The vast majority of scientists and most ration people agree that climate change is a very real and very serious phenomenon. Where many people disagree though, is what to do about it. In light of the U.S. pulling out of the Paris agreement, it has become clear that we the people may have to take matters into our own hands in order to affect change.
“I wondered why somebody didn’t do something. Then I realized, I am somebody.” — Lily Tomlin
Reducing Your Own Carbon Footprint
In order to determine your own approach to help in the fight against global warming, it is best to understand your individual impact. By using the EPA’s carbon footprint calculator, you can get a good idea of how much you are contributing to carbon emissions in the areas of transportation, home energy, and waste. It creates an estimate based on US average values, but it is important to remember that everyone’s carbon output is dependent on location, habits, and personal choices.
Changing Your Habits
We all have daily habits that we tend to complete without much thought about how they affect the world around us. This is why our routines are a good place to look for opportunities to change, which can then inspire others to think about their own individual actions. For example, if your habit is to jump in the car and drive even when you’re going to the corner store less than a mile away, make a new habit of walking or riding your bike when running errands within a reasonable distance.
To be fair, choosing not to eat meat is not a choice everyone can make. Choosing a vegetarian diet is not for everyone. However, for those of us who have dietary flexibility, choosing not to eat meat, or even just to eat less meat can have a significant impact on our carbon emissions. One study reveals that eating one pound of meat can give off more carbon than one gallon of gasoline. Reducing meat intake also has the effect of reducing demand, which will, in turn, eventually reduce production of meat.
Giving Up Plastic Bags
Plastic bags and bottles last a long, long time because they are not biodegradable. It is said that a plastic bag can last up to a century in a landfill, and a plastic bottle can essentially last forever. Plastic Bags are made with polyethylene, which is a byproduct of petroleum and natural gas. Once they do start to break down, the plastic bags release greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. So essentially the plastic bag starts its life contributing to CO2 emission and does the same in its final chapter.
Around the Home
Since most of us spend a lot of time at home, it is not difficult to imagine that this is the place where we are wasting the most resources, outside of transportation and work. However, at home and with our transportation is also where we have the most control over how we approach saving energy.
- Thermostat: Choose a programmable thermostat that you can set up to turn off while you are away, or to lower or increase the temperature by a couple of degrees to minimize energy use.
- Windows: Caulk your windows so they are properly sealed to minimize energy loss.
- Lighting: Replace standard incandescent bulbs with more energy-efficient LED or compact fluorescent bulbs, and be sure to turn off the lights when leaving a room.
- Water: Wash clothes with cold water, which can be just as effective as washing in hot water but uses less energy, and take shorter showers.
One thing is certain when it comes to climate change: Transportation is one of the biggest polluters in the current environment. One of the biggest changes you can make to reduce your impact on the environment is to ditch your car. Of course, this is made easier when you live in a place with great public transportation and lots to do in walking distance — which is why a move to the city can actually make for a pretty green lifestyle.
New GIS maps have demonstrated that there are less CO2 emissions per household in metropolitan areas when compared to areas outside of cities, because of easier and shorter commutes and access to buses, trains, and taxis.
For example, if you look at housing in the city such as Condos at Atlantic Station, in West Midtown Atlanta, accessibility to these kinds of amenities and options is one of the key benefits. These condos are within walking distance to Atlanta’s Midtown arts district, parks, public transportation, mass transit, and all sorts of dining and shopping. All of that makes owning a car unnecessary.
Even if you can’t live in a condo in the middle of the city, ditching your car or just using it less often can not only drastically reduce your carbon footprint — it can also save you money, to the tune of around $5000 in transportation costs per year.