On the journey to becoming environmentally conscious, you may be forced to ask yourself difficult, and at times uncomfortable questions. How do I contribute to pollution? Is it wrong to use my A/C so much? Should I buy the BMW or the Prius? The modern environmentalist may ask themselves a dozen questions like these over the course of their day. But the first step in understanding your impact on the planet begins with one simple question: What is your carbon footprint?
Discovering the answer is easier than you think.
Take the Quiz
Global Footprint Network has created an easy quiz that calculates your carbon footprint seamlessly. The quiz can be taken in under a minute and takes into account lifestyle choices and consumption habits. After completing the quiz you may be surprised to learn that your personal Earth Overshoot Day – the date in which the planet will have run out of resources had everyone lived like you – is much sooner than anticipated or that perhaps you emit 20 more tonnes of CO2 a year than you thought.
However shocked by your results, do not be discouraged. Tackling the climate crisis and our contributions to it does not have to be a daunting task. Here are five simple solutions to help you not only lower your carbon footprint, but hopefully reach carbon neutral or even carbon positive status.
1. Plant a Forest of Your Own
Ever wanted to plant your own forest? With Ecologi you can be responsible for restoring wildlife habitats and funding conservation projects around the world for as little as $10.50 a month. The social enterprise is already responsible for planting six million trees globally. The various projects it funds are certified at the highest level by Gold Standard, a climate and sustainable development standard-bearer started by the World Wildlife Foundation. Not only can you add your pets and other family members to your plan, Ecologi maps your forest online, allowing you to visualize your impact in real time.
2. Ditch Fast Fashion
Did you know that fashion production makes up 10% of all humanity’s carbon emissions? For those seeking an eco-friendly solution to the fast fashion crisis, Good On You is here to help. The app rates thousands of brands based on three categories: labor, environment, and animal. Good On You takes into account over 500 data points across more than 60 material issues identified by their research team and industry experts. Brands are rated on a scale from We Avoid (1) to Great (5). The company also suggests similar, more sustainable alternatives to low-rated brands.
3. Reduce Your Food Waste
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) about a third of all food produced globally never makes it onto the plate. That equates to more than $1 trillion in wasted energy, land, water and labor, all while producing unnecessary greenhouse gases in the process. Apps like OLIO and No Waste are trying to change that. OLIO connects you with neighbors and local businesses so surplus food can be shared instead of thrown away. By taking inventory of your fridge and pantry, No Waste helps prevent food waste before it happens. If by 2050 food waste is reduced by 50-75%, avoided emissions could be equal to 10.3-18.8 gigatons of carbon dioxide, Project Drawdown estimates. This would be equivalent to taking 529 million cars off the road.
4. Perform a Digital Detox
Start by purging your inbox monthly or consider changing to a green email provider. As Mike Berners-Lee, author of There Is No Planet B and How Bad Are Bananas? says, “Whilst the carbon footprint of an email isn’t huge, it’s a great illustration of the broader principle that cutting the waste out of our lives is good for our wellbeing and good for the environment.”
We’re all guilty of digital hoarding, but did you know those hundreds of unread emails sitting in your inbox have a carbon footprint? Sending and storing emails demand the use of electricity by networks, devices and data centers. As a result, every email you send produces one gram of carbon emissions, 50 grams if the message is heavy in text or contains an attachment. Given that so many are sequestered at home due to the pandemic, doing a digital detox is one of the simplest actions you can take to reduce your impact on the environment.
5. Change Your Search Engine
The first-ever German company to become a certified B Corporation, Ecosia is a search engine funding tree-planting projects all over the world. To date, the company has planted an astounding 117 million trees and counting. That’s one tree every 1.3 seconds. How does this all work? Ecosia uses the profits generated from search ads to plant its trees. The search engine can be easily downloaded as an app or added as an extension to your current web browser. Ecosia powers all of its searches through 100% renewable energy meaning that any search you make actually removes around one kg of CO2 from the atmosphere.
6. Try a Plant-Based Diet
The agriculture and livestock sector alone is responsible for emitting nearly 15% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. That equates to roughly the same amount produced by all transportation sectors combined (planes, cars, ships and trains). Switching to a plant-based diet has thus become one of the most effective methods for reducing your carbon footprint. Meat alternatives from companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat provide a healthier, more sustainable alternative to the real thing.
Project Drawdown found “emissions could be reduced by as much as 70% through adopting a vegan diet and 63% for a vegetarian diet,” according to a 2016 study. Swapping your dairy milk for oat milk, participating in Meatless Mondays, and taking on the Veganuary 30-day challenge are all terrific options to ease yourself into a plant-based lifestyle. If you are still not ready to go meat-free, simply cutting down your meat portions to the doctor-recommended four ounces can reduce your emissions by half! For those who have already adopted a plant-based diet, The Veganary curates vegan food tours of every major city for its global online community.
7. Regenerative Travel
Travel is undoubtedly one of life’s greatest pleasures, which is precisely why becoming an environmentally conscious traveler is so vital. When planning your next trip, consider booking with a hotel or travel company that aligns with your values. Regenerative Travel offers a collection of hotels and resorts devoted to positively impacting the environment and its local community. But choosing a destination is just as important as how you decide to get there. Transportation plays a significant role in your carbon footprint when traveling. Opt for a train ride when possible and try familiarizing yourself with public transportation. For those road tripping, consider renting an electric vehicle. Many hotels have EV chargers on the premises and may offer to charge your car for free. If a quick trip around the city is what you seek, biking proves an excellent method for getting around emission-free. It’s best to avoid flying when possible, but if you have to fly, support airlines that invest in sustainable solutions. Just last year JetBlue became the first airline to commit to going carbon neutral on all domestic flights, inspiring Delta to do the same. Whether you are a heavy or light packer, remember to swap those single-use plastics for eco-friendly products. Brands like Public Goods offer a wide range of recyclable travel size products ranging from tree-free toilet paper to bamboo toothbrushes. If you plan on going to the beach, don’t forget to pack your reef-safe sunscreen.
Reducing your carbon footprint in the face of something as daunting as climate change can feel like an insurmountable challenge. But like any challenge, budding environmentalists must rise to the occasion for the sake of a greater purpose: repairing the planet one ethical decision at a time.