By Pam Nicholls, GSAC Board Member
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While real solutions to climate change will require action on a global scale, there are choices we can make in our daily lives to lessen our individual impact on the environment.
Our greenhouse gas emissions are causing the earth to warm up at an unnatural rate. Conquering the vicissitudes wrought by global warming is one of humanity’s biggest challenges, yet we can tackle it if individuals, organizations, and nations are willing to adopt measures to protect our planet.
Everyone has a part to play so here are some practical ways in which you can reduce your carbon footprint. Making small adjustments can lead to big results.
1. Clean Up Your Car
Living car-free, which would save an average of 2.04 tons of CO2 equivalent per person annually, would be top of the list but it’s not an option for the majority of us. However, driving an electric car – which saves an average of 1.95 tons of CO2 equivalent per person annually – is.
A recent study comparing the environmental impact of building and operating two best-selling cars, one powered by a battery and one with a gas-burning engine, found the overall lifetime emissions of the electric car were less than half of its gas-powered counterpart. The study, commissioned by the Wall Street Journal and conducted by the University of Toronto, showed that the Toyota RAV4 generated 78 tons of CO2 over its lifetime compared to the 36 tons generated by the Tesla Model 3.
While an electric car is cleaner overall, remember that the batteries are charged using the local power grid, so the cleaner your grid, the cleaner your electric car. Electric cars also have a lower or no demand for many of the hazardous, polluting fluids used in a conventional car.
2. On your Bike
You can make a huge difference to your carbon footprint by leaving the car at home and walking or biking instead. Cycling and walking are two of the most environmentally friendly and healthy ways to travel. Plus, it requires much less energy to produce a bike than it does to manufacture a car. If you do need to use the car, combine multiple errands into one trip and lose the golf clubs – carrying them around in the trunk reduces fuel efficiency.
3. Sustainable Air Travel
Taking one less long-haul flight each year can substantially reduce your carbon footprint. If you can’t avoid flying, try to fly non-stop. The more you take off and land, the more fuel is required. You can always offset your carbon emissions by donating money to sustainable projects. Sometimes airlines will give you this option themselves.
4. Plastic Be Gone!
Single-use plastics may be convenient but they’re ghastly for the environment. Not only do they pollute our waterways and oceans, but they also require energy to produce and recycle. So, stop buying your water in plastic bottles and get a reusable bottle that you can refill at will. Reduce your purchases of products that come in plastic containers. Buy a soda stream and make your own soda, tonic, or fizzy water.
Take your own shopping bags to the market instead of using plastic bags. If you do bring a plastic store bag home with you make sure to return it to a recycling bin used exclusively for plastic bags. Plastic bags do not go in the bins provided by most municipalities. And neither do boxes sporting pizza stains!
5. See the LED Light
LED lights use 90% less energy than the old-style incandescent bulbs, and although they’re more expensive, they last much longer and will ultimately end up saving you money on your energy bills. Plus, they are instantly bright when switched on.
6. Adjust and Unplug
Reduce your energy consumption by setting your thermostat to 78 in summer and 67 in winter. Use your ceiling fans in combination with your air conditioner. The wind chill effect makes you feel a few degrees colder, so if you have the fan on, you can turn your thermostat up by four degrees, and feel just as cool.
Electronics suck energy when they’re plugged in, even if they’re not actually being used. Anytime a cord is plugged into a socket, it’s drawing energy, so leave your electronics unplugged unless you’re actually using them.
7. Eat Your Greens
Greenhouse gas emissions from agribusiness are an even bigger problem than fossil fuels and red meat is particularly to blame, consuming 11 times more water and producing five times more emissions than poultry. Reducing your meat intake, even if it’s only by a couple of meals a week and increasing consumption of plant foods will benefit the environment.
So will buying the majority of your food locally. When you support local farmers, you don’t have to worry about how far your food traveled to reach your plate.
8. Keep Yours on Cool
It takes energy and resources to process and deliver water to our homes. It’s also quite energy-intensive to heat it once it’s there. By doing your laundry on the cold-water setting, you can reduce your washing machine’s carbon emissions by up to a whopping 75%! Cold water sanitizes just as well as a warm wash for lightly soiled items. You can also decrease the amount of water and energy used by doing your laundry in full loads. Bonus points for line-drying – according to one estimate, drying makes up about 5.8% of residential-sector CO2 emissions in the US.
Using less water (take shorter showers and turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth or washing your face) not only lowers your energy costs but keeps that water in the environment.
9. Switch to Renewables
Energy providers around the world are now offering greener tariffs. By switching to a company that provides electricity from solar, wind, or hydroelectric energy, you can reduce your household emissions and save money on your energy bills. You could even install solar panels or encourage your condo association to harness the power of southwest Florida sunshine!
10. Be A Socially Responsible Investor
Invest in socially responsible portfolios tilted towards companies and bond issuers that have high environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards.