Change These 5 Habits to Dramatically Reduce Your Footprint
Everyone plays a role in reversing climate change. That said, you don’t have to take sweeping, dramatic measures like converting your whole home to solar to make an impact. Making minor alterations in your daily habits can dramatically reduce your footprint, even if a Tesla is financially out of reach.
What can you do to minimize your draw on the planet’s resources? How can you reduce emissions and live sustainably without you and your family feeling the pinch? Changing these five daily habits can dramatically reduce your carbon footprint.
1. How You Drive
Do you idle in the parent pickup line when the bell rings, concluding the school day? This habit wastes your money while contributing to climate change. Unless you drive a vintage vehicle, you’ll save more fuel and reduce emissions by shutting off your engine while you wait.
When was the last time you checked your tire pressure? Semi drivers know that driving conditions and temperature changes can affect the psi, impacting fuel efficiency. Properly inflated tires reduce drag and fuel consumption, so check yours once per month. Keep a tire gauge in your glove box and follow your manufacturer’s recommendations.
Maybe you have a bit of a lead foot. If so, consider this: Each five MPH over 50 is the equivalent of paying $.30 more for a gallon of gas. You can improve fuel economy by 7% to 14% by slowing down as little as five to ten MPH.
Finally, consider alternatives to driving when possible. E-bikes are blessings in the summer months. You get up to speed in no time, keeping you far cooler than climbing into an enclosed vehicle sitting in the sun. You also increase your daily movement quotient.
2. How You Heat and Cool Your Home
If you know anything about HVAC systems, you probably realize that heating and cooling your home takes the most energy out of all your appliances. It’s a good thing that there are multiple ways to dramatically reduce your footprint by changing simple habits, even if switching to solar isn’t in the cards.
Passive solar makes natural use of the sun’s energy to keep your home warmer or cooler. For example, you may use blackout curtains or shutters to block south-facing windows in summer, taking them down in the winter so that the rays can warm the space. This simple habit can make the difference between shivering in multiple layers while indoors or feeling plenty toasty.
Although ceiling fans don’t change the inside temperature, they make it feel much cooler by keeping air circulating. Changing the direction in the winter makes your HVAC work more efficiently, drawing warm air up from baseboard vents and keeping you from adjusting the thermostat.
Adjusting Your Thermostat
However, you may want to touch that dial. Adjusting your thermostat by one degree during the 8-hour workday saves you approximately 1% on your bill. While that may not sound like much, over time, the savings — and planetary impact — add up.
Changing Your Filters
Filters are expensive, you argue. Consider this: changing them every three months can save you up to $150 on your utility bill. Decent ones with high MERV ratings are less than $20 apiece, meaning you realize considerable savings even when calculating the replacement cost.
3. How You Eat
Your food choices affect your carbon footprint. Here are three simple daily habits to change to dramatically reduce it.
Reducing Meat and Dairy Consumption
Meat and dairy production accounts for nearly 15% of total greenhouse gas emissions. While you don’t have to switch to a fully vegan diet, gradually reducing your consumption will lower your carbon footprint. Start with meatless Mondays, acquiring a wellspring of recipes until meat becomes a rare indulgence. You can also opt for meats with a lower environmental impact, like poultry, fish and wild game.
Frequenting the Farmer’s Market
Foods at your supermarket get there via planes, trains and automobiles, which all create emissions. Your local farmer’s market sells organic produce at lower prices — and it comes from right down the road, keeping it carbon-friendly.
Cutting Back on Convenience Meals
Ultra-processed foods aren’t only a ticking health time bomb. They also pose significant environmental risks thanks to the energy used to produce them. Additionally, they contribute to excess plastic waste, like the cling wrap coating that invariably ends up in a landfill.
4. How You Work
People have varying degrees of control over their working environments. However, whenever possible, consider these factors in making your career decisions:
- Telecommuting’s huge benefits for the environment: Did you get the dreaded RTO email? If possible, fight hard for telecommuting and flexible work options. Daily commutes contribute to climate change by producing unnecessary emissions — while robbing you of valuable family time and promoting excess wear and tear on your vehicle. If you must return, make a case for doing so only a few days per week.
- Choosing an eco-friendly career: Is it time for a change? Perhaps you’re a new graduate considering your future. An eco-friendly career in environmental law, urban planning, marine biology or air quality consulting can marry your passion for sustainability with the necessity of earning a living.
- Going paperless: Today’s technology renders much printing obsolete. Going paperless also saves money on supplies. Proposing such a measure in your workplace might earn you high marks for budgetary efficiency — maybe even net you a promotion.
- Reuse and repurpose: Even those who don’t work in offices can adopt these principles. Retail stores can reuse cardboard shipping boxes instead of plastic bags for packing consumer goods. Construction sites can opt for materials like reclaimed wood. Fashion designers can reuse the fabric from unsold garments, transforming it into new creations.
5. How You Play
Finally, consider what you do for fun. How can you make it more sustainable?
Is it time to plan your annual family vacation? Calculate whether it’s more eco-friendly to drive or fly to dramatically reduce your footprint. Alternatively, consider a camping holiday. You’ll save money, introduce your kids to the importance of caring for the natural world and pickup a new skill or two along the way, like how to build a fire. Check out your local KOA and investigate glamping options if you dislike sleeping in a tent.
Keeping your trips closer to home also reduces your footprint. When you travel far from home, consider the eco-friendliness of your resort. Hotel features to look for include:
- Master switches: A single switch powers down all lights and the television when you leave the room.
- Single-use containers: Avoid those tiny plastic bottles, which contribute to landfill pollution and methane emissions. Opt for lodging with wall dispensers to decrease waste.
- Green building amenities: Look for hotels that go solar, eliminate plastic and use low-flow appliances to reduce water use.
Change Your Habits, Reduce Your Footprint
Dramatically reducing your carbon footprint doesn’t have to mean trading in your trusty old truck for a Tesla or covering your roof with solar panels. These measures are helpful if you have the money, but changing your daily habits can be just as effective.
Consider the five daily habits above and how you can make yours more eco-friendly. Your kids will thank you for securing a healthier future for their planet.