We all want to take steps to keep our beautiful blue planet healthy and create a better environment for its inhabitants. But when it comes to reducing your carbon footprint, knowing where to start might have you feeling a little lost in the woods.
In essence, reducing your carbon footprint means reducing the amount of greenhouse gasses you contribute to the earth’s atmosphere.1 By doing so, you can reduce your daily impact on the planet and start building a more sustainable lifestyle.
Thankfully, there are easy steps you can take to reduce your carbon footprint on the daily—from exchanging your gas-guzzler for a 12-speed bike to perfecting your black bean burger.
#1 Say Vamoose to Vehicles
We know that gas-powered cars are one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions. We’re not saying to keep your seriously slick sedan sheltered in your garage all year long, but we are saying to cut back on driving it.
That’s because the average automobile emits 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year2—and that’s just the typical passenger vehicle. If you’re driving a truck or SUV the size of San Diego, you’re most likely emitting much more CO2.
Cutting back on automobiles may be especially helpful for drivers who live in cities. City dwellers typically live closer to schools, amenities, and their favorite eco-friendly coffee house than people who live in rural areas.
Nevertheless, both groups can reduce their carbon footprints from boot size to ballet slippers by limiting their short-distance drives.
Instead of driving to your favorite pub or supermarket that’s only a “hop, skip, and a jump” away, consider the following modes of transportation:
- Take a walk – Ok, so you don’t actually have to hop, skip, or jump to reach your destination, but walking short distances is a fantastic way to get where you need to go while getting some exercise. Simply lace up your walking shoes and plug in your headphones for a relaxing stroll to the supermarket.
- Break out the bike – Whether you prefer a pastel-colored Schwinn from the 70s or the latest high-performance commuter bike, hop on it for short to medium-length distances. You can find bike racks in most urban areas to enable an easy and carbon-friendly commute.
- Contemplate carpooling – If you have friends or colleagues that work in the same area as you (or who at least enjoy heading to the same late-night taco truck), consider carpooling with them. That way, you can minimize the number of vehicles on the road while maximizing the time spent singing your favorite jams in the car with your friends.
These three simple options not only help you reduce your personal carbon footprint, but they can also help you get in a bit of exercise or connect with your friends while carpooling.
#2 Opt for Eco-Friendly Products
When trying to find ways on how to reduce waste, the products you use at home can be an easy change. Opting for eco-friendly products doesn’t mean only consuming goods approved by koalas everywhere. Nor does it mean living totally without creature comforts. But it does mean buying and using products that aren’t harmful to the environment.
That’s because non-eco-friendly products, especially plastics, can leave Hulk-sized carbon footprints.3
Instead of googling how to reduce carbon footprint, you can maximize your efforts by finding products that reflect the following values:
- Climate positivity – A climate-positive approach centers on business and manufacturing practices that restore more to the environment than they use or emit. From the initial sourcing of ingredients to the moment the customer holds the recyclable package, climate-positive businesses like ECOS promote sustainability, zero waste, and carbon reduction.
- Clean chemistry – Companies that use clean chemistry in their products are truly redefining green. For example, instead of using nasty chemicals that can harm the earth and your health, we use safer ingredients like those derived from coconuts and beets in our formulas instead of petrochemicals derived from fossil fuels. Our clean chemistry approach supports you and the environment by reducing carbon emissions.
- Social impact – It’s no secret that the health of the environment and our society are intertwined. What benefits the environment can benefit society, and vice versa. That’s why one of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint is to choose companies that fight for action on climate change and help protect consumers and communities from toxic chemicals
Want an easy way to identify eco-friendly cleaning supplies and products? Look for the Safer Choice logo on the label. This program was developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help consumers easily identify products that are safer for human and environmental health.4
#3 Eat for the Environment
One of the simplest ways to reduce your carbon footprint is to think less about what you put out, and more about what you take in. In other words, consider your diet
Studies suggest that some diets, especially those high in plant-based proteins, are better for the environment than others.5 This is largely because the carbon emissions from raising animals for consumption far outweighs the emissions from growing vegetables.
If you want to say see ya later to excess CO2, eat like an eco-epicurean by following the guide below.
Better Foods to Consume
Environmentally conscious eating largely means reducing your contribution to negative agricultural and food production practices.6 Reducing your intake of red meat is an excellent place to start, but you can also build an earth-friendly diet with the following steps:
- Pile your plate with produce – Although some produce emits less greenhouse gas during the production process than others, all forms of produce are better for the environment than red meat. Instead of stuffing your plate with beef tips, for instance, opt for beets. Or, skip bacon for breakfast and grab a banana. In short, growing and consuming crops demands less agricultural energy than maintaining animals for consumption.
- See food in seafood – Choosing a climate-positive cuisine doesn’t mean you have to only fill your fridge with corn, peppers, and beans (though we do love a good succotash). You can also load up on seafood, which is generally less carbon-intensive than land-based agriculture. For the most eco-friendly options, go with species like anchovies, herring, and mollusks. These are marine animals that swim in smaller schools and filter the water for nutrients.7
Foods to Avoid (Or At Least Reduce)
If produce and seafood are always on the environment’s menu du jour, red meat and dairy would be better off nixed. That’s because the animals that produce these foods require a ton of agricultural support that increase carbon emissions.
Let’s take a deeper look at the environmental impact of these two foods:8
- Red meat – No matter which way you slice it, few foods are worse for the environment than red meat. A kilogram of beef, for instance, produces 26.5 kilograms of CO2. To harvest beef, you must constantly feed cattle using crops that rely on pesticides produced from fossil fuels. What’s more, cattle emit vast quantities of the greenhouse gas methane. This all equates to a Brontosaurus-sized carbon footprint.
- Dairy – Dairy products damage the environment for the same reason as beef: their gargantuan carbon footprints. In addition to the CO2 output of cattle (and other dairy-producing animals), the dairy production process involves other steps, such as pasteurization and churning, that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Fortunately, you can find plenty of carbon-friendlier dairy alternatives these days.
While abstaining from red meat and dairy is the best way to eat with the environment in mind, it’s also helpful to simply reduce consumption. The very occasional bone-in ribeye with garlic butter may be just what you need to keep your diet (mostly) veggie-focused.
#4 Increase Energy Efficiency
Remember having your parents constantly remind you to switch off your lights when you leave a room? As it turns out, they were onto something.
Energy production is a major source of carbon emissions, but minor energy reductions in your home can pay major environmental dividends and help you reduce your carbon impact.
To help reduce your carbon footprint at home, take the following energy-smart steps:9
- If you’re not using it, turn it off – Flipping off lights and appliances when not using them is an easy way to reduce energy bills for both you and the planet.
- Don’t hesitate to insulate – If it’s difficult to maintain a stable temperature in your home, poor insulation may be to blame. Instead of continually turning up or lowering the temperature to compensate for poor heating and cooling, save energy (and money) by insulating your home.
- Use utilities efficiently – You may not be able to reduce your utility usage entirely, but you can use them more efficiently. For instance, heating water requires a lot of energy. Cut back on your carbon footprint by investing in a better water heater and by reducing shower lengths (don’t worry, you’ll still have time to hone your Grammy-worthy shower singing).
- Carefully consider new purchases – We may not invest in a new refrigerator or dishwasher very often, but when we do, it’s an opportunity to choose a greener option. No matter what appliance you’re replacing, you can find more energy-efficient options by looking for the Energy Star label. Energy Star is a government-backed symbol designed to help you find products that use less energy more effectively.10
ECOS: Live Clean, Live Carbon-Friendly
When it comes to understanding how to be more eco-friendly or reducing your personal carbon footprint, just know that it doesn’t require an entire lifestyle change. From turning off lights to tuning in to climate-positive messaging, you’re doing your part to reduce the global carbon footprint.
That said, you can expand your efforts even further by choosing ECOS. Since 1967, we’ve focused on using cleaner chemistry and greener practices to make fantastic cleaning products that are safer for people and the planet.
Plus, our entire operation has been carbon neutral since 2013—allowing us to offset more than 28 million pounds of CO2 every year.
Join us on our journey to carbon reduction by using these tips to shrink your carbon footprint and creating a better future for planet Earth.