What Is My Carbon Footprint?
Your carbon footprint refers to the amount of greenhouse gases (such as methane and carbon dioxide) that are directly or indirectly generated from your daily life. It’s measured in tons per year.
Activities that involve burning oil, gas, natural gas, or coal result in greenhouse gases. This emission traps heat in the earth’s atmosphere, causing it to heat up.
So, in a nutshell, your carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gas that is generated by your behaviors measured in tons over the course of a year.
Why Is It Important?
In the scientific community, it’s universally accepted that the earth’s temperature has been increasing and is predicted to continue increasing at an alarming pace.
They often refer to this in literature as ‘climate change.’ Some still argue whether the earth’s increasing temperature directly results from human activity.
What cannot be argued, however, is that whatever the cause of the earth’s increasing temperature, what we do now will have a significant impact on the outcome for future generations.
According to The Nature Conservatory, the average carbon footprint in the United States is among the highest in the world at 16 tons per person.
The global average carbon footprint is estimated at 4 tons. In order to have the best chance of controlling the increasing temperature, scientists assess that the average carbon footprint needs to be reduced to 2 tons by the year 2050.
Yes, YOU Can Have An Impact!
Although this might seem like an insurmountable task, or one that’s best left to the factories, large companies, or organizations, your contributions in this effort can have a significant effect.
Yes, the large emitters of greenhouse gases need to change their practices.
However, collectively, individual changes can make a monumental impact!
Plus, individual consumer changes could reduce the demand in large carbon emitting industries, thus sending the message that we all need to make a change.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, household consumption accounts for 20% of the country’s greenhouse gas emission.
When considering indirect emissions, experts estimate that this could be closer to 80%.
In other words, our individual behaviors have a direct impact on greenhouse gas emission, and by extension could also affect how organizations conduct themselves in relation to the environment (indirect).
Although I’m quoting U.S. statistics, this is a relevant issue no matter where you are living.
It requires a global effort to bring about the change needed to preserve our planet.
Every Bit Counts. So Where Do You Start?
Some folks might think you need to install expensive solar panels or splurge on an electric vehicle.
If you can afford to do that, great! You might also think you need to switch to energy providers who use renewable energy sources, if this is an option, great!
However, if these are not accessible to you, there are small everyday lifestyle changes that each of us can make that could have a big cumulative impact.
You can start by figuring out what your current carbon footprint is. There are several free online carbon footprint calculators that you can use to estimate your current impact based on your behaviors.
The general areas to consider when assessing your carbon footprint and what changes you can make include:
- Transportation Use
- Dietary Habits
- Purchasing Practices
- Electricity Use
- General Waste
You are reading a Nicki’s Diaper blog, so I assume you are already doing many of these things! For starters, using cloth diapers and other reusable items helps to reduce the amount of solid waste in our landfills.
The goal is not to have a zero carbon footprint, but to attempt to make more conscious choices to reduce our individual impact on the environment.
Like anything else, it is near impossible to do ALL things ALL the time. So, start, or continue, with minor lifestyle changes. While also balancing caring for yourself, your families, and the things you love.
The concept of “balance” comes to mind. Just like cloth diapering, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing, but do what you can, when you can, and it will be enough.
How To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Depending on your lifestyle, there are several things that you could do in your daily life to reduce your ecological footprint. Here are a few to get you started:
1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Reduce simply means minimizing the amount of waste you create. This involves being thoughtful about the things you gain, getting only what we need, and using all of it.
Reusing is also simple enough; invest in good quality reusable items with good potential for long-term use.
These items would replace things that are single use or often needing to be replaced and end up in a landfill.
Obviously, cloth diapers are a great reusable option, and those gorgeous prints don’t hurt either ☺.
Nicki’s diapers are a good quality, economical option that can be used over several years to diaper multiple children, significantly reducing your carbon footprint.
Even when they wear down, the elastics can be replaced, and an old diaper can be given a new life. Planet Wise reusable bags and totes are also great options for reusable food storage and grocery bags.
Consider replacing your single use dusters with items such as the Marley’s Monster washable duster. Just to name a few.
With these options, not only are you positively impacting the environment, but you are also being kind to your wallet.
Sort your household trash and recycle in order to reduce your solid waste. If you don’t have access to recycling facilities, try finding new ways to use items instead of throwing them out.
If you are like me and shop at Nicki’s a little more often than you probably should… The packaging boxes make great gift boxes and are great for craft projects, too!
Done with the diapering years? Repurpose old flats as cleaning clothes or reusable paper towels.
2. Unplug Small Appliances
Although you might turn off your appliances, many electronic items, when plugged in, actually remain in a ‘standby’ mode and continue to draw electricity.
Yes, even when fully charged, these devices will continue to draw a small amount of electricity. So, unplug those devices once they are fully charged, as well as small appliances when they are not in use.
3. Assess Home Energy Efficiency
A home energy efficiency assessment involves an evaluation of your home’s current energy consumption and identifies measures that can be taken to make your home more energy efficient.
There are several companies that offer a free evaluation. If that is not an option, you can also find several self-directed energy assessment guides online to do this evaluation yourself.
Composting is a great way to reduce household waste by naturally processing organic matter into nutrient rich fertilizer! Ready-made composters are available in a variety of sizes.
Or you could stick with the spirit of repurposing and fashion yourself a one-of-a-kind compost bin.
You can find several DIY ideas online using various materials, such as wood, a plastic bucket, a tin container, cardboard, etc.
The fertilizer from your compost is great for potted houseplants and gardens, or you can donate it to a very grateful farmer/gardener.
5. Change Your Lightbulbs
Replace incandescent light bulbs with more energy efficient LED bulbs. The latter is 75% more efficient and lasts several times longer. They are a bit more expensive, but they pay for themselves over time with the energy saved. You could also switch a few bulbs out at a time.
6. Adjust Temperatures to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
As an island girl living in New England, this is difficult for me, but I try. Try lowering your thermostat a few degrees in the winter and increasing it a few degrees in the summer for at least eight hours each day. Nighttime might be a good time to do this or when you leave the home for several hours. Using a ceiling fan during warmer weather is also a great option for reducing energy use and lowering the cost for cooling your home.
7. Eat In Season And Local
The farther your food has to travel to get to you, the larger the carbon emission it creates.
Growing food in a non-native climate also requires more energy, which translates to the production of more greenhouse gases.
Buying local food also allows your produce to better ripen and results in more nutrient rich food.
Also consider patronizing restaurants that attempt to source local and in season ingredients.
8. Use A Clothesline
Line-dry laundry when possible. This includes diapers, plus nothing beats that natural stain fighting power of good ole sunlight!
According to the World Wildlife Organization, drying a load of laundry in a dryer uses five times the electricity of an average wash cycle or the equivalent of the electricity to power 225 light bulbs for one hour.
9. Reduce Meat Consumption
No, I’m not saying you should become a vegetarian, but reducing meat consumption and waste can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emission.
Livestock farming has been identified as a significant source of methane emission and is a significant way that you can reduce your carbon footprint.
Simple steps could include buying only what you need for your family to reduce waste and trying meat free days, such as a meat free Monday.
10. Rethink Your Wardrobe
According to the United Nations Environment Programme, the apparel industry is responsible for 10% of annual carbon emission. This includes manufacturing and transporting to consumers.
There are few things you can do to minimize your impact when it comes to dressing your family. If possible, shop from companies that use sustainable manufacturing practices.
Consider quality over quantity and buy less clothing that lasts longer. Repair clothing when possible.
For young children, options such as Nicki’s knit pants are a great option. Buy second hand and donate clothing that is in good condition.
Buy only what you need, not just because it is on sale. When clothes are worn out, repurpose them for reusable cleaning rags or other household projects.
11. Less Packaging
Buy items with less packaging that will create less waste and, when possible, avoid bottled water altogether. Instead, consider a reusable option such as a Klean Kanteen mug or water bottle.
12. Travel Smart
Use public transportation when possible or carpool with coworkers to work. Make the time to plan errands and pool them together so you drive less.
When going on long trips, use cruise control as a more energy efficient option, and open your windows rather than turning on the air condition in warmer weather.
Keep your tires properly inflated as this reduces the amount of energy needed for your car to run. Road trips can be fun, but also consider having fun family dinners at home.
When using air travel, opt for direct flights that have a lower impact than flights with several stops.
13. Use Cold Water
Okay, I admit, this might be the toughest one for me. Taking cold showers is one way to reduce your energy use and your carbon footprint.
I’m not suggesting that you take a freezing cold shower, but shifting that temperature knob back a few notches, at least sometimes can reduce your impact.
Plus, a brisk morning shower might be as effective as a cup of coffee!
Use cold washes for laundry when clothes are not heavily soiled.
14. Shop Smart
I know you want your item, and you want it now. Myself included. Especially with all these amazing free shipping options.
But consider building your cart and shopping less frequently for items that you do not immediately need.
Fewer packages mean less energy used to produce packaging materials and for transporting your items.
I’ve already said this, but it is worth saying again, buy only what you need. Avoid impulse buying that often ends up unused or minimally used in a landfill.
Try to practice thoughtful shopping, with planned and purposeful item selection.
When shopping in a store, make use of those reusable bags. They are handy for any kind of store and not just at the supermarket.
15. Don’t Forget To Turn Off The Lights
Finally, I will leave you on as simple a note as we started. The modest effort of turning off the lights when leaving a room is one of the easiest changes you can make to reduce your energy consumption and your resulting carbon footprint.