To truly slow the effects of global warming on our planet, each individual needs to bring sustainable practices into their everyday lives. This guide will show you the steps you can take to begin your personal journey toward becoming carbon neutral.
Being carbon neutral means that through a combination of reducing and offsetting carbon emissions, your net contribution of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere is zero.
This can seem like a daunting task at first. Many people have concerns about how practical or economically feasible carbon neutrality is for them, but there are many simple, affordable ways that you can reduce your personal carbon emissions.
This article will cover three steps that you can take to achieve individual carbon neutrality.
Measure Your Environmental Impact
The first step to building a more sustainable lifestyle is measuring what kinds of waste your personal habits create, so you can clearly see areas for improvement. This is typically done by using a carbon footprint.
A carbon footprint describes the amount of impact an individual or organization has on the environment in terms of how many tons of greenhouse gases, like methane and carbon dioxide, are produced by their activities in a year.
As an example, World Bank data from 2018 shows that the average American contributes more than 15 tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere per year.
The same data shows that globally, the average person’s carbon footprint is 4.5 tons per year.
The Paris Agreement set a global goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next 30 years; In order to achieve this, everyone will have to cut their emissions in half, or reach a carbon footprint of 2 tons per year, by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
Carbon Footprint Calculator
To find your individual carbon footprint the EPA’s calculator is linked below.
US Environmental Protection Agency Carbon Footprint Calculator
The benefit of a carbon footprint calculator is that it highlights the areas of our lives that cause the most carbon emissions and allows us to think about the best possible ways to decrease them.
Reduce Your Footprint
Now that you’ve looked at your personal carbon footprint calculation, we will outline a few of the main ways to reduce carbon emissions through changes to how you approach everyday activities.
For most Americans, transportation habits contribute the most to their carbon footprint. While a majority of Americans need to own a vehicle, there are still many ways you can reduce your personal transportation emissions.
First, prioritize regular vehicle maintenance and drive efficiently by making sure you follow speed limits, accelerate and decelerate gradually, and avoid idling unnecessarily. These practices will save you money in addition to reducing your driving emissions.
Drive Less When Possible
If you are able to, choose non-driving options when you go out.
Try carpooling or ridesharing to regular activities like work. Take public transportation like buses or trains instead of driving. And if you don’t have to go far, try walking or riding a bicycle.
You can also plan multiple errands in a single trip to save both energy and time.
Learn about Green Vehicles
Next time you purchase a vehicle, consider one that is more energy efficient. You can check out the EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide for more information about energy efficient options.
One of the largest contributors to pollution worldwide is air travel. For longer trips, driving produces less carbon emissions than flying. When possible, an even better option for long-distance travel is to use more sustainable public transport options such as trains or buses.
However, if your destination is too far to drive or not reachable via other methods, you can offset the emissions from your flights via our website. At the same time, you will be supporting our projects and the wide range of secondary benefits they provide. Our primary project for flight offsets is GEC Organic Composting here in the United States. You can purchase offsets to match the length of your flights to ensure you are sufficiently making up for the emissions of that journey.
Power at Home
As with adjusting transportation habits, making your home more energy efficient will decrease both your personal emissions and your utility bills.
A good way to reduce the cost of heating your home is to make sure your house has the proper insulation. This is particularly important around windows, water heaters, and pipes.
Programming your thermostat is another great way to reduce heating costs. Make sure air conditioners and heaters are turned off when you are not at home.
If possible, wear weather appropriate clothing indoors so you can reduce emissions by keeping your house a bit warmer in the summer and a bit cooler in the winter.
Check out the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions for further information on making your home more energy efficient.
Laundry is another easy area to make sustainable improvements. The majority of energy emissions from using a washing machine come from heating the water, so whenever possible, select colder water settings to reduce environmental impacts.
Line drying your clothing also significantly reduces the energy used to do laundry.
Most electronics draw power from a socket even when they are turned off, so the best policy for more sustainable appliance usage is to make sure that any items not in use are turned off and unplugged.
You can also plug electronics into power strips that can be switched off when not being used.
When purchasing new electronics and appliances, opt for those that are Energy Star rated for efficiency.
In 2018, the average person in the US produced nearly 5 pounds of waste per day, which is nearly 1 ton of waste each year. Changing our purchasing and discarding habits can help to reduce how much trash we produce.
Whenever possible, choose reusable items. You can bring your own reusable bags when you go shopping, and use travel mugs and reusable straws at coffee shops.
If an item is still usable, consider repairing it instead of throwing it away. Or if you no longer need an item, take it to a donation center so it can be reused by someone else.
You can also reduce your footprint by purchasing second hand items rather than buying new ones. Or by consciously choosing to purchase products that have minimal packaging or are made from environmentally friendly materials.
Find out how different materials can be recycled in your community and be sure to separate those items from your trash so they can be effectively recycled.
A quarter of global emissions come from food, and more than half of those emissions are from the production of meat and animal products. Our food choices have a huge impact on the environment, but you don’t have to go vegan to stay environmentally conscious in your dietary choices.
Eat Less Meat and Animal Products
Since animal agriculture creates such a huge portion of food-related carbon emissions, even slight reductions in animal product consumption can make a huge difference.
Try having a few “no meat” days per week, or consuming a plant-based diet where a majority of your calories come from plants and meat is consumed in smaller portions.
Reduce Food Waste
The USDA estimates that about 31% of food in the US is wasted. You can do your part to reduce this waste by making efforts to plan your shopping lists, making sure to use leftovers, not rejecting ugly produce, and bringing home leftover food when you eat out.
Buy Local and In-Season Foods
Buying foods that are locally sourced and in-season helps to reduce emissions from national and international food shipments.
Even if you are able to incorporate all of these suggestions into your routines, you will still have a carbon footprint, and chances are you won’t have lowered your emissions below the 2030 goal of 2 tons per year.
The only way to truly become carbon neutral is to balance out your remaining emissions through carbon offsetting, or contributing financially to projects that decrease greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere.
Carbon offsetting is easy to do and can be quite affordable for individuals, with many projects costing less than USD 15 per ton. You can start offsetting your emissions by checking out the many excellent projects available through our offset store. Many people find it easy to begin offsetting specific activities, such as emissions from a flight, or shipping for online shopping purchases.
Now you have the resources you need to measure your carbon footprint, adjust your lifestyle to lower emissions, and offset your remaining emissions. In a race to preserve our beautiful planet, it’s important to remember that every effort to reduce carbon emissions is a step in the right direction.
The Carbon Credit Capital team is always here to answer your questions and support you in achieving your sustainability goals.