What Can You Do to Lessen Your Carbon Footprint?
Lately we’ve heard the term “carbon footprint” thrown around a few times. Big corporate companies have added banners to their websites showcasing how much using their services or products helps lessen their carbon footprint. It’s gotten to the point where I question if they’re being honest or if this is just a marketing ploy because… let’s be real, sustainability is a rising trend.
So what is this term that may or may not be used loosely?
According to nature.org, a carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gasses (including carbon dioxide and methane) that are generated by our actions.
The average carbon footprint for a person in the United States is 16 tons, one of the highest rates in the world.
Globally, the average carbon footprint is closer to 4 tons. To have the best chance of avoiding a 2℃ rise in global temperatures, the average global carbon footprint per year needs to drop to under 2 tons by 2050.
Lowering individual carbon footprints from 16 tons to 2 tons doesn’t happen overnight! By making small changes to our actions, we can start making a big difference.
What are these small changes to lessen my carbon footprint?
I’m no expert on this topic but I’ve done some research and I’ve compiled this list in hopes that it’ll help.
- I think one of the most obvious changes we can implement in our daily lives is REUSING! I live in the city of Philadelphia, PA in which reusing bags has become prominent. In December 2019, legislation passed banning single-use plastic bags in retail establishments. Though Covid-19 delayed the actual implementation of this, by April 1st this year, you can experience the impact this has caused. I live in University City, particularly in an area where a lot of college students reside and you can see how this legislation has taken place. College kids, local residents, essentially everyone, now walk around with tote bags in case they have to make a last minute grocery stop or have to buy some toothpaste at the CVS around the corner.
I may be a little biased considering I live in a large city and am able to pull this off but AVOID USING YOUR CAR! I was born and raised in the small town of Bridgeton, NJ where getting your first car was a right of passage so please, don’t come at me for this one! I know this might not be suitable for everyone but if you do happen to live in a big city and have access to public transportation, take advantage of this. Not only is this cost effective (don’t get me started on these gas prices 😑) but you avoid emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by not using your car. Just to add some science behind all of this and to make myself sound smarter (lol)...vehicle pollutants harm our health and contain greenhouse gasses that cause climate change. Burning gasoline and diesel fuel creates harmful byproducts like nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, benzene, and formaldehyde. To simply put it, no es bueno!
Now the alternative to riding in your 2012 red Kia Rio (please leave me alone if you see me in the streets), is walking or riding a bike or even taking the bus.
I’m sure you’ve noticed an influx of city bikes being implemented in your city or a major city nearby. National Geographic asks the question, “Is the U.S. becoming more bike friendly?”. Though my opinions may contradict their article, I believe it is because like I mentioned before…sustainability is a rising trend and no one can afford these damn gas prices!
Once again, I may sound biased because I am literally employed by the largest secondhand clothing distributor on the East Coast but nevertheless…SHOP SECONDHAND! With the rise of online resellers, the topic of shopping preloved has been heavy in the past couple of years! I think we can also partially blame the pandemic for causing people to lose their jobs and seeking other forms of income.
The data is very clear on how choosing to shop secondhand over purchasing something that’s mass produced can help lessen your carbon footprint. Discovermagazine.com published an article online titled “Just How Environmentally Friendly Is Thrifting?” and the first sentence says, “Making secondhand purchases is naturally eco-friendly: You're giving new life to something ordinarily destined for the landfill”.
I’ve been a thrifter since I was 15 in high school so I naturally resort to shopping second hand but I think it’s important while you’re out shopping to question if 1. Do you truly need this item? And 2. What are the chances that you might find it at a thrift store? I know I’m striking a cord to all those Target shoppers out there. Trust me, I get it (my credit card balance is shaking right now)!
Take some time and do your research!
As I was gathering some data for this blog post, I came across San Jose Water. They’ve made this chart (which I’ll be sharing below) on how much water it takes to make particular items. It includes a cotton t-shirt and a pair of jeans. In total these 2 items use up 2,821 gallons of water to produce. That’s just one of each item - I’ll let that sink in.
In the long run, even the tiniest changes can make a big difference. Never let yourself think that your efforts are insignificant.
The world is being changed one plastic bag at a time by people like you.