7 Unconventional Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Reduce Food Waste
Food waste contributes to a massive carbon footprint each year. In the United States alone, food waste generates over 35 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually. Here are a few ways I aim to reduce my food waste at home:
- I meal plan for the week ahead to only buy what I need at the grocery store. This prevents excess food from going bad in my fridge.
- I store leftovers properly and eat them within 3-5 days. Glass storage containers help keep leftovers fresher longer.
- I compost any food scraps that I don’t eat. Composting converts food waste into nutrient-rich soil instead of releasing methane in a landfill.
- I only buy produce that I will consume within the week. Buying massive quantities of fruits and veggies often leads to spoilage.
By planning my meals wisely, storing leftovers properly, composting scraps, and buying only what I need, I have cut my personal food waste dramatically. This simple change makes a dent in the huge carbon footprint created by global food waste each year.
Vehicles emissions account for around 20% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Here are some ways I have reduced my driving mileage:
- I walk or bike for errands under 2 miles from home whenever possible. Walking and biking create zero emissions.
- I carpool with coworkers for the daily commute to the office. Carpooling cuts the number of vehicles on the road in half.
- I work from home 1-2 days per week. Skipping the commute avoids emissions completely on those days.
- For necessary driving, I accelerate slowly, obey the speed limit, and avoid idling my engine to maximize fuel economy. Aggressive driving reduces MPG.
- I combine multiple errands into one trip to reduce total mileage driven. Several short trips create excess emissions.
Cutting 250 miles off my monthly driving would eliminate over a ton of CO2 emissions per year from my footprint. Driving less is an extremely effective way to reduce my carbon impact.
Upgrade Light Bulbs
Most homes are lit by energy-wasting incandescent and halogen bulbs. I have replaced over a dozen bulbs in my home with LEDs. Here’s why:
- LEDs use at least 75% less energy than traditional bulbs and last years longer. This reduces electricity demand.
- LEDs produce virtually no heat, unlike incandescents which release 90% of energy as heat. Less AC is needed in summer.
- Electricity production from fossil fuels is the #1 source of carbon emissions globally. Using less electricity shrinks my carbon footprint.
It takes me just 5 minutes to swap out an old bulb for a new ENERGY STAR certified LED. This simple switch saves hundreds of kWh and prevents nearly 500 lbs of CO2 emissions annually in my home. Upgrading all bulbs in your home to LEDs is one of the fastest ways to reduce climate impact.
Install Smart Thermostats
Heating and cooling comprise roughly 40% of home energy use in the United States. I have upgraded to smart thermostats to automatically optimize temperature settings. Here’s how they help:
- Smart thermostats turn down heating when I’m away from home and automatically re-heat right before I return. This avoids wasted energy.
- I have programmed a schedule for my thermostats to align with my household’s daily routine. Temperatures are lowered at night when we sleep.
- The thermostats automatically switch between heating and cooling modes. I never forget to changeover between seasons.
- My smart thermostats have geo-fencing. Once my phone leaves the home’s location, they know I’m gone and enter energy saving modes.
Having an intelligent thermostat system installed has reduced my home heating and cooling costs by around 20%. Because this accounts for a huge portion of home energy use, smart thermostats effectively cut my carbon footprint.
Choose Green Power
Coal comprises over 65% of U.S. electricity generation and creates immense CO2 emissions. I have opted to purchase 100% renewable energy from my utility. Here are the benefits:
- My utility feeds green energy from local solar and wind farms into the grid to match my household’s usage.
- Renewable energy emits zero CO2 emissions. This immediately shrinks my carbon footprint.
- Increased demand for green power incentivizes my utility to expand its renewable energy infrastructure.
- While slightly more expensive than regular electricity, green power reduces emissions for roughly 1 cent per kWh.
Purchasing clean power is a budget-friendly way to meaningfully reduce your environmental impact. Call your utility today to get set up on a 100% renewable plan if available in your area. Going green requires no equipment changes and makes an immediate dent in your carbon footprint.
Weatherize Your Home
Heating and cooling leaks can waste up to 30% of residential energy use. I have weatherized my home to stop leaks and improve efficiency. Here are the steps I took:
- I added insulation to my attic for improved heat and AC retention. Properly insulating attic spaces is vital.
- I used caulk to seal gaps around windows, doors, pipes, vents, and wiring. Stopping air leaks prevents wasted energy.
- I had my HVAC technician perform a ductwork inspection and seal any leaky joints or gaps throughout the system.
- I replaced old windows and doors with new ENERGY STAR certified models that have thermal seals to prevent leaks.
Weatherizing your home costs little to nothing and has a fast payback through lower energy bills. The DOE estimates proper weatherization can reduce home energy use by 20% on average. A tight home requires less heating and cooling to stay comfortable, lowering carbon emissions.
Small day-to-day choices can produce dramatic carbon footprint reductions. I have lowered my own carbon output by driving efficiently, wasting less food, upgrading appliances and lighting, weatherizing my home, and purchasing renewable energy. When scaled across whole communities and countries, these simple actions create massive global impact. We each have the power to fight climate change through our daily habits. What unconventional changes will you implement next to reduce your carbon footprint?