Humans are finally realizing that we cannot continue doing exactly the same things and getting different results, nor can we ignore the effects of our carbon footprint on the environment.
We all need to take action so that we can help the planet. Sometimes, though, trying to work out what to do seems overwhelming. Google “best ways to reduce carbon footprint” and there’s so much information that it’s hard to know where to start.
But here’s the good news. Every action you take, no matter how small, creates a positive impact. We’ve got 25 tips in this article. Some are really easy to do, and some will take a little more effort.
What is a carbon footprint?
There's a simple carbon footprint definition here:
“the total amount of carbon (measured usually in tonnes) that is emitted into the atmosphere by a process, event, organisation, product or entity.”
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines a carbon footprint as:
“the total amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted into the atmosphere each year by a person, family, building, organization, or company. A person's carbon footprint includes greenhouse gas emissions from fuel that an individual burns directly, such as by heating a home or riding in a car. It also includes greenhouse gases that come from producing the goods or services that the individual uses, including emissions from power plants that make electricity, factories that make products, and landfills where trash gets sent.”
How to calculate your personal carbon emissions
It's not that easy to quantify the amount of CO2 and carbon emissions we create each year. But it can be helpful for understanding just how much of an impact our energy usage has on our planet.
To better understand your personal carbon footprint, you can use the carbon footprint calculator from Carbon Positive Australia. They use ‘emissions factors’ gathered from multiple data sources in Australia to calculate an individual's carbon emission while taking into account effusions from transportation, energy, water, travel, food and drink, and waste.
Ideas for offsetting and reducing emissions
According to the Carbon Offset Guide, carbon offset or offsetting:
“broadly refers to a reduction in GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions – or an increase in carbon storage (e.g., through land restoration or the planting of trees) – that is used to compensate for emissions that occur elsewhere.”
It also describes the process in which an individual, organisation, or entity directly reduces their carbon emission by doing specific efficient actions such as walking or riding a bike instead of driving a car.
Carbon offset projects
1. Carbon offset projects such as planting trees and investing in projects help offset your personal emissions. One of Hello Charlie’s ways of offsetting carbon emissions is investing in carbon offset companies like Ecologi and funding reforestation activities.
While we do this as a business, you can also do this as an individual - it's really easy!
For other ideas on carbon reduction, let's group the ideas into different areas:
Driving and Travel
2. Try alternatives to driving. Walk, ride your bik or use public transport. You could think about carpooling with a neighbour or friend.
3. Avoid short car journeys.
4. Avoid speeding, unnecessary acceleration and hard braking to save fuel.
5. Avoid driving during peak hours, as heavy traffic wastes gas and increases carbon emissions.
6. Drive a low-carbon vehicle that meets your needs. A “green vehicle” can include electric and hybrid vehicles.
7. Always check that your vehicle is properly tuned and regularly serviced to boost gas mileage and reduce emissions.
8. Try to avoid flying, if possible, and explore alternative options, or at least fly less frequently to reduce your carbon footprint of air travel.
Depending on your individual circumstances and where you live, some best practices include:
10. Reduce your carbon footprint at home by switching off the lights, especially when leaving the room. Instead of using old halogen bulbs, use LED (LED uses up to 75% less energy and emits 90% less CO2) lighting instead because it’s energy-efficient.
11. Refrain from setting your thermostat too high or too low. Install a programmable model for heaters/air conditioners that will turn these off when you're not at home.
12. Make sure you have good home insulation to help reduce the amount of energy needed for running a comfortable temperature inside your house.
13. Buy carbon offsets and invest in double glazed windows, as these can help reduce winter heat loss by up to 70%.
14. Reduce your carbon footprint even further by choosing energy-efficient appliances. Always look for products that bear the ENERGY STAR label.
15. Consider investing in green energy by installing solar panels on the roof of your home, which has 80% lower carbon emissions than fossil fuel sources.
16. Practice water and energy-efficient ways at home by turning off the tap while you brush your teeth, taking a shower instead of using the bath, boiling less water and covering your pots while cooking, and using the dishwasher and washing machine only when they’re full. Also, purchase water efficient models for washing machines, dishwashers, toilets, taps, etc.
17. Conserve water and energy outside your home by washing your car less often, growing a garden, choosing climate appropriate plants, installing drip irrigation (plants only receive what they need), and reusing greywater as appropriate.
The bottom line is that water efficiency saves energy.
18. Eat homegrown, seasonal, and organic food to know how to reduce carbon footprint further. Buying locally produced coffee, for example, reduces the amount of fossil fuel needed to get that java to your door.
19. Cut back on your animal product consumption, especially when it comes to beef and dairy.
20. Avoid wasting food. Food waste contributes to up to 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
21. Reduce waste by looking for products that offer minimal or recyclable packaging, especially for household items that you use frequently.
22. Recycle as much as possible.
23. Lobby for appropriate recycling options, if it’s not yet available in your local area.
24. Use reusable items as much as possible, from shopping bags to drinking bottles and reusable cling wrap alternatives. (this is old cheat sheet link, we don't this active in HC blog)
25. Stop backyard burning, and don’t burn your household waste.
There are loads of different ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Start by gathering ideas on what to change when it comes to your lifestyle, your individual circumstances, and location. Pick somewhere to start, and get cracking!
Always remember that it’s never too late to make changes for the better. It won't always be that easy, but it is very much achievable! And if you are interested in learning more about minimising your carbon cost, we recommend reading our other posts on the topic.