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The 4 Main Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

What are the four main lifestyle tweaks you can make that will have the biggest impact on your carbon footprint? Read on to find out! 

Rob Binns

is a copywriter and editor based in Melbourne, Australia. When not penning content about sustainability, recycling trends, and renewable energy, he’s playing (or watching!) football, or relaxing in the sun with a book and a cold beer.

Globally, the average person emits around four tons of carbon dioxide every year.

And, if you live in the US, that figure goes up to around 16 tons – the weight of approximately eight small African elephants, or 1.3 London buses.

Shocked? Us too. Because the difficult truth here is that – no matter how environmentally conscious we are – we can’t avoid our own carbon footprint. Whether you’re watching Netflix, running on a treadmill, grabbing a snack from the fridge, or simply breathing, you’re emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

What we’re saying here is that you can’t avoid a carbon footprint altogether. But it is possible to reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses you’re personally responsible for, and to make your dent in the ozone layer as small as possible.

Reducing your carbon footprint isn’t always easy, but – when the payoff is a cleaner, safer, and more sustainable future – it’s certainly worth it.

Here’s how.

Drive Change With an Electric Car – and Charge it at Home

Cars. Cost-effective, comfortable, sometimes cool – and extremely convenient.

But when it comes to confronting climate change – and our own carbon footprint’s impact on the atmosphere – cars represent an inconvenient truth. After all, the average car churns out around 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year, while road travel as a whole is responsible for three-quarters of all transport-based emissions.

So what’s the alternative, you ask? Is it buying a bicycle? Cutting out long-haul air travel? Investing in a magic carpet?

While all have their perks, there’s still hope for lovers of four wheels. After all, cars and climate consciousness don’t have to be mutually exclusive – because electric cars are on the scene.

They’re like the cars you know and love, but – instead of an internal combustion engine – run on an electric battery, instead. Because electric cars rely on current and circuits, rather than fuel and fumes, they don’t pump out exhaust from a tailpipe. They require no gas, either – so you can leave disgruntled gas station attendants and stale egg sandwiches in the past.

Of course, electric cars still need something to run on – so you’ll need to give them a charge to keep them going. Fortunately, public charging points are nowhere near as hard to find (or as overcrowded) as they used to be. Plus, there are some handy companies – such as ChargeHub – that map out where you can charge your car in public. You can also compare different home charging station models, and have the right one delivered to your door within days.

With a home electric vehicle charger, you can simply plug your electric car in overnight, and have it ready and raring to go in the morning.

Owning an electric car (and charging it at home) will save you money, too – potentially as much as $250 per year. But what an electric set of wheels really buys you is peace of mind; the opportunity to offset the impact of your commute or trip to the grocery store by reducing your carbon footprint.

Go Solar and Harness the Power of Renewables

With the world’s population ballooning and our energy consumption out of control, it was never going to be long before that energy started to run out.

Even the most optimistic of calculations suggest the world’s fossil fuels – oil, gas, and coal – won’t outlast the century. That’s the bad news.

Fortunately, the good news is already here in our wind, sun, and water – we just need to start using them! From solar-powered desalination plants in Kenya to wearable solar cells being developed in Nottingham, UK, the sun is souping up the world.

Okay – so we’re not suggesting you erect wind turbine in your backyard, or turn the kids’ paddling pool into a hydroelectric dam. How, then, can you seize the opportunity that renewables present – and reduce your carbon footprint – with ease?

Go solar, that’s how. And you won’t be going solo – by 2024, 2.5% of all homes in the US are expected to have a solar installation. Solar panels don’t have to come at an eye-watering price tag, either. Not only have solar panel rates dropped by 25% since 2014, but the average solar panel-equipped home reaps between $10,000 and $30,000 per year in sun-soaked savings.

Easy on your carbon footprint…easy on your wallet!

Shop Seasonally and Beef Down Your Diet

With Arnold Schwarzenegger and Leo DiCaprio among the movement’s most famous proponents, veganism is growing – and it’s not hard to see why.

Per gram of protein, beef emits a whopping 20 times as many emissions as pulses – such as lentils and beans – and around four to eight times the greenhouse gasses of pork, chicken, or eggs.

The correlation between cows and carbon emissions is well-documented. For one, a single belching bovine can be responsible for up to 220 lbs of methane – which is around 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide – every year. With the beef industry also contributing to relentless deforestation – around 6.7 million acres of tropical forest are cut down each year to house cattle – the steaks are, indeed, high.

With that said, cutting out (or even down) your beef consumption will help decrease your individual carbon footprint. This one’s about small margins – if everyone in the US cut their meat intake by just 25%, it’d cut annual greenhouse gas emissions by 1%.

Does that mean you have to cut out meat completely? Of course not. Selecting sustainably sourced fish, or switching to chicken or pork, will still help. Heck, there’s even meat-free alternatives that taste good, and will reduce your carbon footprint (and your appetite!).

Get Energetic About Energy-Efficiency

We’ve all been there. It’s a cold day, so you turn on the heating. Then it gets a little stuffy, so you open the window to let some cool air back in. Then, it’s too cold again, so you flick the heating back on. But guess what? The window’s still open!

While it sounds preposterous, this parable illustrates the perils of something far too many of us aren’t good at – energy-efficiency.

Energy-efficiency refers to the principle of using less energy to achieve the same goal. In the above tale, for instance, it’s donning a blanket or an extra sweater, rather than cranking up the thermostat. Through this lens, energy-efficiency isn’t just an example of common sense – it’s cheaper, less wasteful, and infinitely better for the planet.

And – unlike purchasing an electric car, installing solar panels, or going vegan – energy-efficiency doesn’t require money, effort, or a tectonic dietary shift. It’s merely about leveraging small changes, day after day, and sticking to them.

Being more energy-efficient is as simple as taking shorter showers, or turning off the tap while you do the dishes or brush your teeth. It can be about picking white goods with certified energy-efficiency ratings (all dishwashers, tumble dryers, and fridges have them), or unplugging your phone when it’s finished charging.

Committing to a more energy-efficient lifestyle isn’t as glamorous as quitting air travel, or as defiant as ditching dairy. But learning to be more energy-efficient will reduce your carbon footprint every day – so it’s definitely something to be proud of.

A Note on Terminology

The FoodCycler® is a countertop electric food waste recycler that breaks down food scraps through a mechanical process into a dry, lightweight by-product that can be used in gardening applications as a fertilizer. The FoodCycler® and other electric food waste recyclers are not composters, nor do they produce compost or soil as they do not require additional microbes to break down food waste with bacteria. However, the term "electric composter" has been used to describe electric food waste recyclers.