Objective: To learn ways to reduce your carbon footprint.
As climate change happens and humanity prepares and becomes more resilient, each of us can decide to be part of the solution by decreasing our personal carbon footprint. But, what exactly is a carbon footprint? Long story short: many activities produce Green House Gas (GHG) emissions, carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) being the most common types. These GHG, which are also produced by nature, are the cause of climate change. So, the more activities that generate GHG emissions in our life, the greater our carbon footprint will be. Also, in order to manage GHG emissions, it is common to refer to the term carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), which is just a way of “converting” all GHG into CO2, so you can add them (adding like with like) to calculate total emissions.
But lets get to the point! Here are 5 things you could do now to reduce your carbon footprint.
#1. If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.
I suggest you start by measuring your carbon footprint. This will give you the first idea of your personal GHG emissions and how much each of your activities contribute to the total. You may be surprised by the outcome as some activities may generate more while others much less than you anticipated. You could use the calculator from the carbon footprint calculator web page, or you could look on the Internet for a different one that suits you better. But please bear in mind one thing, those calculators usually calculate just your direct emissions without taking into account many indirect emissions, eg: the emissions associated to the nice pair of shoes that were produced in a foreign country, which you bought the other day.
Once you have done a first calculation, you are ready to set a realistic goal for your next month’s emissions.
#2. What is efficient?
Efficiency is a great part of the solution. The more efficient our appliances are, the less energy consumption for the same outcome. When buying electric appliances, vehicles or light bulbs, you should always check for efficiency. Not only will it payoff because the cost of use will be considerably less, but also because efficient technologies could last longer. For instance, a LED light bulb could last 15 times longer than a regular incandescent light bulb, while consuming up to 85% less energy. It’s a no brainer, isn’t it? Let’s take a closer look. Perhaps you feel proud of yourself because you already have efficient appliances. Well, you might only be half way. Why? because many people use efficient appliances in a very inefficient way. It’s as simple as that. For instance, we don’t fill our dishwasher, drier, or washing machines to their maximum capacity; we boil more water in the kettle than the water we are going to consume; we leave the lights on when nobody is in the room; or our car tyres remain a bit flat… and so on. But, does this really have an impact? According to the Carbon Footprint web page, yes, because a family of 4 could save an average of 72kg CO2e a year, by just boiling what they need to use at a particular time. Fascinating, right?
#3. But I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more.
Using public transport is always a great alternative for lowering our GHG emissions and it also helps to reduce traffic congestion.
These days electric vehicles, bikes and scooters are becoming more and more popular as a way of transport that helps reduce GHG emissions. Sadly, the current business model of rental electric scooters is not as “green” as you would imagine, and more GHG emissions than you would think are being produced (to read more about this, click here). So, 1st, try to walk or bike; 2nd, use your own electric bike or scooter; 3rd, use the train, metro or bus; 4th, use an electric car (especially if the source of electric power comes from renewable energy); 5th, rent an electric scooter; and 6th, use a traditional car, but rather than travelling alone, try to fill it with nice people 😉.
Is there more? Fortunately, yes. Exiting new developments are happening every day and prototypes are being tested to reduce emissions in the transport sector. For instance, Elonroad is a Swedish company that builds electric grids for charging your Electric Vehicles (EV) while driving.
#4. Second-hand products: the new cool?
In 2018 Quantis, a group of “sustainability’s scientists, experts, strategists, innovators and visionaries”, as they define themselves, published their findings regarding sustainability and the apparel and footwear industries. According to them, these industries account for 8% of global GHG emissions. Estimations for 2016, suggest that an average of 11.4 kg of fiber material acquisition per capita a year results in 442 kg of CO2e emissions, while an average of 2.86 pairs of shoes acquired per capita a year results in 94 kg of CO2e emissions. So, on average, a pair of shoes accounts for 33 kg of CO2e! Personally, I had no idea 😱. So, what to do next? I suggest: 1st, buy good quality items that could last longer; 2nd, buy second-hand clothing and footwear; 3rd, take really good care of your clothes and footwear so they last longer; 4th, stop accumulating clothing and footwear – reduce what you buy and give away what you don’t use anymore; and 5th, support sustainable apparel initiatives. To see a nice apparel sustainable solution, play the following video.
#5. The power of knowledge
Last but not least, continue educating yourself and help educate others regarding sustainability solutions. Remember, a good attitude will always be contagious. Start with yourself and people will follow!
Finally, If you are interested in reading more about what you can do, I suggest you visit the following link with Weekly Tips for reducing GHG emissions.
Please let me know in the comments section if there is a topic that interests you regarding sustainability. I’ll do my very best to share my findings and thoughts.
**Special thanks to my extraordinary editor: Andrea Lomas. Without you this wouldn’t have been possible.