Celebrating Earth Day shouldn't just be about mouthing platitudes—how about we get up and make a concentrated effort to de-stress our planet by reducing our carbon footprint and being eco-friendly?
Our planet is definitely in trouble. If you don’t believe us, look at the world around us. The weather may be “colder” than what it was two decades ago, but that doesn’t mean that global warming is a hoax. We need to see the big picture here—the weather patterns don’t matter so much individually but when you combine all that is happening on a global map, the climate is changing. And however much world leaders may proclaim it all to be a hoax and a joke, the joke will ultimately be on us—the human race. We are choking our oceans with plastic, pumping carbon into the atmosphere, killing off the glaciers and basically making a huge nuisance of ourselves. All in the name of progress! Isn’t it time we gave Mother Nature some TLC?
The 22nd of April is Earth Day—so instead of just standing around with our eyes, minds, ears, and heart closed to the problems looming large on our planet, let’s try and make a positive change—by reducing our individual carbon footprint. And this is how we do it…
But, wait. What is a carbon footprint?
In a nutshell, your carbon footprint is the stuff that goes into sustaining you and your lifestyle throughout your lifetime. It is an approximate measurement of all the carbon emissions you have caused by simply living, consuming, and using all the things you need to sustain your life and lifestyle. Think about the vehicles you use, the energy you consume, the trips you make, the food and water you consume. All the stuff you use in turn has been sourced from and made at places that emit carbon gases—the fuel, energy, clean water, food grown or packaged…The mind boggles when you begin to think of it. But let’s not go crazy right now, let’s talk about what you can do reduce your carbon footprint from Gulliver size to Lilliputian!
10 Ways To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
1. Cut Down On Personal Vehicle Use
Try and keep it down to one car per family and use wheels only when the distance is not walkable or doesn’t have decent public transportation. Try and carpool as much as you can, and when in doubt, use a fuel-less transport—like a bike or your legs. Also try and buy a hybrid eco-friendly vehicle that can be charged with electricity until the charge is depleted, when it switches to gas/diesel. Even if you don’t choose a hybrid, do not buy a huge monster of a car just to show off if you do not need to fit many people in it—bigger cars are often gas guzzlers, so they contribute more carbon emissions! Make a list of things you need to do and every time you step out, make sure you run a host of errands. Do not speed too much or keep an ill-maintained vehicle because rash and erratic driving reduces mileage. Also, remember to use traffic apps to avoid congested roads—idling cars emit plenty of carbon too!
2. Think About Commercial Vehicle Use
We all love the idea of an exotic vacation that involves flying halfway around the world just to get to that white-sanded, barely-visited beach. Not to say that you should never plan a vacation, but how about exploring your country and nearby hidden gems first? Each airplane ticket of yours releases a host of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. And try to never, ever hire a private jet—along with costing you a ton, the environment has to pay a pretty penny for private jets and chartered flights as well. With the advent of video-conferencing, you do not have to jet-set for work either—remote Skyping works just as well, and saves on carbon too! If you still need to fly, take a leaf from Prince William’s book and fly economy class—economy class means more people fly in the same amount of carbon emissions, as opposed to business class where you literally double your carbon footprint.
3. The Food We Eat Has A Carbon Footprint Too
It’s fun to try exotic foods and with food transport being pretty easy, every corner of the world manages to lay its hands on produce that is grown on the other half of the equator. But basically, that increases carbon emissions. How? A lot of the exotic food we eat is transported across countries and borders through water, air, and road, which means that caviar you are eating in Asia was sourced in Russia but packed in America, adding significantly to its carbon footprint. Eat locally grown produce and try and reduce your dairy and beef consumption as well. A lot of the prized beef and dairy you so savor so happens when forests are cut down and turned into agricultural graze lands. Deforestation = giant carbon footprints.
4. Reuse The Clothes You Wear
Each piece of clothing or accessory in your wardrobe is usually part plant- or animal-based. Then the fibers or the skin go into factories to produce the clothing you shell out money for. Once you have spent half of your salary on a gorgeous dress—one that already carries with it a huge carbon-emission burden—wear and re-wear it. Throw it away only once it has outlived its life—don’t be a carbon-heavy fashionista and refuse to wear the same things again. Learn to style your outfits in different ways and be an eco-conscious fashionista, like Emma Watson, among others.
5. Save The Energy You Use
The first rule of buying any new appliance? It should conserve energy—5-star energy rating and all. Try and let in the outside weather to cool or warm your home instead of always depending on the thermostat or air conditioning. Unplug your gadgets when not in use; it’s not enough to simply turn off the switches since a plugged device, even when off, still takes in a little power. Open the windows and the curtains and let the natural climate and sunlight in instead of using indoor lights all the time. Make a conscious effort to reduce your power usage and your electricity bill will also thank you for it! LED lights use much less power than incandescent bulbs, so try making a switch. At night, you can even go back to using some candles to create a romantic atmosphere, and save on light energy! Also, remember to seal off any leaks and drafts so that your heat or air conditioning is not wasted. And get a programmable thermostat—one that you can turn off when not at home, and remotely turn on when you are heading home.
6. Harness Solar & Clean Power
Sun power is cheap, freely available, and basically awesome when harnessed into things like running your thermostat or even heating water for you. It doesn’t cause any emissions and basically, all you are doing is using energy that’s freely available all around you. The only cost you incur is the installation of the solar panels—but once you conserve power and reduce your power bills, it’s literally like returns on the investment. And if you live in a state that has the Net Metering Law, you could even sell the electricity that you make from the sun back to the grid, and earn more money this way!
7. Conserving Water Cuts Down On Carbon
The water treatment plants that give you potable water through your taps cause plenty of emissions too—and conserving water is a good thing anyway. Parts of the world are facing a water crisis: we should try and conserve each precious drop. How? By dry-washing cars, using a bucket instead of a shower, and going for conservation-oriented toilets, faucets, showerheads, washing machines, and dishwashers. Make sure the garden you plant is climate-oriented and does not demand water if there already is a shortage in your area. Drip irrigation will save water compared to watering your plants with a free-flowing hose. Also, have you heard of rain gardens? Or tried rainwater harvesting?
8. Reuse & Recycle
We may not need a piece of perfectly usable furniture anymore, but trashing it means you add to your carbon footprint—you could recycle the same at any second-hand store, so that someone else may reuse it and avoid buying a brand-new piece. Similarly, you too may go in for a used item rather than a brand new one—reusing and recycling household goods ensures that your carbon footprint gets distributed instead of snowballing. And always recycle all that can be recycled, without fail...
9. Stop With The Water Bottles & The Plastic Straws
Carry your own reusable water bottle wherever you go—the more bottled water you buy, the bigger your carbon footprint gets because of all that use-and-toss plastic. Our plastic trash is choking the life out of oceans and killing off species at an astonishing rate; we need to stop and think. Rein in your plastic use— and that includes all your plastic bags and straws.
10. Finally, Go Get Dirty In The Garden
The more trees and plants you grow and plant, the lesser your carbon footprint will be. Plus, gardening carries with it many other health benefits for you and the environment too, so going green is always a great idea.
Indiscriminate use of anything is a bad idea—so get earth- and eco-friendly, and be nice to the planet we call home. As much as the Earth needs to sustain us, we need to aid in its sustainable health too! Happy Earth Day to all!