According to The Nature Conservancy, the average annual carbon footprint per person in the US is 16 tons. But do we understand what that really means? It’s certainly important to reduce our personal carbon footprint — even if we’re not sure why or how. Here’s what to know about carbon footprints and what we can do to cut back while we’re at home.
What is a Carbon Footprint?
A carbon footprint is how much greenhouse gas we generate in our lives. The footprint includes a multitude of different gasses that get trapped in our atmosphere, leading to pollution and global warming. The gasses include carbon dioxide (which is the most common for humans to release), methane, fluorinated gasses, and nitrous oxide. If you want a good idea of what yours truly is, try using a carbon footprint calculator. The Nature Conservancy has one on its website, and so does the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
What Proportion of Your Carbon Footprint is From Home Activities?
When we release greenhouse gasses as individuals, it’s mostly coming from our diets, our housing, or our transportation. The amount of greenhouse gas we emit at home is alarming. A study from the National Academy of Science shows that when taken as a whole, homes in the United States have the sixth-largest carbon footprint in the world — even more than the entire country of Germany. It may not seem like it when you’re sitting at home reading, but even just the way you power your house has an impact on global warming and greenhouse gas emissions.
How Can You Reduce Your Carbon Footprint at Home?
Ultimately, reducing our carbon footprint is incredibly important. While we currently hover at about 16 tons per person in the US, the country’s Deep Decarbonization Pathways project suggests we need to reduce that to 1.7 tons per person by 2050 to confidently say we’re lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Since our homes contribute heavily to worldwide carbon footprints, the best place to start reducing your footprint is at home. Here’s how you can make an impact.
Boost Home Energy Efficiency
Is your home operating as efficiently as it could be? Unless you’ve really thought this through already, the answer is probably no. Ensure every door and window is sealed, add more insulation to any rooms that need it, and acquire energy-efficient appliances (you should look for the Energy Star certification on them). You can also implement small changes within the living space, like making sure the ceiling fans are turning in the right direction for the season and closing doors to rooms that aren’t being used. Also, be aware of potential vampire electricity in your home. Small things like this add up, and you’ll be reducing both your carbon footprint and your energy bills before you know it.
According to the EPA, a single car produces about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. Cut that down by choosing public transportation, if possible. If public transport isn’t readily available, try biking to where you need to go. If you absolutely need to have a car, opt for a hybrid or a fully electric version so less pollution is released into the atmosphere.
Choose Native Landscaping Options
Non-native grasses and plants for your area can be costly. You use more water and more chemicals in your attempt to keep them thriving, which means a heftier carbon price tag. If you switch to native plant landscaping, you’ll have a yard that’s already acclimated to the environment — meaning you won’t have to water them as often. This will in turn allow your greenery to be readily able to fight off pests, and they will grow easily.
Choose Clean Energy (Like CleanSky!)
You’ll drastically reduce your home carbon footprint over time if you opt for clean energy, like the kind CleanSky offers. All the power comes from 100% renewable solar and wind sources, and anything that isn’t solar or wind-powered is completely carbon neutral. Do what you can to get away from natural gas and oil. They’re not efficient, they cause more damage to the environment, and they’re rapidly getting more expensive to use.
Wash Your Clothes in Cold Water
The idea that clothes can’t get properly cleaned unless they’re washed in hot water is a myth. Modern washing machines and soaps have the ability to clean your clothes even in the coldest of water. So move that switch to cold or warm — the reduced heating will help cut down your carbon footprint. As a bonus, cool water is also better for your clothes’ longevity.
Use a Heat Pump Dryer
These clothes dryers capture air heading out of your dryer vent and reuse it to continue drying your clothes. It’s like recycling but for hot air, and it saves both money and energy.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
If you don’t already have a recycling bin, now is the time to get one! Cut down your trash as much as possible — that way you won’t be filling up a landfill and you’ll be saving money in the long run by reusing and recycling things. Small candle jars are a great example of something that can be reused. Instead of throwing the jars away when the candle burns out, try removing the wax, cleaning them, and reusing them as spice jars. Try taking every piece of waste in your home into consideration and figure out how to best dispose of it, especially if that means not disposing of it at all.
Putting all of these tips to good use allows you to do your part to reduce the global carbon footprint when you are informed and put in a little effort to make a big difference.