your energy bills and your carbon dioxide footprint as well.

As we speak, there are more than two billion energy-wasting bulbs in the United States alone.

And according to the U.S. Department of Energy, if we all switched to LED lights, this could result in a total saving of more than 30 billion dollars and over 1,400 million tons of CO2.

Another great alternative to incandescent bulbs is solar lights, opting for solar lights won’t only reduce your greenhouse gases emissions, but also save you tons of money in both the short and long run.

Learn more about the Advantages and Disadvantages Of Solar Lights.

F. Efficient Heating Can Save the Planet

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), over 31% of the total U.S. energy is used to cool spaces, 12% is used to heat water, and 7% is used for refrigerators & freezers. 

In other words, more than 50% of the U.S. yearly generated electricity is used for heating and cooling.

Luckily, there are a few small changes that can highly reduce your carbon footprint without even noticing:

  1. Turn down the heat and use a smart thermostat
  2. Close the Blinds to keep the temperature inside
  3. Stop using fireplaces and wood stoves
  4. Turn down your water heater. 120 degrees Fahrenheit is more than enough and any hotter than that will dry out your skin and might cause irritations
  5. Wash your clothing in cold water. Many people don’t know that many detergents are designed to clean better in cold water. So in addition to reducing your energy usage, using cold water will also protect your clothing from fading and shrinking
  6. Stop using the dryer. Dryers use a lot of energy to operate so instead you can try switching to the traditional clothesline whenever possible
  7. Don’t keep the fridge or freezer door open. This won’t only reduce the energy consumption but also helps to prevent refrigerator damage
  8. Adjust your fridge temperature to 35-38 degrees Fahrenheit, as it’s the optimal temperature to keep your food fresh 
  9. Set your freezer temperature to 0 degrees Fahrenheit

4. Eating Better Will Reduce your Carbon Emissions

One of the biggest, yet most overlooked reasons for global warming is food production.

Every year, there are approximately 13.7 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalents emitted through the food supply chain, which is almost 24% of the total greenhouse emissions.

For instance, livestock farming is responsible for 14.5% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions, as the production of red meat uses a lot of feed, water, and land. 

Further, cows themselves also give off methane (through burping and farting), which is 25 times more potent than CO2.

Luckily, there are a few ways to help reduce these emissions, and in this section, we will go through some tips that will make a huge impact on your carbon footprint.

A. Eat Low on the food chain

Plants obtain energy from the sun, animals obtain energy from plants, and finally, we obtain energy from animals. That’s the food chain supply.

The problem is that with each step in the food chain, there is an efficiency loss of about 90%.

For this reason, eating low chain food such as fruits, veggies, grains, and beans can help to dramatically reduce your CO2 footprint. 

Every day you don’t eat meat and dairy, you reduce your CO2 footprint by at least 8 pounds and one of the greatest ways to decrease your greenhouse gas emissions is to join the Meatless Mondays

By joining Meatless Mondays, you won’t only reduce your yearly Carbon Dioxide footprint by 416 pounds, but also improve your health and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying everyone should go vegan and ditch meat for good.

In fact, all you need to do for now is to reduce your red meat consumption and swap to low-carbon meat such as chicken and poultry.

B. Reduce your Food Waste to Save the Environment

Shockingly, in the U.S. about 40% of the food we produce gets thrown away. That’s over 1.3 billion tons of food each year. And all this untouched, uneaten, perfectly edible food is a great contributor to climate change. 

In fact, if global food waste were a country, it would be the 3rd largest emitter of greenhouse gases. 

The reason for that is when food decomposes, it releases Methane, which is 25 times more potent than CO2.

No one actually likes wasting food, it’s just something that we haven’t been paying much attention to.

And luckily, there are a few easy ways to help reduce your food waste and save you more than $1500/year— Yes, that’s how much money you lose by wasting food.

  1. Don’t Buy Big Refrigerators: One of the main reason we buy a lot of food is that we have more space in our refrigerators and studies showed that we don’t like seeing our refrigerators or freezers white
  2. Use Small Plates: Subconsciously, we tend to fill our plates with food even if we can’t finish it all. By reducing the size of your plates you will reduce the amount of food you put in and thus reduce the amount of waste. Remember, how hungry you are is an indicator of how soon you should eat not how much you should
  3. Reduce Portion Size: We’ve gotten used to the gigantic portion sizes at restaurants and in a subtle way it encourages us to overeat and throw away a lot of food
  4. Plan ahead: Studies showed than planning your meals ahead can highly reduce the amount of food waste
  5. Donate: There are plenty of organizations such as the U.S. Hunger Relief and Copia that can use your leftovers and give it to people who need it the most
  6. Compost: By composting your food waste you can reduce the amount of Methane produced by the decomposing process. Do a little research and find a composting facility near you or use a compost bin to make your own garden fertilizers at home

C. Eat Seasonal and Local

Food transport is responsible for 6% of the total food emissions. This doesn’t only include transporting food from far away, even the transportation you take to bring food home counts.

Although most emissions happen during food production, reducing your food transportation can still make a difference. 

And there is no better way to reduce your food transportation emissions than eating locally grown food.

According to the New York Times, eating local for one year can reduce your carbon footprint by 906 pounds, which is equivalent to driving 1,000 miles.

By eating local food you don’t only support local farmers, but you also make sure your food is fresh and doesn’t absorb tons of exhaust fumes that can negatively impact you and your family’s health.

5. Break Up with Fast Fashion

The fashion industry is now the 8th most polluting industry in the world with approximately 1.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalents a year. 

In other words, fashion produces more greenhouse gas emissions than flights and shipping.

Further, it generates more than 92 million tons of waste, which is 4% of the annual solid waste.

According to the BBC, the average American throws away 81 pounds of so hard to recycle clothes every year. 

That’s not only a huge amount of waste but also studies showed that you waste about 3.8% of your annual salary on clothes.

Fortunately, there are a few ways that will help you save money and help the environment at the same time such as:

  1. Buy Sustainable: Look for products with sustainable logos as this means that these clothes are very gentle on the environment
  2. Consider the Fabric: Opting for eco-friendly materials such as cotton and wool can greatly help the environment, as other materials can take up to hundreds of years to decompose
  3. Get a smaller closet: A smaller closet will help to stop you from buying too many clothes
  4. Plan ahead: Before buying any new piece of clothing ask yourself these questions. Does this style fit my personality? Is it inside my comfort zone? Do I have anything to match it in my closet?
  5. Buy High Quality: High quality clothes last longer than the cheap ones, which will help to reduce the amount of waste your produce
  6. Donate: Do a regular closet cleanout and donate all the clothes you haven’t worn in a year to charity
  7. Repurpose: If a piece isn’t wearable anymore, you can repurpose it to cleaning rags, or better yet you can donate it to animal shelters as they use old clothes for bedding material 
  8. Buy Second Hand: Buying second hand clothes won’t only save you hundreds of dollars, but also will make you look more authentic and vintage

6. Conserve Water

Drinking water systems are responsible for over 45 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions, which is approximately 5% of the yearly carbon emissions.

The reason behind this huge number of emissions is that treating water requires a lot of energy. In fact, about 40% of water systems operating costs come from energy.

The amount of drinkable water on earth is very limited–1% and two-thirds of it are locked away in permanent snow, polar ice, and glaciers. So that leaves us with only 0.3%.

Ironically, melting polar ice will do more harm than good, as they won’t only end up in oceans, but these glaciers contain a huge amount of greenhouse gases, and melting them will release all these gases to the atmosphere.

In other words, our only option is to cherish the water we have. Thus, here are a few tips to help you reduce your water consumption:

  1. Stop flushing things down the toilet, as each flush uses 5 to 7 gallons of water
  2. Take shorter showers
  3. Invest in water-saving showerheads, they are easy to install and will save you hundreds of dollars
  4. Turn off the water while shaving, brushing, lathering up, or washing dishes. In other words, don’t keep the water running when you are not using it
  5. Fully load your dishwasher and washing machine
  6. Invest in water-efficient toilets, dishwashers, and washing machines
  7. Soak your veggies in a bowl instead of rinsing them
  8. Regularly check your pipes and toilet for leaks
  9. Collect rainwater
  10. Join a community cleanup
  11. Avoid disposable items as they take gallons of water to make

For more information on how to reduce your water usage, check 100 ways to conserve water.

7. Plant a Garden

If only there were some sort of magical technology that could remove CO2 from the air and release Oxygen instead. Oh wait doesn’t that what plants do!

Planting a garden can significantly reduce your carbon dioxide footprint. In fact, a tenth of an acre garden can offset your yearly greenhouse gas emissions.

Even if you live in an apartment and can’t plant a garden there are still numerous things to do. For example, you can buy some indoor plants or talk to your neighbors and plant a roof garden.

8. Family Planning 

Overpopulation is the key driver to climate change and according to the latest estimations, our planet will be home to 10.9 billion people by the year 2100.

If you choose to have one fewer child this saves approximately 58.6 tons of carbon dioxide a year, which is by far the most effective thing you can do to save the environment.

9. Purchase Carbon Offsets

Carbon offset is an amount of money you pay for environmental organizations to help them reduce greenhouse gases emissions.

For example, these organizations can use your money to invest in renewable energy, energy-efficiency improvements, planting trees, and many more environmental projects.

Here is a list of trusted organizations to buy carbon offsets from:

It’s important to mention that although buying carbon offsets is a great way to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions, it can do more harm than good.

The reason for this is carbon offsets don’t eliminate the root cause of global warming, which is us–humans.

Offsets aren’t the best way to cut off carbon and the most climate-friendly action is to stop emitting carbon as much as you can.

10. Raise Awareness

Finally, the last and probably the most important thing you can do is to raise awareness and support climate actions.

Reducing your sole carbon emissions footprint is great. However, it will only have a minimal effect on the environment.

Therefore, we need to work together to show how serious climate change is and how can it change the world we live in forever.

Here are a few actions you can make to raise awareness and support the cause:

  1. Learn more about climate change and share what you learn with your family, friends, and co-workers
  2. Support climate organizations 
  3. Research the companies you buy from. If they aren’t reducing their emissions, then you should switch to more eco-friendly companies
  4. Join local climate action groups and programs such as the Resilient Neighborhoods program
  5. Become politically active and vote for the candidate who supports climate-friendly policies
  6. Share this article!

Last Words

Global warming is by far the biggest issue of our time.

While there is no quick fix to this problem and real solutions require actions on a global scale, there are a few things we can do as individuals to reduce our impact on the environment.

In the end, we really hope you enjoyed this guide, and we helped you even a little to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions.

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If so, please share this article with your friends and let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

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