As we go about our daily lives, we leave footprints of all shapes in sizes in our path. Some are small and snow-covered, while others are barely recognizable, remnants of a puddle we passed through a few blocks away.
But what about carbon footprints? Evidence of our presence doesn’t always manifest on a sidewalk. In this case, we notice it in the air we breathe and the oceans we swim in.
Believe it or not, even our favorite slip on sneakers or comfortable boots for women can have an impact on the environment and climate change by the way we choose to recycle or upcycle them. By learning about simple ways to reduce your carbon footprint you can have a real impact on the environment. This article will take a closer look at what a carbon footprint is and guide you through some everyday solutions you can implement as quickly as today.
Reducing Your Footprint at Home
When we think about reducing our carbon footprint, the easiest place to start is at home. It’s often the place we spend the most time, after all. By making some small changes in the way we live, we can make a measurable difference in our environment.
Recycling Best Practices
Let’s start with a classic. Technically, recycling has been around since the 1800s. (With no such thing as municipal waste disposal, you didn’t really have much of a choice.) But recycling as we now know it started around the 1970s, with rates increasing every decade since.1
You’d think with all that time we’d have perfected the system by now, but the truth is, it can still be pretty complicated to know what to recycle and how. Here are some tips to help you out:2
- Check the numbers – You’re probably familiar with the triangular recycling symbol on the bottom of plastic containers, but how familiar are you with the number inside that triangle? Those numbers indicate the type of resin used in the container. Different localities may only be able to recycle certain numbers so be sure to check what’s acceptable in your area.
- Rinse out your food – Food production leaves a big ecological footprint. If you’re recycling old food containers, that’s the first step to achieving zero waste. However, you need to be sure to empty and rinse them first to reduce your food carbon footprint. One dirty container can spoil an entire batch of recyclables.
- Recycle more than just plastic – While plastics can often be the most obvious recyclables, there are many more items that can be recycled like paper, steel, tin cans, and believe it or not you can even recycle sneakers. Check locally to make sure you’re recycling all you can.
- Electronics – Electronics, and batteries can be some of the most confusing things to recycle, but it’s important that you recycle them when possible. Some common ways include:
- Electronics stores will often take old or broken goods.
- Dry cell batteries can often be locally recycled.
- Car batteries can be recycled through many car dealerships or auto parts stores.
Tips for Energy Efficiency
There has been great advancement in energy efficiency in the past couple of decades, such as solar panels. The key to taking advantage of these advancements is to make sure your home is equipped as efficiently as possible to help reduce your carbon footprint and prevent global warming. Some things to check are:3
- Light bulbs – Eureka! If you’re looking for a real light bulb moment when it comes to reducing your carbon footprint, look no further than your lights themselves. Incandescent light bulbs waste 90 percent of their energy as heat. LED lights will use a quarter of energy use (and last up to 25 times longer). Oh, and don’t forget to turn off the lights when you leave the room.
- Insulation – Being sure that your house is well-insulated and is free from any drafty windows and doors will allow you to use less heat in the winter and less air conditioning in the summer. That can help both your energy bill and the environment—a win-win!4
- Water – Using less hot water is another way to make your home more energy-efficient. There are many different ways you can reduce your hot water usage:
- Install a low-flow showerhead.
- Turn your water heater down to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Wash your clothes in cold water.
- Use your dishwasher. (More modern dishwashers use less water than hand washing, although this may not hold true for all dishwashers.)
- Switch to clean energy – Switching to green energy providers, such as solar or wind, is becoming more affordable all the time and is one of the top things you can do to make your home more efficient.
How to Reduce Carbon Footprint at Work
If you’re not at home, there’s a good chance you’re at work. Thankfully, there are numerous tips to reduce your carbon footprint at the workplace. Here’s how you can easily implement them:5
- Opt for laptops – One of the easiest switches you can make at the office may be to use laptops instead of desktops. Laptops are 80% more efficient than desktop computers. Also, be sure to unplug your computer before you leave for the day and put it to sleep when it’s not in use.
- Check the equipment – Does your office use ENERGY STAR equipment? If not, it’s past time to start. According to the EPA in 2012, if all office equipment switched to ENERGY STAR, we could save 1.5 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.6 Talk to the leadership team at your office to bring more awareness to the topic.
- Print less – Today’s society continues to become more and more paperless, but there’s still more we can do to reduce unnecessary printing. If you do need to print, be sure to print double-sided to help reduce paper waste.
- Rethink the office – “That meeting could have been an email” is more than just a common gripe, it’s something worth thinking about. Fewer meetings means less back-and-forth travel and fewer carbon emissions. Plus, with so many remote options available, it’s more achievable than ever before.
Transportation: How to Go Green When You’re on The Go
Cars and planes are a major source of carbon dioxide emissions in the world and, while hybrids and electric cars are starting to make an impact, driving is still one of the biggest factors we can control to reduce our carbon footprint. Here are some other ways to reduce emissions caused by transportation:
- Making use of public transport – Most major cities have extensive public transportation programs. So, why not use them? Even if your city’s public transport isn’t your cup of tea, you can look to options like carpooling to help reduce the total number of cars on the road and the amount of carbon emissions in the air.
- Changing the way you drive – Some of us are a bit heavy on the gas and brake when we drive. Simply maneuvering a bit more smoothly and using cruise control when possible can help reduce our car’s emissions.
- Servicing your car – Anyone living in Los Angeles can tell you that having cars on the road that meet minimum smog emission requirements makes a big difference. Be sure to get your car regularly serviced so that it runs as efficiently as possible. Checking to see if your tires have the correct pressure can also make your car run more efficiently.
- Walking Or Biking – Sometimes, reducing your carbon footprint means incorporating eco friendly fitness options into your everyday life. Instead of driving your car everywhere, try walking or biking a few times a week to break up your potential pollution contributions while getting some exercise in.
The Bigger Picture
We’ve gone over some simple ways you can start to reduce your carbon footprint, but some of you may be asking whether any of this is really worth it. Why is it important to reduce carbon footprint anyway? Let’s look at some of these larger concepts to show you why it’s more important than you might think.
What Is a Carbon Footprint?
It helps to understand what a carbon footprint is in order to make sense of why you should want to reduce yours. Put simply, a carbon footprint is the total number of greenhouse gas emissions you produce throughout the duration of your life. The most common greenhouse gases include:
- Carbon Dioxide
- Nitrous Oxide
- Fluorinated gasses
Products, as well as people, all have carbon footprints. As people, most of our carbon footprint will be as a result of:
- Food waste and consumption
If you’re curious to learn more about what kind of impact you, personally, have on the planet, use a carbon footprint calculator. That way, you’ll be able to reflect on some of your lifestyle choices and see exactly where you’ve got room to grow.
Why Reduce Your Carbon Footprint?
The average American has a carbon footprint of around 16 tons. The average carbon footprint globally is about four tons. To avoid a rise in global temperatures by 2050, many scientists think that the average needs to drop to about two tons.7 If that doesn’t happen, we run the risk of facing more severe weather events like wildfires and floods that many of us are already starting to see happen more regularly.
While climate change can sometimes feel daunting and too big of a problem to address individually, our actions can make a difference. While reducing your individual carbon footprint may seem like an insignificant drop in the bucket, if everyone starts taking steps to reduce their emissions, we might start to see that bucket fill up faster than we think. Simple changes can make a huge difference, even small changes like doing an at home workout once a week can greatly reduce your environmental impact.
Larger governmental actions will need to support this movement, but making small changes in our lives is a meaningful—and manageable—place for us to start.
Better Health and Wellness with Vionic
Here at Vionic, we’re more than people who specialize in shoes. We care about carbon footprints—and not just because of the potential for foot-related puns. But rather, because they affect all of us. The more we can take care of our environment, the healthier and happier we’ll be as a whole.
That’s why we put a focus on your health and wellbeing. Whether we’re imparting simple tips to improve your health or providing you with supportive, podiatrist-designed footwear specializing in orthotics, we’re always thinking about your comfort and well-being, from your individual footprint to the world around you.