From preserving the earths fossil fuels to saving on your electricity bill, there are endless reasons why people decide to prioritize a more sustainable lifestyle. Regardless of the reason, it’s a great choice!
Whether you’ve been living sustainably for years or are just embarking on your journey to a more environmentally-conscious life, it’s always nice to have support from the people around you. Because we all spend a significant portion of our time at home, it’s easy to reduce our impact on the planet by involving the entire family. Since the positive benefits are multiplied across each person, just a couple of crucial household changes make these adjustments more effective.
Going green doesn’t have to be a solo effort – the more, the better!
4 Tips to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
If don’t know the size of your household’s carbon footprint – the greenhouse gas emissions that result from your family’s activities – you can figure it out with help from a few digital resources. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has a short, easy-to-complete calculator, but for more detailed results, try the Environment Protection Agency’s (EPA) Household Carbon Footprint Calculator.
Once you’ve discovered the impact your family has on the planet, you’ll be better-equipped to create a plan that utilizes our 4 tips to address those areas.
1. Unplug – Devices and Your Family
Since the average American spends 23.6 hours online every week – nearly an entire day! – let’s start with the devices in your home. While the usual suspects include cell phones, laptops, and a TV (or two), you should also consider your Bluetooth speaker, video game consoles, and smart home devices.
A major problem for consumer electronics is the concept of vampire power. This is the energy used by your devices even when they’re turned off or in standby mode. In fact, some appliances use nearly as much electricity when they’re off as when they’re actually being used. According to studies by Cornell University’s Department of Design and Environmental Analysis, these energy suckers annually drain an average of $200 from each household. In addition to the money lost, this represents a significant contribution to greenhouse gases, thereby increasing your home’s carbon footprint.
Fortunately, this issue has a fairly straightforward fix. Instead of plugging devices directly into wall sockets, where they have unlimited access to electricity, use fuse-protected power strips in every room. When you turn off the power strip, the flow of electricity is cut off, thus preventing the “phantom drain” of vampire appliances.
Another easy way to reduce your family’s electricity use is to spend some quality screen-free family time together. Depending on the time of year, you can do something outside like visit the community pool or a local park.
As an added bonus, when you have fun outside, you can turn off all the power strips and lights in your home. And since there’s no point in cooling an empty house, you can turn off the air conditioning to save even more electricity.
2. Use Less Water
Whether you are a die-hard supporter of the evening shower or couldn’t imagine starting your day without a blast of cold water, people typically spend around eight minutes per shower. Most of us are guilty of indulging in the shower a bit too long, as dermatologists recommend we keep our showers five minutes or less.
This extra time is reflected in our overall water use. According to the Water Research Foundation, 20% of our indoor household water comes via showerheads. To keep track of your shower lengths, try setting a five-minute timer on your phone, placing a kitchen timer on your bathroom sink, or getting a waterproof timer for inside the shower.
Guess what? Your toilet uses even more water than the shower. A whopping 24% of the water in your home gets royally flushed! If your household toilets are older models, you should switch to “low-flow” toilets. By doing so, you can save 25 gallons per day without changing any of your family’s habits.
And while you’re at it, you should probably fix any leaky faucets you have. This alone could help you save 180 gallons every week, which is over 300 laundry loads’ worth of water.
3. Eat Green
Most of us purchase food at a nearby grocery store – often a national giant like Walmart or Costco. We do so without much thought as to where that food came from and how it got to you. In getting from a farm halfway around the world to your dinner table, your food can travel thousands of miles and pass through multiple hands, racking up a hefty carbon footprint in the process.
That’s why you should try your best to eat locally grown crops whenever possible. Farmers markets are a great place to find fresh and sustainable produce. Additionally, the food at your local farmers markets is more likely to be organic, as in, it’s grown without harmful pesticides that can contaminate the surrounding community.
Also, per research from Harvard’s School of Public Health, one-third of the world’s fresh water is used exclusively for livestock production – meat, milk, and eggs. Beyond water, meat production also emits greenhouse gases and uses more resources than growing plants. Therefore, going green means eating more greens, too.
To gradually reduce meat consumption, you can introduce a regular “Meatless Monday” to your weekly dinner rotation or find some seafood alternatives. If your home has outdoor space and you want to take sustainability a step farther, you can go next-level by starting a backyard vegetable garden! This way, the journey from farm to table is simply from your backyard to your kitchen.
Studies show that Americans throw away a third of their food. So, if your family has significant food waste, consider starting an outdoor compost heap to transform your food scraps into natural, nutrient-rich fertilizer. It’s fantastic for your backyard garden.
4. Shop Sustainable
Whether your children are outgrowing their clothes or you’re tempted by a big sale, sometimes we just need to buy things. Usually, these items are brand-new, which means that all sorts of resources were needed to make them. For example, it takes 2,700 liters of water to make a single cotton t-shirt. That’s equivalent to three years of drinking water!
And even if you take careful care of clothing to extend its lifespan, you’ll still accumulate waste from low-quality goods and things that you didn’t actually need. Hence, even though recycling and composting prevented 87.2 million tons of material from going in the trash can in 2013, nearly 180 million tons were sent to the landfill. We threw away twice as much as we tried to save from the trash!
So, how can we escape this cycle of buying new goods?
It’s time to embrace the idea of a circular economy as a prominent way to reduce carbon emissions. If we actively re-use and recycle all of our materials and resources, we can dramatically decrease the amount of resource generation around the world (including harmful practices like mining), and we’d produce less waste. For our path to become fully circular, you must reduce your strain on resources by buying either second-hand goods or brand-new goods from local, eco-friendly companies.
Think About the Source – Stay Local
The key takeaway for this entire article is that you must think about your visible and invisible impact on the planet.
- How much water are you using for your daily activities?
- How many watts of electricity did you use this week?
- Where do your groceries come from?
- How were your consumer goods created?
You must be conscious about what you use and how you use it, including the source of your purchases. If your clothes and food travelled halfway around the world, it’s very difficult to reduce your family’s carbon footprint. Therefore, the best way to go green – even in our fast-paced, technology-driven world – is to first shop as locally as possible and then use as little as possible.
At Chariot Energy, we care about how people use electricity and how it’s sourced. As part of our guiding commitment to reducing our environmental impact, we provide clean, renewable solar energy to homes across Texas. Not only can you use our solar power without installing solar panels on your roof, but we also provide plans and rates similar to traditional electricity. Working together, we can make Texas (and the world) a little greener.