Climate change is the greatest risk people are faced with today. All of our activities are associated with a “carbon footprint” figure or greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These GHGs are generated by the use of fuel for transportation, electricity consumption, and product manufacturing. Every global citizen must reduce our carbon footprint in a bid to mitigate climate change. The article will suggest 37 ways to reduce carbon footprint at home and in other areas such as food, shopping, transport, and school!
What is a Carbon Footprint?
The carbon footprint represents the GHG emissions generated by people’s activities. Every product and service in our life has GHG emissions, these include bread, salad, tableware, plastic bags, potato chips, laptops, driving from your home to the office, etc. Carbon footprint mainly comes from three scopes: Direct emissions from the burning of fuel by car engines; emissions from the consumption of purchased electricity such as charging a laptop; and product carbon footprint, indirectly emitted through, for example, the use of shower gel. Although they are not emitted directly by us, they are included in the calculations because we are users.
For more information on carbon footprint and how it is calculated, please read the article: WHAT IS A CARBON FOOTPRINT? CALCULATE YOURS AND YOUR BUSINESS’S.
How to Calculate Your Carbon Footprint?
Measuring your carbon footprint is not easy. We can estimate direct emissions from vehicle fuel consumption, and electricity consumption can be gauged based on the electricity meter’s readings. However, indirect emissions or the carbon footprint from using products, can be difficult to calculate because less than one tenth of products on the market disclose their carbon footprint, and since so many products are used over the day, it is fundamentally impossible to tally every item. Therefore, many organizations have created online calculators that allow us to easily calculate our carbon footprint based on average figures calculated by experts. Several carbon footprint calculators for overall carbon footprint and individual behavior carbon footprint are provided below to help us quickly determine the daily carbon footprint:
Calculate Annual Carbon Footprint
- UN carbon footprint calculator: Calculates annual carbon footprint based on the three dimensions of family, transport, and lifestyle. Furthermore, national and global average carbon footprints are also provided for our reference. Calculator Link
- United States Environmental Protection Agency carbon footprint calculator: A more accurate carbon footprint corresponding to location can be calculated based on the local zip code in the U.S. The calculation encompasses three categories including household energy, transport, and waste. The average carbon footprint in the U.S. is provided for reference. Calculator Link
- WWF carbon footprint calculator: A more precise carbon footprint is calculated according to postal codes in the UK. The calculation includes four types of carbon footprint including household energy use, food consumption, transport, and shopping. The average carbon footprint in the UK and the world is also provided for reference. Calculator Link
Calculate the Carbon Footprint of a Single Activity
- CLP calculator: CLP is a Hong Kong-based energy group. Their carbon footprint calculator covers fuel, flights, cars, and other means of transport. Reliable methodologies are also provided to ensure calculation accuracy. Calculator Link
- Carbon footprint carbon calculator: Available in multiple languages, it can calculate the individual carbon footprint of numerous activities such as family energy use, flight, cars, railway, and waste management. These carbon footprints are then tallied to create a complete report. The detailed calculation shows results down to the second decimal place. Calculator Link
- The Nature Conservancy: The simplest calculator, it provides the annual carbon footprint of transport, family energy consumption, food, and shopping. Although the calculations are relatively rough, they still offer a quick understanding of these items’ carbon footprints. Calculator Link
How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint?
Family Carbon Footprint
Most people spend the better part of the day at home, hence we can reduce our carbon footprint in several ways including via efficient home appliances, changing living habits, energy-saving measures, and potted plants.
Food Carbon Footprint
According to a joint study published by the United Nations in 2021, food production accounts for at least 1/3 of people’s annual GHG emissions. The main emission sources include methane emissions from animal husbandry, F-gases generated by refrigeration during transport, and packaging manufacturing. We can lower the carbon footprint of our food by changing our eating habits and minimizing food packaging.
Shopping Carbon Footprint
Shopping is the greatest driving force of global development. Every product we purchase has its carbon footprint, and the easiest way to reduce carbon footprint without affecting quality of life is to minimize the manufacturing of unnecessary packaging.
Transport Carbon Footprint
Vehicles such as cars, motorcycles, and aircraft are one of the major sources of exhaust gases and GHG gases. We can lower and more evenly distribute our carbon footprint through changing driving habits and via the sharing economy approach.
School Carbon Footprint
We can minimize our carbon footprint in schools and cultivate an awareness of carbon footprint and environmental issues from a young age.
9 Ways To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint at Home
Turn Off Electrical Devices at Home Before Going Out
Turn off unused electrical devices at home before going out, including lights, televisions, and computers, in order to reduce unnecessary energy consumption and thereby lower the carbon footprint.
Use Energy-saving Home Appliances
Now, many governments around the world require manufacturers to display the energy efficiency of their products. Some countries have launched energy-saving labels, such as Energy Star in the U.S., allowing consumers to clearly understand which home appliances are more efficient and help us reduce energy consumption.
Turn Down the Thermostat in Winter and Turn It up in Summer
According to the EIA Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS), air conditioners account for more than 10% of the average household’s electricity consumption, thus setting the thermostat temperature closer to the ambient temperature outside will significantly save energy consumption at home.
Change to LED Lights
LEDs only require 1/10 of the energy to achieve the same brightness as traditional incandescent lights, so changing to LED lights after your old lights at home burn out can reduce energy consumption in daily lighting.
Keep Good Refrigerator Usage Habits
The refrigerator is an essential home appliance that accounts for 20% of energy consumption at home. Keep good refrigerator habits, such as storing food loosely in the refrigerator compartment and tightly in the freezer compartment, thinking about what you need to get before opening the refrigerator door, and never storing warm food in the refrigerator, to improve its cooling efficiency and reduce energy consumption.
Implement Water-saving Measures
The most common water-saving facilities at home include the dual flush toilet, water-saving faucet, and water-saving washing machine, all are designed to reduce tap water consumption and thereby lower the carbon footprint of the water treatment plant.
Install Solar Panels
Besides energy-saving measures, we can also install solar panels in areas with sun exposure, such as balconies and roofs, to generate zero-carbon green energy. In addition to reducing carbon footprint, this can also save considerable electricity expenses or even allow us to sell electricity to the local power company to earn additional income.
Refuse Fast Fashion
Fast fashion encourages us to change clothes every year or even every season with cheap pricing, fast-changing styles, and shoddy quality. Considering most fabrics nowadays are made of cotton or petroleum-based polyester fibers that involve the use of a lot of chemicals, they generate staggering carbon footprints. Extending the lifespan of your clothes as much as possible will minimize the manufacturing of new garments and reduce carbon footprints.
Planting potted plants at home or maintaining a back garden will increase plants’ natural carbon sink (a system that absorbs more CO2 than it emits), allowing us to create a simple carbon cycle system to decrease carbon footprint through CO2 absorption.
What are carbon sinks and carbon cycles? What is the relation between carbon footprint and climate change? For more details on carbon sinks and carbon cycles, please read the article “How to Achieve Net Zero? The Relationship Between Carbon Cycle, Carbon Neutral, and Net-zero”.
9 Ways To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint on Food
Reduce the Ratio of Meat in Your Diet
According to the statistics in the dissertation titled “Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers”, meat production uses 58% of total grain production, but only 18% of calories produced. Compared with the amount of plants required to produce the same calories, meat has a carbon footprint of more than six times that of plants. In particular, the carbon footprint of beef is the highest. Thus reducing meat consumption can significantly lower your carbon footprint.
Consume Farmed Fish
Most fishing boats are driven by diesel engines, and offshore fishing usually requires months of sailing time, during which a large amount of GHGs are emitted. Consuming farmed fish reduces transport-related energy consumption and carbon footprint.
Buy Bulk Food
Bulk food allows consumers to bring their containers, reduce packaging, and buy just the quantities they need, thereby reducing their carbon footprint.
Consume Local Farm Products
Consuming local farm products can lower the carbon footprint from transportation.
Avoid Consumption of Processed Food
Chemical agents such as preservatives, sweeteners, etc. are often added to food during processing. The chemicals not only produce GHG emissions during manufacturing but are also unhealthy. Most processed foods are packaged in plastic, while the pre-processing raw materials and post-processing products all require transportation, thus we should avoid eating processed food to reduce our carbon footprints.
Bring Your Eco-friendly Cup
Bring your eco-friendly cup to hold water or beverages from the coffee shop and reduce carbon emissions from the production of plastic bottles and plastic-coated paper cups. In particular, renouvo’s sugarcane cup is made from bagasse, an agricultural waste, to further reduce carbon footprint, and it is compostable, making it an even more eco-friendly alternative among the wide selection of eco-friendly cups.
Bring Your Own Eco-friendly Utensils and Tableware
When taking out food, you should bring your own utensils and tableware to reduce the use of plastic take-out boxes and disposable plastic tableware and significantly lower your carbon footprint. In particular, the manufacturer renouvo uses agricultural waste bagasse as raw material to produce natural, safe, and hygienic food containers and tableware. After use, they can be composted with food scraps and returned to the environment.
Reduce Food Waste
According to the United Nations statistics, approximately 1/3 of food worldwide is wasted annually. The food crisis was also one of the topics of concern at the 27th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), or COP27 in 2022. Reducing food waste can help resolve the problem of hunger as well as minimizing the amount of food purchased and carbon footprint.
Compost Kitchen Waste and Compostable Utensils
Kitchen waste and compostable utensils can be broken down naturally and returned to the environment. However, if they are buried in landfills with other waste, not only will they decompose extremely slowly but also produce a lot of methane, a GHG. We should compost kitchen waste at home and use compostable utensils, or place them in organic waste collection bins to avoid generating additional carbon footprint.
Further reading: WHAT IS COMPOSTABLE WHAT TO AND NOT TO COMPOST
6 Ways To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint While Shopping
Shop With E-Commerce Platforms That Offer Eco-Friendly Packaging
Some online shopping platforms and merchants provide eco-friendly shipping measures such as recycled cardboard boxes, reduced packaging, and circular packaging, lowering carbon footprint by reducing plastic packaging.
Bring Your Eco-friendly Bag
Bringing your own eco-friendly bag when shopping to avoid using the store’s disposable shopping bags. This will effectively lower the carbon footprint that would otherwise be produced.
Reuse Single-use Packaging
Reusing single-use plastic bags as rubbish bags or cleaning and reusing plastic bottles and plastic cups will reduce the manufacturing of new single-use packaging and lower carbon footprint.
Choose Compostable or Recyclable Products
Compostable products such as renouvo’s bagasse straws can be composted and returned to the soil after use. Recyclable products such as glass or metal bottles can be turned into other new products to reduce the carbon footprint generated by disposal of products at the end of their life cycle.
Recycle Packaging Appropriately
Classify product packaging and dispose of it appropriately to prevent recyclable packaging from entering landfill or incinerators. This is one of the ways to reduce your carbon footprint.
Choose Products With Simple Packaging
Some manufacturers have launched products with simple packaging, shifting away from the layered packaging approach of the past by wrapping products in a thin layer of packaging, thereby decreasing carbon emissions from manufacturing.
7 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint on Transportation
Ensure driving safety by maintaining a certain speed and safe distance, which not only reduces braking frequency and accidents but also optimizes engine efficiency, thereby lowering carbon emissions from vehicles.
Service Vehicles Properly
Service vehicle components such as engines and tires regularly to ensure that your vehicle drives smoothly, runs efficiently and emits fewer GHGs.
Make Use of Public Transport
Since many passengers share public transport, the carbon footprint for a given distance is much lower than that of driving.
Reduce Air Travel
According to German NPO Atmosfair’s statistics, a round-trip flight between London and New York produces about 986kg of CO2 on average, much higher than the per capita annual emissions of many countries. Consequently, reducing air travel can significantly lower carbon footprint.
Make Use of Carpool Services
Carpool services maximize the efficiency of private vehicles and reduce the carbon footprint of new vehicles. At the same time, they also minimize the amount fuel consumed looking for parking downtown.
Make Use of Cycling and Walking
Cycling and walking do not involve the burning of fuel, and if combined with public transport and carpool services they can form the last mile for reaching our destination, significantly lowering the carbon footprint of daily mobility.
Drive Electric Vehicles (EVs)
Although the electrical power of EVs comes from coal or gas-fired power plants, they are still far superior to fuel-burning vehicles in terms of energy efficiency, thus the carbon footprint of driving an EV is less than that of fuel-burning vehicles over the same distance.
Six Ways To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint at School
Take the School Bus
The school bus picks up and drops off every student by driving the most efficient route, making it a mode of public transport that guarantees ridership and reduces the carbon footprint of commuting to and from school.
Purchase and Sell Secondhand Textbooks
Purchasing and selling secondhand textbooks not only saves a lot of money but also prevents deforestation for printing new textbooks, thereby reducing the carbon footprint of teaching materials.
Use Tablets or Laptops to Take Down Notes
Using tablets or laptops to take down notes maximizes the equipment utilization rate and reduces the use of physical paper, making it a great way to lower carbon footprint.
Take Shorter Showers
Water treatment or heating systems produce GHG emissions, so taking shorter showers uses less hot water and decreases carbon footprint.
Join Carbon Reduction Groups
Join carbon reduction groups in schools to find a group of like-minded people in the same life circle, where you can exchange daily carbon reduction actions and encourage one another to travel faster and further on the path to carbon reduction, as an indirect way to help people decrease their carbon footprints.
Take the Stairs Instead of Elevators
Taking the stairs will not consume any electricity and has a lower carbon footprint compared with elevators. It is also beneficial for health, so unless there are special circumstances involving high floors or heavy lifting, try taking the stairs instead of elevators as much as possible!
Why Do We Need to Care About and Reduce Our Carbon Footprint?
Currently, the temperature on earth has risen by 1°C compared with the pre-industrial revolution period, and scientific consensus indicates that we are faced with a grave carbon emissions problem. GHG emissions do not only include the emissions we see such as car/motorcycle engines, natural gas heating systems, and electricity consumption but also the carbon footprints of all the products we use throughout various stages such as raw material acquisition, manufacturing, transportation, use, and disposal. These GHG emissions all contribute to climate change, hence we must care about our carbon footprints and try to reduce them on multiple fronts.