From the IPCC’s landmark report to the increased intensity of hurricanes and other extreme weather events, the impacts of greenhouse gases on climate change have become abundantly clear. Luckily, there’s still time to turn things around—and rethinking some of our daily habits is a great place to start.
In 2017, climate change scientists at Lund University and the University of British Columbia calculated the greenhouse gas emissions associated with 148 individual actions—many of which people do on a daily basis. This was an effort to determine how individuals can maximally reduce their carbon footprint, while also testing common strategies (like recycling) for efficiency.
While common strategies like the three R’s (reduce, reuse, and recycle) are beneficial in a number of ways, they didn’t beat other actions on the list in terms of lowering your carbon footprint. In order to make an even bigger impact, combine the three R’s with some of the high-impact actions below.
As you’re reading through this list, it’s also important to remember that these actions were ranked according to how much they reduce carbon emissions alone. While carbon emissions are the main driver of climate change, there are other measurements of sustainability (like reducing plastic waste or planting carbon sinks) that are also important.
Here, we’ve covered some of the best science-backed ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Ready to make some planet-saving moves?
6 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
1. Go Car-Free Whenever You Can
One of the best things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint is go car-free whenever you can. This single action will save 2.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide as compared to using a standard gasoline car. Taking public transportation, walking, and/or biking are all eco-friendly alternatives to driving your own car. You can also consider carpooling with co-workers or friends.
If you’re in the market for a new car, consider investing in a more energy-efficient option. If an electric car isn’t an option, even switching to a more gasoline-efficient car can save up to 1.19 tonnes of CO2 per year.
2. Skip One Flight
Avoiding a single transatlantic flight saves 1.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide. That’s only one flight, so imagine how much CO2 you can save by limiting how often you fly in general. When you’re commuting over land, consider taking a train. If you’re regularly flying overseas, consider traveling more locally. There’s so much to explore right in your own backyard.
3. Eat Plant-Based
Did you know eating a plant-based diet can save four times more greenhouse gas emissions per year than recycling? Despite the huge impact our diet has on the environment, the researchers found a plant-based diet is one of the most overlooked strategies for reducing one’s carbon footprint. Even aiming to eat one plant-based meal a day can make a difference.
4. Reduce Food Waste
Speaking of the food industry, how many of us have been guilty of over-shopping at the grocery store? This may seem to have a larger impact on our wallets than the planet, but most of this food went through a manufacturing or production process (even if it’s just transportation from a farm) that creates carbon emissions.
When we buy more food than we need, we’re not only wasting food—we’re also creating unnecessary emissions. Even after the food gets tossed out. When food waste goes to the landfill, it can’t decompose properly. Instead, it releases methane—a gas 30 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. When you do have waste, try composting it instead.
5. Eat Less Meat
Just like cars, our diet is so critical for the environment that it shows up twice on this list. If you’re not ready to go completely plant-based, simply reducing your meat consumption can still have a significant impact on the environment.
You can start by adding a few plant-based options to your meal plan every week and decreasing your dependency on meat little by little. There are plenty of hearty vegan protein alternatives that will keep you feeling your best.
6. Conserve Energy
After recycling, this is probably the most discussed carbon-saving strategy. While it may not be as effective as other actions, it’s still an easy thing you can do to reduce your carbon emissions. Turn off the lights when you’re not in the room, unplug unused appliances, and dim the lights. All of these actions add up over time.
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