November is a great month to take a step back and think about how we’re impacting our community and environment. Did you know November 15th is actually America Recycles Day? Recycling might be one of the most straight-forward ways to reduce our own carbon footprint.
You may hear the words “reduce your carbon footprint” often these days, especially if you watch the news. But the short news segments don’t allow time for explaining what this actually means and how it impacts us.
To understand what a carbon footprint is, we first need to know what greenhouse gases are. Greenhouse gases are gases that allow the earth’s atmosphere to retain heat.
These include water vapor (H20), nitrous oxide (N20), methane (CH4), and carbon dioxide (CO2). These greenhouse gases occur naturally but are also generated by human activities.
When the earth’s atmosphere retains too much heat, it can have a massive impact on many things ranging from melting glaciers to agricultural crop losses. Reducing our own carbon footprint can help reduce the earth’s temperature.
Carbon footprint calculation
The term carbon footprint refers to the quantum of greenhouse gases emitted by a certain activity. A carbon footprint can be applied to the actions of a country, a company, a family, and even an individual. It is usually in terms of the number of tons of carbon dioxide released.
Calculating an individual’s carbon footprint can be tricky. Let’s take the activity of grocery shopping. If an individual drives to the grocery store, they consume a certain amount of fuel. That grocery store consumes electricity and employs people who also drive to work.
Taking it further, the produce in the store was shipped there which is a consumption of fuel. The fruits, vegetables, and meat shipped were all grown on farms that have their own carbon footprint.
As we can see, all these factors combine to contribute to our own carbon footprint, and ours is intertwined in the carbon footprint of others. So, how do we reduce our impact? Here are some steps to take.
For items in your closet you are considering getting rid of, see if you can mend, upcycle or otherwise extend their life for at least three months.
Less air travel
The Guardian has produced research that states that one long flight can result in more emissions than a citizen produces in a year in most countries. Train journeys result in the least carbon emissions, even less than cars. However, this can depend on where you are in the world.
For example, the National Geographic found that the train lost out to the Greyhound bus when it came to travel between Toronto and New York.
Eat locally and plant-based
A study by the United Nations states that if more people became vegan or vegetarian, it would allow land to be used more effectively to store carbon emitted by humans. Chances are you have been urged to go vegan by someone already. Veganism is viewed as the pinnacle of food piety.
If the world went vegan, Oxford University calculated that there would be a 70% decrease in food-related emissions. However, a more realistic option is emerging, which is that of the flexitarian.
Flexitarians consume a primarily plant-based diet but eat meat or fish occasionally. The diet is heavily science-backed as the latest research promotes the benefits of consuming more plants and less meat.
Eating local has become routine in many environmentally-conscious communities.
Food produced nearby may be grown in artificially introduced climatic conditions and habitats, somewhat complicating things further. Food grown in a carbon-intensive process in addition to incurring significant air miles, is a deadly combination.
Try to eat what is grown in your own country. If in doubt, research where your city or country gets this food. The Internet can surprise you with how little you knew about your food.
Think before you buy
Fast fashion is one of the most devastating industries in terms of its planetary impact. Besides production processes that are exploitative and environmentally damaging, the wear-once-and-junk trend has turned into a waste problem that will take hundreds of years to reverse.
Reversing this trend is possible through pre-loved clothing, mending before tossing, and cutting down on spending.
WRAP published a pioneering report in 2017 that recommended extending the average life of clothes by anywhere from three months up to two years.
Doing this can result in a 5-10% decline in the carbon footprint of the item. For items in your closet you are considering getting rid of, see if you can mend, upcycle or otherwise extend their life for at least three months.
Revamp how you get around
In cities, people have better access to public transport and that is a more carbon-efficient way to get around. People who travel long distances can look into a more fuel efficient or electric vehicle.
Carpooling when possible is another option that can cut emissions per person and thereby reduce your carbon footprint. When you can, walk or opt for the beloved bicycle. Not only is it better for the environment, but it’s also better for your health.
You can make a difference
Individual actions create ripple effects in our communities and the planet. These actions can encourage other meaningful results like community adoption and more climate-conscious leadership. Most importantly, what we do today will help preserve our future.
It all comes down to thinking about the impact of our actions. Just like life insurance, it’s a selfless act that will help protect your family’s future way of life and give you peace of mind.
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About the writer
Director of Creative Strategy
Greg is Quotacy’s Director of Creative Strategy. He has an eclectic past from working on movie scripts to creating ad campaigns for major brands. His love of creative solutions drove him to strategy, and he now uses his powers to help families protect their loved ones. Outside of work, Greg spends his time off the grid hunting, fishing, camping, biking, hiking, and walking his dogs.