Sunday, 3 March 2013

Decreasing Your Personal Carbon Footprint

Unless your name is Al Gore, you probably can’t afford solar panels, a house remodel to increase energy efficiency and a new Hybrid car. Although efficient, these ways of reducing energy consumption and lowering your carbon footprint can be costly. These types of endeavours don’t only require thousands of dollars – they necessitate a large time commitment and plenty of forethought and planning. Some of the best methods to lower your carbon footprint are the small changes you can make to your daily life. Like crash dieting, doing something drastic isn’t as effective as making smaller, incremental changes you can pursue for the long-term. Here you’ll find a comprehensive list of several tactics that that will help you develop sustainable lifelong practices that will help you help the environment.

What is a Carbon Footprint and why it Matters

Your personal carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions associated to your consumption. Examining your carbon footprint is an effective way in determining your indirect effect on the environment. There are many tools available that can help you estimate your carbon footprint, and knowing this number can provide a clear view of your consumption and how it’s affecting Mother Earth. Knowing your “number” isn’t everything; whatever it is, most people can still make small improvements to their overall consumption habits. Greenhouse gas emissions matter – especially for global warming believers and evangelists. If you haven’t caught on yet, excess greenhouse gas emissions are the primary cause of global warming – which is bad for everyone.

Buying Local Products Results in Less Emissions

Production of local products, like produce, cheeses, and honey, are the least likely to contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Unlike large production plants local establishments are smaller and have limited resources, making their production processes different from those of their larger competitors. The carbon footprint of local facilities is usually a fraction of a larger plant’s footprint. Local products also travel a fraction of the distance to get to distributors, like your local food market. Shaving cream that has been manufactured in London and that is sold in a London shop has a much lower carbon footprint than a product that would have been manufactured in China, due to the transportation-related emissions. Sometimes it’s just impossible to buy local products, like coffee. Coffee beans are cultivated from approximately 70 countries around the globe and Germany is the world’s largest transfer point of coffee beans. This doesn’t mean that Germany produces the beans. In fact coffee beans aren’t cultivated in Europe at all. The largest cultivators and exporters of coffee beans are Latin America, Southeast Asia, Africa and India. The amount of greenhouse gas emissions from transportation alone should definitely incite cutting back on your trips to Starbucks.

Reduce Heat in Your Home

The most obvious issue to address is the temperature of your home. Did you know that simply reducing the temperature on your thermostats by one or two degrees can result in a significant decrease in greenhouse gas emissions? Whether your heating is electric, oil or slow combustion stove (the kind you fill with fire wood), reducing the temperature, consumption and general use of the heating source will lead to a reduction of your carbon footprint. Reducing consumption will also be good to your bank account. With the rise of heating oil prices, did you know that turning down the heat by one degree could reduce your heating costs by up to 10%?

Another heat source to consider cutting back is the temperature of your water heater. Most households have their water heater set too high anyway, and reducing the temperature by the same one or two degrees will lower your carbon footprint and save you money on heating oil prices.
Finally when considering heat for your home, think of the hot water used to wash your clothes. Most detergents work just as well in cold water and, in fact, washing your clothes in cold water prevents stains from setting in the fabric. Washing your clothes in cold water will save you money on your power bill, reduce your carbon footprint, and lengthen their lifespan.


Nick Thorping is a writer with an interest in sustainable business practices. He suggests that just as reducing consumption of heating leads to a reduction of heating oil prices, reducing consumption can lead to cost savings in your home.

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