How To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Practical Ways to Help the Environment

a tree in a glass sphere

With the inaction of the UN Climate Summit, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the looming threat of global warming. One way in which we contribute to climate change is through our carbon footprint- a carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases (mostly carbon dioxide) that are emitted due to a person or group’s direct or indirect use of fossil fuels. 

So everytime you charge your phone with coal powered electricity or fill your car up with gasoline, you are increasing your use of fossil fuels, and in turn increasing greenhouse gases  which impacts your carbon footprint. What some people don’t realize is that even the production and transportation of goods factors into your total carbon footprint- so all of those items from China we buy come with a huge pollution pricetag. But there are so many easy ways to reduce our carbon footprint!

1. Hang-Dry Your Clothes to Reduce Your Carbon Emissions

Dryers emit an estimated ton of carbon dioxide every year. But that ton of carbon dioxide is so easy to eliminate by hang-drying your clothes. While it may take longer to have your clothes dry, hang-drying has the added bonus of not fading or shrinking your outfits like a dryer There are drying racks available for less than $10 or just use the hangers you already have to dry your laundry. 


A white-faced and brown-faced cow standing next to each other.
Beef farming is one one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.

2. Eat Less Meat and Dairy to Prevent Greenhouse Gases 

The meat and dairy industries are a dangerously inefficient- they produce 60 percent of agriculture’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Obviously, cutting meat and dairy from your life would drastically reduce your carbon footprint, however going completely vegan or vegetarian is not an option for many people. But you can make simple food choices that can still reduce your carbon footprint by deciding when you consume meat and dairy and what types of meat you eat. For example, choosing to eat chicken over beef can cut your dietary-carbon footprint in half. 

3. Switch from Fossil Fuel Energy to a Green Electricity Supplier  

Using green energy doesn’t have to involve installing solar panels. In over 20 different states, you can choose to support green energy through your electric bill by choosing a third-party supplier. Choosing a renewable energy supplier can save an average of 13,000 pounds of CO2 from going into the atmosphere every year (check how much CO2 you could save). Once you sign up, all you have to do is pay your bill through your utility company like you normally would.

Windmills at sunset.
Supporting renewable energy is more environmentally sustainable than supporting coal or natural gas.

4. Buy Thrifted Clothing, Not Fast Fashion 

Fast fashion, which is fashion produced at high-speed with low-cost, is the second largest contributor to pollution in the world (second only to oil). The best way to have an environmentally-friendly wardrobe is to thrift shop your clothing. If you can’t manage to find a complete wardrobe through thrifting, there are always eco-friendly brands such as Alternative Apparel or PACT that you could supplement your thrifted-clothing. 

5. Buy in Bulk, Not Single-Use Items 

Think about those containers of individual chip bags- those products have two to four layers of packaging around them compared to the one layer around the bigger bags. Not only are these packages full of plastic, they are more expensive per serving. Instead of buying all of these small bags, buy the item in bulk and put servings in your own reusable containers. To further your efforts, avoid buying single use items such as plastic spoons or plastic bags- these items create a lot of unnecessary waste.

Woman hiking through the forest.
Walking instead of driving will help reduce your carbon footprint.

6. Consider How You Travel Effects Your Carbon Emissions 

We all know that cars are terrible for the environment and walking, using public transport, or biking will significantly reduce your carbon emissions. However, if you still need to use a car, keep your car serviced and use cruise control when you can to reduce your gas usage. Avoid flying as much as possible- skipping one flight could reduce your carbon footprint by 10 percent. 

7.  Bring Reusable Bags Everywhere to Reduce the Use of Plastic Bags

Single-use plastic bags contaminate our oceans and can take 400 to 1,000 years to breakdown. The big issue around reusable bags seems to be remembering to bring them with you. An easy solution is to use compact reusable bags that can fold up and neatly fit in your pocket, a handbag, or in the glove box of your car. Remember, traditional reusable bags are only better than plastic bags because they are used multiple times so don’t buy more bags than you need.

Caroline Hale

Caroline is a Pittsburgh-based writer and public speaking coach.
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