Increased awareness of the fragility of our earth and its resources has made “carbon footprint” a resonant buzz term for contemplation—what mark will I as an individual leave on this world? To be specific, a carbon footprint describes the amount of greenhouse gas emissions caused by an individual, event, organization, or product, expressed as carbon dioxide (CO2). Many of our daily activities release carbon, such as driving, laundering, using disposable plastics, heating, meat eating, and wasting. At the rate we’re consuming, we’re accelerating the rate of environmental decline and jeopardizing our ability to live and thrive in our home, Earth.
Nevertheless, there are actions we can take to walk more softly on this planet. Just as Hippocrates declared, “Do no harm,” the goal here is neutrality: to live in a way that optimizes thriving, while minimizing harm to health. What you may not realize is that changing behaviors in support of a healthful future benefits your health and future, but can also make you happier. Plus, earth-friendly behaviors multiply. As you build habits that minimize your carbon footprint, you’ll become more mindful of other ways you can help. And you’ll inspire others; especially children, who are perfect disciples for earth-friendly practices—and after all, they will inherit the earth!
Here are 6 easy and effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint:
- Multiply your efforts. Your individual actions alone may not feel like they make a big dent in the health of our planet, but the accumulation of many individual actions adds up to make real identifiable change. The EcoChallenge is proof, showing how the change in habits of many individuals can make a real difference in our cumulative impact. Join the EcoChallenge to challenge yourself and make meaningful change!
- Walk softly. Oil-based transportation like driving and flying has a significant negative impact on our planet and our health. Healthier alternatives like walking, biking, or even riding the bus, not only reduce the amount of carbon we emit into the atmosphere, but also increase our physical activity, mindfulness, and connection to our surroundings. To decrease airline travel, consider stay-cations to enjoy your local area, and see if telecommuting a couple times a week is an option to reduce your car travel. To get a better idea of the impact you are making, you can measure your own carbon footprint at nature.org.
- Vote with your wallet. Each consumer’s buying habits add CO2 to the atmosphere through the processes of extraction, transport, production, packaging, shipping, trashing, and planned obsolescence. Every step of this process pollutes our air, water, and land that are supposed to keep us healthy and thriving. Support sustainable manufacturers, buy antiques, host clothing and household swaps, or choose not to buy at all. Most importantly, say no to single-use products by carrying your own reusable water bottle, coffee mug, grocery bags, and take-out containers.
- Go native. Fall in love with your local surroundings. Choose local foods, walk or bike to local businesses, and travel to local natural areas to unplug during your weekends. Engage your neighborhood, school, restaurants, or local government in a friendly sustainability challenge. Getting to know your neighborhoods and community also creates a sense of pride, contentment, and belonging.
- Travel in time. For a better future, travel like the past. Take public transport such as a rail line to explore places in your area, rather than jet setting. Explore traditional home practices like canning, sewing, gardening, homesteading, tool sharing, beekeeping, bartering, cooking, line drying, foraging, and crafting. These activities keep us active, mentally sharp, connected to loved ones and neighbors, mindful, and healthy by living closer to nature.
- Unplug. Wouldn’t we all love a little less screen time? Not only is unplugging refreshing for our mental and physical health, it also helps reduce the amount of CO2 we use. Building stronger relationships with nature and natural resources gets us out of small thinking and into a global sense of self and community.