With the effects of climate crisis more obvious than ever, it can feel overwhelming to know how you can get involved and make a real difference – we get it. Learning about your carbon footprint and actively trying to reduce it is a great place to start.
Think about the hundreds of little actions that make up your day. Everything from how we get to work, what we eat, and how we maintain our homes all impacts our carbon footprint. And while all of these things may be mandatory in your life, we thought it would be helpful to share 9 simple ways to reduce your carbon footprint without drastically changing your lifestyle. The best of both worlds!
1. Consume local and seasonal foods
While it’s wonderful to live in a city where you can buy mangoes year-round, it’s important to take a step back and reflect on how this impacts our planet. Carbon emissions become an inevitable part of the equation when we import our food, therefore eating locally and seasonally eliminates the plane, boat, and truck rides before it lands on our plates. You're not only supporting your local farmers, but the food is so much fresher!
2. Lower your meat and dairy consumption
Every person is different and therefore requires different nutrition. While not everyone has the means to become a vegan or vegetarian, lowering our intake of meat and dairy is a huge way to reduce your footprint. The meat and dairy industries are huge producers of greenhouse emissions with livestock producing 10% of Canada’s greenhouse emission.
Try picking one day of the week with a partner or friend to cook and eat only vegetarian meals. By doing this, you would be saving the 1,700 gallons of water it takes to produce 1 pound of beef vs the 39 gallons it take to produce 1 pound of vegetables. The choices you make just once a week will add up to make a big difference!
3. Learn about your recycling system
How many of us are still throwing our disposable coffee cups into recycling bins? It seems easy to recycle the whole cup, but while their lids are recyclable, the cups most likely aren't, because the paper cups are coated in plastic - ew. Also, not all towns or cities have the same recycling system. Some communities don't recycle black plastics for example, so if those coffee lids are black, they no longer count. Take the time to read about what is accepted in your community and how it should be sorted.
4. Avoid impulse buys
Who else struggles with purchasing too much, and then feeling guilty when it goes unused? So much waste ends up in our landfills every year. The textile and fashion industry is just one example – Americans alone throw away 14 million tons of textiles every year, and that problem is expected to rise to 148 million tons globally by the end of 2030.
While we’re all for treating yourself once in a while, it’s important to take the time to evaluate whether your purchase is a want or a need. Will that item end up in a landfill in the next few years? Months?
5. Switch to sustainable energy sources
The easiest and first place you should begin with are your light sources. LED lights not only save energy, but have the potential to save you hundreds of dollars a year compared to incandescent bulbs. And the best part is they last about 20 times longer.
Something else to consider is if you’re in the market for a new appliance or tool in your home, consider purchasing one that is more energy efficient. While it may cost more upfront, there are long term savings for both the planet and your pocket.
6. Lower energy usage
Making the switch to a more sustainable light source is a great start, but it’s also important to be mindful of your energy use. We’ve gotten into the habit of turning off the lights when we leave a room.
Did you know appliances use energy whenever they're plugged in, even if they're not on? These are known as “vampire devices”, and are more common than you may think. You can read more about them here.
7. Take shorter showers
Wasting water can be just as easy as wasting energy. Listen, some of us love long hot showers, and we aren’t here to judge you for that. But did you know that the standard shower head releases about 2.5 gallons of water per minute. That's 20 gallons for just an 8 minute shower, which is equal to about a month of drinking water! Maybe consider cutting that shower concert a minute or 2 short next time.
Also think about the small tasks that require water, like brushing your teeth or washing your hands – there's really no need to keep the water running while doing these daily tasks.
8. Switch up your mode of transportation
Jumping on a bike or streetcar are much more environmentally friendly options for short distances, compared to driving. If you have access to a bike, or a great public transport system, use them!
As for long distance trips, try to take a car as opposed to a plane where possible. While a car ride from Toronto to Montreal is 4 hours longer than the flight, the drive produces about 0.2 tonnes of CO2 whereas the flight produces about 2.3 tonnes of CO2. Huge difference there! And if you need to take a flight, try to purchase carbon offset credits - most major airlines have this option now!
9. Delete your old emails
Wait, what? Yeah, we were surprised by that too! The reality is that emails are data that need to be stored somewhere. The longer they’re in your inbox, the greater amount of electricity is needed to store those emails in large data centres. Deleting just 10 emails saves about 3g of CO2. Think about how many spam emails you receive daily, and how easy (and satisfying) it would be to delete them when they land in your inbox). You can read more about this here.
We hope you feel inspired to implement some of these tips into your lifestyle, and please don’t be afraid to share them with others. You never know if they have some new tricks up their sleeves as well.
If you’re curious to learn more about your own carbon footprint, you can calculate it below in just 5 minutes! This will definitely give a better idea of the areas in your life that could use a bit of focus.
The most important thing to remember is that no one is perfect, but it’s about making small changes that add up to a big difference.
Together we can help to reduce our carbon footprints and save this planet we are lucky to call home. After all, we’re not sure Mars would be such a great option…