7 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint at Home
7 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint at Home
Earth Day on April 22 is a reminder to us of how we can do more for our planet, and that includes reducing our carbon footprint at home.
There are many who look at the issue of climate change and the stress we’re putting on the planet, throw up their hands, and give up, thinking the problem is just too big. But there are ways we can all do our part to help.
Have you ever heard the saying, “Many hands make light work”? It’s true. We don’t as individuals have to each do a ton to affect change. If there are enough of us doing our small part, as a group, we can make things better.
So here are 7 things you can do, right now, to reduce your carbon footprint at home.
1. Park the car 🚘
According to Global Stewards, 28% of our carbon emissions come from transportation, followed by the stuff we buy (26%), our heating and cooling (17%), other home energy use (15%) and food (14%). And when it comes to transportation, our cars are the worst offenders, says Canadian environmental activist David Suzuki.
So, it stands to reason that the less we use our cars, the better it is for the planet. Switching to walking or cycling is better for our bodies anyway, but even carpooling or taking public transit helps keep emissions down.
And the next time you go to buy a car, check the federal government’s auto smart ratings to determine fuel efficiency and how much the one you’re considering pollutes. A typical SUV, for instance, uses almost twice the fuel — and releases nearly twice the emissions — of a modern station wagon, although both seat the same number of passengers.
2. Energy hogs 💡
Did you know Canada is the largest consumer of energy in the world on a per capita basis, and the second largest producer of greenhouse gases (after the United States)? We may have just over 30 million people, Suzuki says, but we use as much energy as the entire continent of Africa, home to 700 million.
To stem your energy leaks:
Reduce your home heating and electricity use. A more energy-efficient home will lower your utility bills and reduce the emissions that cause climate change. Find out how you can increase energy efficiency in your home through the EnerGuide for Houses program.
Choose energy-efficient appliances. New refrigerators, for example, use 40% less energy than models made just 10 years ago.
Unplug your devices. All electronics suck energy when they’re plugged in, even if they’re powered down. In the U.S. alone, “vampire power” is responsible for draining up to $19 billion in energy a year. Anytime a cord is plugged into a socket, it’s drawing energy – so although your device isn’t charging, you’re still contributing to your carbon footprint. Simple solution? Leave your electronics unplugged at all times, unless you’re actually using them.
Reducing the energy your home uses can include things as simple as changing out your lightbulbs for more efficient ones to things as large as re-insulating your whole home and upgrading your windows. How and what you do depends on your level of commitment and your budget. Just remember, the steps you take to make your home more energy efficient will add to the value of your home if you later decide to sell.
3. Water wasters 💦
It’s hard to believe, living in a country so blessed with water resources as we do, but fresh water is getting scarce, and Canadians use an awful lot of it. According to this study, we use an average of 329 litres of water per person, per day — second only to the United States in the developed world, and more than twice as much as Europeans.
That means the more we can do to reduce our water use the better. That can include things like low-flow faucets and low-flush toilets (bathing and toilets make up 65% of our water use), checking for leaks, using drought-tolerant plants and grasses in our yards and only using dishwashers and washing machines when we have a full load.
While you’re at it, drink tap water instead of bottled. It’s cheaper and creates a lot less waste.
4. Focus on your food 🌽
First, buy local. Not only does it help our local farmers and businesses, but locally sourced foods means less transportation to get that food to us.
Besides, food that has to travel a long way to get to you has usually been picked way too early and is less likely to use sustainable practices.
If you want to get even more local, plant a garden. Whether you live in a house or an apartment, planting some greens is a quick and easy way to reduce your carbon footprint. Plants absorb carbon dioxide, which is good for us. And by planting any kind of garden, even a balcony one, we’re doing our part to reduce the urban heat island effect, where cities tend to be hotter than rural areas because of vast pavement areas, concrete buildings, and increased human activity. Creating more spaces for plants can mitigate this effect and lead to better cooling, which will be a necessity with worsening climate change.
Second, consider reducing the amount of meat you eat. According to this Huffington Post article, greenhouse gas emissions from agribusiness are an even bigger problem than fossil fuels. Red meat is particularly to blame, consuming 11 times more water and producing 5 times more emissions than its poultry counterparts. You don’t have to become a vegetarian, but eating meat less frequently will significantly help the environment.
And be sure to compost, whether in your own backyard composter (the easiest way to create much-needed nutrients for your yard) or through the green bin program. The more we can keep out of landfills, the better.
5. Go minimalist 👔
Embrace a minimalist lifestyle. Declutter your home and donate unneeded items to charity. Buy, borrow or rent used clothing, electronics, house decorations and furniture, cars and other products whenever possible.
If you don’t need it, don’t buy it. Everything new that we buy has to be manufactured and the manufacturing process contributes to our carbon footprint.
6. Plant a tree 🌳
Planting trees in your yard is also a way to give back to the environment. As a tree matures, it can consume 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year (among other greenhouse gases like ozone), and releases enough oxygen for you to breathe for two years.
Don’t have a yard? Join a tree-planting group instead!
7. Recycle, recycle, recycle ♻
Recycle as much as possible and buy products with recyclable/minimal packaging. For hard-to-recycle items, take advantage of the city’s one-day household hazardous waste depots, which are scheduled periodically from May to October throughout the city. The first one is May 5.
We can all do our part to help reduce the harmful effects of climate change by reducing our carbon footprint at home. What will you do this Earth Day?