A Scientific Guide to Shrinking Your Carbon Footprint

Whether you lean left, right, or somewhere in between, environmental issues are, and deserve to be, nonpartisan. Sadly, evidence backed up by science often evolves into heated political arguments, leaving everyone far too angry to focus on what truly matters: our planet.

I’m not here to preach my position to anyone. If you’d like to me to share my thoughts on topics like hydraulic fracturing, coral bleaching, the agricultural industry, and climate change as a whole, I’m more than happy to engage in conversation, but for now, I’d like to use this platform to offer some simple solutions to a serious problem.

In this country in particular, people tend to be pretty wasteful. This waste, whether we like to admit it or not, is detrimental to the health of our planet. The bigger our carbon footprints are, the more damage we cause. By definition, a carbon footprint is a measure of the amount of carbon dioxide produced by a person, organization, or location at a given time. The average person in the U.S. produces roughly 20 metric tons of carbon pollution annually, battling China for the highest amount of carbon waste in the world. That’s nothing to be proud of. (To calculate your carbon footprint, click here.)

Image result for carbon footprint infographic
Stanford Kay

So below you’ll find a list of easy ways to conserve more, waste less, and reduce the size of your own carbon footprint. As the numbers demonstrate, living a more sustainable, eco-friendly life is in everyone’s best interest.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

This mantra can be used in your daily life if you really start questioning your actionsDoes the water really need to be running while you brush your teeth? Why did you just throw away three plastic water bottles, when you could be using a reusable bottle? Question the resources you’re using every day and see how you can reduce, reuse, and recycle them. Learn more here.

Eat less meat

While going vegetarian or even vegan is wonderful for the environment, I’d be foolish to think I could convince you all to do this. Eating less meat though, is entirely possible and hugely beneficial. Beef consumption is actually among the highest producers of carbon emissions overall, so even switching from beef to chicken is a massive step in the right direction. Skeptical? Check out this publication from the Climate Institute, or take a look at National Geographic’s “Before the Flood.” 

Image result for meat consumption and carbon footprint graphic
The Campus Kitchens Project

Utilize public transit

Transportation is another huge contributor to carbon emissions, so utilizing carpools, buses, subways, trains, etc., will not only clear up traffic congestion, but will also keep the streets clean of pollution.  If you do own a car, consider a hybrid or electric option. Click here to read U.S. News’ list for best hybrid and electric cars.

Compost

Instead of throwing your food scraps in the trash, why not compost them? Decaying fruit and vegetable produce is perfect for natural fertilizer, and there are many ways to do your part in this process. (Hint: You don’t need to be a farmer or own a farm to compost!) To learn about compost bins, drop off sites, and compost do’s and don’t’s, check out the links below:

http://www.recycleworks.org/compost/ 

https://www.grownyc.org/compost 

http://www.bhg.com/gardening/yard/compost/how-to-compost/

Support renewable energy

Solar is in right now, and while the upfront costs seem, well, costly, those funds come back around in the long run. It’s easy to shut the door on the salesperson who’s talking about something new and confusing, but take that opportunity to learn about renewable energy and its offerings. It may just be for you. Check out the pros and cons of solar below:

http://energyinformative.org/solar-energy-pros-and-cons/

https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/pros-and-cons-of-solar-energy.php

Learn more about climate change

The earth and our environment are undeniably complex. The issues we face today, tomorrow, and in our future are often times hard to grasp and frankly terrifying. Education gives power to the people and creates a platform for critical thinking and problem solving. This doesn’t mean you need to become a scientist, but you can share your knowledge with others and do your part to create a more sustainable future. If you don’t believe in me, or in climate change, how about NASA? 

Screen Shot 2017-10-28 at 9.36.34 AM.png
NASA

Use your voice 

Tons of environmental organizations are out there on the front lines making change. Engage, sign petitions, protest, donate, find involvement in any way possible. (And yes, while climate change should not be a partisan issue, sometimes it becomes one. It’s important to stand up for science and truth when necessary.) There is always something you can do. Here are a list of the organizations I frequently support and recommend:

To see how these organizations use funds, check out Charity Navigator.

Image result for people's climate march
The Huffington Post

I hope you’ll consider making some of the above changes if you haven’t already. We need to take responsibility for our actions, no matter how small they may seem. Only then will we see a sustainable future. It’s not too late to make a change.

“The Earth does not belong to man — man belongs to the Earth.” — Chief Seattle

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