It seems like everyone talks about carbon footprints. Personal carbon footprints. Business carbon footprints. National carbon footprints. It is so hard to wrap your brain around it all. What exactly is a carbon footprint? The website called Carbon Footprint defines the concept as, “A carbon footprint is a measure of the impact our activities have on the environment, and in particular climate change. It relates to the amount of greenhouse gases produced in our day-to-day lives through burning fossil fuels for electricity, heating and transportation etc. The carbon footprint is a measurement of all greenhouse gases we individually produce and has units of tonnes (or kg) of carbon dioxide equivalent.” So, your carbon footprint is how all your activities add up and affect the environment. That’s easy enough. Whether you agree with the idea of global warming or not there is no denying that our daily choices do make an impact on the environment around us. What are some small ways we can change and make a positive impact? Here are ten ideas to get started on.
Water Your Lawn in the Early Morning or Late at Night
You get more mileage out of your water if you sprinkle your lawn in the early morning before or slightly after dawn or around dusk and after dark at night. The temperatures are the lowest then and the water has more of an opportunity to be absorbed by the grass and plants. If you water in the middle of the day the water is more likely to just evaporate and not benefit the plants at all making that a complete waste of water. Also, consider watering only on odd or even days of the month. It is not necessary to water every day. Your lawn will be fine on the dry days. Save the water.
Compost Yard Waste and Kitchen Scraps
Instead of throwing all your yard waste and kitchen scraps away consider composting it instead. By composting the waste you are creating zero waste to go into landfills. Since this waste is all organic it will decompose in the soil and create a soil that is rich in nutrients. Use the compost in your garden or give it to your friends if you do not currently have a garden.
Use Biodegradable Cleaning Products
Not many people would deny that most of our modern cleaning products are toxic for humans and for the environment as a whole. Make a statement by only using biodegradable cleaning products. By doing this you prevent the toxins from going into the ground, the water supply, the air, and ultimately into your family. You can make your own safe cleaners by mixing vinegar, water, and baking soda or you can buy commercial products that are proven to be safe. Simple Green is a particularly good product that can be used all over your house.
Print on Both Sides of Paper
Always save your scrap paper at home and in the office. Most things we print will not be used in some formal fashion like a research paper or presentation and need to look professional. We print out articles we want to read, recipes, coloring pages, etc. Don’t throw that paper away. Clear out a spot under your printer where you can save all your used paper and then re-insert that paper into the printer so that you use the blank side as well. By printing on both sides of the paper you save more trees from being cut down and you keep trash out of the landfill.
Use Reusable Water Bottles
Those plastic single use water bottles are everywhere. They are like disposable diapers in how they fill up landfills. Not only that it takes tons of energy just to produce them. Stop all that from happening (or at least what you are personally responsible for) by always using a reusable water bottle. Carry it around wherever you go and fill it up at water fountains, office water coolers, at home, or even restaurants. You will save energy and landfills and you will be healthier for being more hydrated.
Do All Your Errands at Once
Be strategic with your time when running errands. Keep a running tally of what you need to get done and save it for one mega day of errands. It may be stressful to do all your errands in one day but it is so worth it for your wallet and the environment. You save gas and you save wear and tear on your car.
Turn Your Water Heater Off or Down on Vacation
When you go on vacation either turn your hot water heater off or set it way down. There is absolutely no reason to keep hot water in the tank when you are not even in the house. Don’t make the heater use up energy to heat water that is not even being used. When you get home from your trip flip the switch to get the water heated first thing and there will be hot water waiting for you in about thirty minutes. Just in time for a hot shower after unloading the car.
Put Thermostat on a Timer
This tip works especially well for families who work and go to school outside the home. Set the thermostat to go up or down, depending on the season, while you are gone during the day. You do not need to have the house at a comfortable temperature when no one is in the house. Set the thermostat to bring the house to a comfortable temperature about an hour or so before the first person comes home. You save so much energy when not forcing your heater or A/C unit to keep your empty house warm or cold. Make a deal with everyone in the family that no one is to mess with the thermostat. It is set and it will stay that way.
Unplug Chargers When Not in Use
Everyone has cell phones, mp3 players, etc. to keep charged up these days. Please unplug the chargers when you are done charging your toys. It is easier to have a charging station that is always available but those chargers suck electricity out of the outlets even when not charging anything in particular. Save the electricity and unplug.
Only Run Dishwasher When Full
Be patient and wait till the dishwasher is completely full before running it. The dishwasher is going to use the same amount of water whether it is full of dishes or not. It makes sense to get the most out of the water by having it clean as many dishes as possible at one time. Also, set the dishwasher to not use hot air to dry your dishes. The dishes will dry just fine without it. You may have to use a little elbow grease wiping them down sometimes but it is worth the energy saved.
What are some ideas you have for reducing your carbon footprint? New ideas are always welcome.