"Sustainability" and "climate change" have been buzzwords as of late and there's a big reason why. With reports like the recently released "Existential climate-related security risk: A scenario approach," the facts are abundantly clear: we need to do more about climate change. According to the report, by 2050 the world is on par for an existential crisis, where human existence may be threatened by a variety of lethal scenarios that could devastate billions. Even though seven out of ten Americans believe that climate change is happening, two-thirds of Americans rarely talk about climate change or vote in the representatives to fix it. There is an established need for change, people just don't know how to change it.
But it turns out, your carbon footprint is key, and changing it is easier than you think. Because let's face it, the Earth is in danger and it is the only Earth we have; and if we don't change things individually, and as a country, we won't have one by the time 2050 comes about. So, how can you help?
Calculate your carbon footprint and follow the steps below to reduce yours.
1. Wash Your Clothes in Cold Water
The enzyme in cold water detergents are designed to clean better in cold water. Doing two loads laundry weekly in cold water instead of hot or warm water can save up to 500 pounds of carbon dioxide each year.
2. Don’t Buy “Fast Fashion”
Buying fast fashion—also known as inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers—is something we all fall victim to. Whether it is the sale happening at H&M or just the desire to have current clothing styles at a lower price, we have all been guilty of buying a fast fashion item or two. And we have also pled guilty to effortlessly throwing them away.
The average American discards about 80 pounds of clothing each year, and 85 percent of that gets dumped into landfills. Then, those cheap, fast fashion items are quickly dumped in landfills where they produce methane as they decompose. In order to lessen your carbon footprint, spend a little extra on quality clothing that will last.
3. Leave the Dryer, Hang a Clothing Line
The traditional method of line-drying your clothing is much better for the environment. According to studies, one dryer load uses five times more electricity than washing by line-drying your clothes. By doing this, you can save one-third of your carbon footprint.
4. Eat Local
If possible, try to eat local, in-season produce. Buying locally helps to reduce the carbon footprint created by shipping foods from elsewhere. Basically, the closer it is grown to you, the better.
5. Use Reusable Bags
Disposable shopping bags are everywhere. Particularly in your cabinet, hoarding away until you need a trash bag, shopping bag, shower cap, or whatever else you use these plastic bags for. Yeah, I know about that plastic bag cabinet and as much as I hate to say it—it has to go. Never to return, again.
Well, because it takes a plastic bag 15 to 1,000 years to break down, depending on the environment. And as it waits to break down, its photodegradation allows it to release toxic particles into the air from exposure to the sun or various lights. To save the plastic bag the terrible feeling of drifting through the wind, and you the terrible feeling of leaving it out there: invest in reusable bags. Most of these bags are lightweight, machine washable, and high durable for years and years of use.
6. Buy Energy Star Products
When you're shopping for appliances, lighting, electronics, or anything that will take energy, look for Energy Star products, which are certified to be more energy efficient.
7. Buy Less & Buy Recycled
Buy less stuff and you'll have less waste. Also, buy used or recycled items whenever possible. Nowadays, brands are getting creative by using recyclables as the basis of their sustainable initiatives. Girlfriend Collective, Everlane, Ethique, and Adidas are a few that come to mind but do your research.
8. Drive Less, Bike More
When you can, drive less. Walk, take public transportation, carpool with colleagues and friends, Uberpool, or even ride your bike. This does not only reduce carbon dioxide emissions, it also lessens traffic congestion and the idling of engines that accompanies it.
9. Check Your Tires
By keeping your tires inflated properly, you'll increase your fuel efficiency by three percent, and ensuring that your car is properly maintained can increase it by four percent. Also, if it is unnecessary, remove extra weight from your car.
10. Upgrade Your Navigation System
We all want to find the most efficient way to get from point A to point B. So, use this to your advantage. Instead of wasting time in traffic and wasting gas, update your GPS system. You'll save gas and the planet by just choosing the best route.
11. Complete Everything at Once
Instead of running in and out of the house throughout the week, complete everything at once. Pick a day out of the week to get your groceries, gas, get your nails done, and any other last minute errands you have to run. Your day might be longer, but you'll save greenhouse gases by doing so. And you will have more time in your day to do something else.
12. Cruise and Avoid Braking
If you must drive, on short trips avoid braking unnecessarily and acceleration. Studies have found that aggressive driving can result in 40 percent more fuel consumption than consistent, calm drivers. If you're driving on long trips, turn on cruise control, which can save you some gas.
13. Unplug Your Devices
It's just that—unplug your devices when you leave the house. If unplugging each and every device sounds tedious, buy a power strip so that you can turn off all your electronics at the same time with a flip of the switch.
14. Conserve Water
Did you know the average American uses 17.2 gallons of water during an 8.2-minute shower? Reducing your water usage is essential. Therefore, take shorter showers, avoid dish and body soaps that have toxins, turn off the water while you brush your teeth and in while you wash and condition your hair, or even host or join a local community clean up.
If possible: Recycle. Recycle. Recycle. Recycling reduces the amount of waste in landfills and incinerators, conserves natural resources, increases economic security by tapping a domestic source of materials, prevents pollution, and saves energy.
Recycling is the easiest thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint. It's as easy as throwing your item away in a blue or green bin.
16. Ditch the Plastic Water Bottles
This goes without saying, but plastic water bottles are convenient, yes but the devil, also yes. Especially when it comes to our planet. As we mentioned in tip #5, it takes up to 1,000 years for plastic bags to decompose. That fact stands true for plastic water bottles too. Currently, US landfills are filled with over 2 million tons of empty water bottles. Drinking water is vital to human life but so is reducing the amount of plastic we consume. Some substitutes for plastic water bottles include Boxed Water, JUST Water, and VOSS (specifically their glass bottle). You can also buy reusable water bottles like Lifefactory Glass Bottle, Hydro Flask, and Cayman Insulated Water Bottle.
17. Say "No" to Plastic Straws
Plastic straws have long since been a problem for the environment, similarly to the reason plastic bags and plastic waters can be. Due to them not being able to biodegrade, they often end up hurting the environment and can float in oceans as microplastics, poisoning animals in the process. Some cities are already starting to ban the use of straws like Seattle, LA (at least in their restaurants), and New York City will follow suit by 2020. If you want to find some plastic straw alternatives check out "Here are 7 alternatives to plastic straws".
Bonus: Stop Eating (or Eat Less) Meat
I know, I know. I can see you rolling your eyes and swiping left away from this suggestion. But hear me out: I'm not asking you to go Vegan—which is an option, if that's your kind of thing—but I am asking that you consider your regular consumption of livestock.
Livestock—meat and dairy—is responsible for 14.5 percent of manmade global greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from feed production and processing and the methane that beef and sheep belch out. And the more they are consumed, the more they will be produced. Long story short: eat less meat. Every day you forgo meat and dairy, you can reduce your carbon footprint by eight pounds, which is 2,920 pounds a year.
So, instead of eating meat all day, every day, try to incorporate Meatless Mondays and/or No Fish Fridays to change the way you consume meat.
Featured image by Getty Images