I Grew Up Loving This Planet
I had the good fortune of growing up in the 90’s, a time that we thought we had SO much figured out. I survived junior high with the help of way too much White Rain hairspray and countless radio mix-tapes. I also thought I’d be receiving a hover board for Christmas before I turned 18. Sigh…
Carbon footprints weren’t a thing yet but green living was. My family lived in Indiana and we recycled, so naturally we thought we were doing so much to save our planet. My sister and I even sported a nice variety of clever ”save the earth” type shirts. (I also had the good fortune of being born on April 22, which happens to be Earth Day. Go figure.)
Now that I’m a bit older, I’ve come to realize that there’s more to saving this old planet for the next generation than just recycling La Croix cans. The truth is, we need to be kind to our planet and respect it before its too late.
While I don’t have it all figured out and am very aware of my own shortcomings regarding the topic, I’m learning to do a bit more every single day. Most of the time it doesn’t even take much extra time or effort. It just takes a little intentionality and conscious choice making to get the job done.
What Is a Carbon Footprint?
Dictionary.com describes carbon footprint as “the amount of carbon dioxide or other carbon compounds emitted into the atmosphere by the activities of an individual, company, country, etc.” These emissions are typically measured in tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). Simply put, the lower the number, the healthier the earth. Here are a few things I’m working on right now to reduce my carbon footprint:
Think About Your Transportation
When it comes to emissions, most people think of the nasty exhaust that comes from cars. Bingo! 27% of greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation. I’m addressing this one by trying these simple helps:
- I’m grouping my errand runs and combining as much as possible into a single trip as I can. Or I’m just walking or biking and buying ultra-local.
- If you drive, plan the shortest route, too. It means you have to be a tad more organized and plan ahead a bit, but you’ll probably find like I did that you’re saving quite a few trips across town as a result.
- Carpooling and public transit are viable options as well, especially here in Portland.
- Biking to brunch or challenging yourself to ride to the farmers market and tote your groceries home makes for a much more rewarding and fulfilling weekend.
Change a Few Things on the Home Front
Did you know that one of the biggest offenders when it comes to carbon emissions is our home? What? No really, it’s true! 12% of all emissions are from our cozy little homes. It takes a lot to keep them warm (and cool), and to handle waste. Think about this: 29% of greenhouse gases come from electricity production. That’s a hefty sum, to be sure! 67% of our electricity comes from burning fossil fuels (think coal and natural gas). So the more energy-efficient we run our homes, the less greenhouse gas we’re producing. Some of the solutions can be much more simple than you might think:
- Insulate well. So much heat escapes our home through the roof and walls. Check and make sure your home is well insulated. You might be surprised at how much money you can save as a result!
- Upgrading appliances. This is definitely a more spendy initial investment, but the efficiency you’ll get in return will pay off in the long run, both for your wallet and for the planet.
- Switch to LED bulbs. Not only do they last longer, they’re better on energy consumption, too.
- Purchase a programmable thermostat. This will help regulate your home’s temperature efficiently as a result make a huge difference on the environment and your comfort.
- Use curtains! Closing them during the day in the summer and at night during the winter can save you more than 50% on your heating and cooling bill.
Take a Look at Your Eating Trends
It takes a lot to grow and transport food. Studies show that 13% of emissions come from fertilizers and the transportation of these foods. Here are a few ways to help reduce those emissions:
- Buy local and organic to reduce these emissions, and help grow the local economy in the process. (Plus, because it’s fresher, it will taste so much better, too!)
- Eat less beef. And not only beef, but also orange juice, pork, whole milk and chicken means that the average American’s diet-related carbon footprint drops by about 9%. That’s huge!
- If you want to take it a step farther, try growing your own food. Our climate provides so many options for potted vegetables and herbs, and there are so many ways to grow them right on your patio. Talk about fresh!
Tidy Up Your Daily Habits
I’ve found that most green living options are really just about building new habits. Here are a few I’m learning to implement:
- Designate a spot for recyclables so it’s easy to keep them out of the trash. (The EPA estimates that recycling glass, aluminum, plastic, and paper could save 582 pounds of CO2 per year, equivalent to more than 600 miles of driving. That’s amazing!)
- Keep your reusable bags right in your car so they’re always handy.
- Buy gently used items rather than brand new.
- Unplug your chargers when not in use.
- Wash with cold water. (Take it a step further and try to line dry, too.)
- Buy a laptop — they use about 80% less energy than desktops.
- When you need batteries, use rechargeables.
- Go paperless on all your bills and save a few trees.
In the end? Start where you can and begin to make some changes. Every little bit helps!