We can either throw our hands in the air and despair of any miniscule effects our individual efforts might have upon our planet, or we can -with hope – recognize that collectively our endeavors can make a difference. You don’t have to be one of those millionaire-plus celebrities with the ability to design our own earth-friendly homes and drive expensive hybrid Escalades to make a difference. Here are ten easily accessible and inexpensive ways to reduce you and your family’s carbon footprint:
Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
1. Buy Local Foods Whenever Possible
Purchasing local foods helps the local and global environment in many ways. Locally, our financial support of local farmers helps to preserve farmland from development. The use of excessive packaging is no longer necessary to “protect” food during its long travels. Globally, we are reducing our dependence on fossil fuels used to transport produce and foodstuffs internationally or nationally.
2. Turn Your Thermostat Down in Winter & Wear a Sweater
According to one website, “each 1-degree drop for an eight-hour period reduces your fuel bill about one percent.” This can be a significant savings if you make an effort to turn the thermostat down to 60* or below if you’re going to be away from home for days, turning it down in the low 60’s while you’re away at work, or even when you go to bed. And wear a sweater. No one promised you that you’d be comfortable in a bikini during Winter in temperate climates.
3. Turn Down Your Water Heater or Purchase an On-Demand One
Another government website cites that “for each 10ºF reduction in water temperature, you can save between 3%-5% in energy costs.” Most water heaters are preset to 140* – a scaldable temperature – when 120* would suffice. Use hot water in appliances only when necessary.
When your water heater does require replacement, investigate the newer on-demand ones available. Instead of maintaining an entire tank of water at a set temperature, on-demand water heaters quickly heat water only as needed.
4. Patronize and Donate to Second Hand & Thrift Stores
Purchase or at least donate to thrift stores to avoid use of the resources necessary to remanufacturer household goods or clothing items. This saves natural resources and energy as well as your household budget.
5. Request Email Billing Statements & Pay Bills with Electronic Bill Pay
Receiving email billing statements and paying bills with your bank or credit union’s electronic bill pay saves untold trees and paper manufacture. It also saves you the growing cost of postage to mail each check. If your bank doesn’t offer free electronic bill pay, look into local credit unions who are happy to offer this service at no cost to members.
6. If Possible, Read Books & Magazines with E-Readers
I’m not advocating that you run out and purchase an e-reader, particularly as I’ve attempted to make this list as inexpensive as possible. However, a growing segment of the population has this appliance or an available app on their smartphones, it just makes sense to purchase the less expensive e-book saving both your cash and a tree or two.
7. Use Public Transportation or Ride-Share Whenever Possible
Your ability to use this carbon footprint reduction technique depends upon the availability of public transportation in your area, often a relationship of urban versus rural life. Here in Harrisonburg, VA, a university town, there are frequent advertisements requesting ride-sharing arrangements during school breaks. Using this option potentially reduces the number of cars on the road and fuel required by each arranged deal.
8. Bike or Walk to Your Destination Whenever Possible
Again, your ability to utilize this technique depends upon your particular situation, physical condition, where you live, and your community’s infrastructure. However, even considering this option can allow you to potentially decrease a short trip by car at least a couple of times a week. If I hear of one more individual who drives to an inside mall in order to walk for exercise, my head may explode from the irony. And while we’re on the subject, take the stairs. Elevators require electricity to operate.
9. Recycle Household Trash & Purchase Goods With Minimal Packaging
Recycle your household trash to avoid use of resources and energy necessary to remanufacture household goods and materials. Purchase goods with minimal packaging to reduce the amount of trash your household generates requiring a recycling effort.
10. Keep Your Tires at Their Recommended Proper Pressure
Maintaining your tires at their recommended proper pressure, per the owner’s manual, can “improve your gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure,” depending upon a government auto energy website.
There are many, many more efforts you and your household can make to reduce your carbon footprint, dependent only upon your imagination and budget. Good luck and happy savings!
2010 Shenandoah Valley Buy Fresh Buy Local newsletter, Virginia Cooperative