Monday, April 20, 2020

Reduce Carbon Footprint

Earth day 2020 is two days from today. With that being said, it seems only fitting to write a post about waste management and creating a better Earth for the next generation! .. lol I know... 

There are hundreds - probably thousands - of posts out there about reducing our waste and recycling more so sometimes I truly wonder why people do not take these practices more seriously? I choose not to ponder this question for too long though because I know I'll never have that answer.

I know everyone leads their own life and can live however they choose to so I'm not here to dictate anything. If you find yourself reading this post, I have to believe it is because you truly wish to make a difference in your routine habits for the better.

If that is the case then I hope to get you started on the right foot! Perhaps you may have heard a term float around before but haven't quite understood what it means - the word is carbon footprint. What exactly is a carbon footprint, how is it measured, and why is it important?

Before we even discuss ways to reduce our waste, choose to recycle and change our habits, we have to first see how that impacts our carbon footprint. And to do that we need to know what a carbon footprint is.

What is a Carbon Footprint? 

A carbon footprint is essentially a measurement of how much carbon dioxide and other equal gases are released into the atmosphere given the choices of our activities. This can be measured a number of different ways, based on individual activities, the activities of a family, business activities and even on the state and national levels.

Measuring Carbon Footprint 

To measure your carbon footprint can be a bit tricky but fortunately, there are some nice online calculators out there that make it a bit easier. What they do is take into account everything that you interact with that could lead to some kind of emission. What kinds of food you eat (we'll talk about this one later!), how often you drive and what kind of car you use, do you travel often - especially by plane - what kind of products you buy, and so on. 

The carbon footprint is measured in metric tons of Carbon Dioxide and on average, for an individual in the United States, it's about 16 tons per year.

Why should you be concerned about this number? 

Some gas emissions are completely natural, but most - and I mean a great majority - are based on our own activities. These emissions lead to pretty detrimental impacts on our planet and atmosphere causing global warming. As I mentioned previously, the American average per person is 16 tons per year. For a healthy planet, we need to reduce that down to around 2-4 tons per person. 

So as you can see, we have a long way to go! 

Do not let that scare you though. Reducing our impact is something that needs to be done. It's not that it should be done - it needs to be done. We have science on our side which is literally telling us to wake up and start taking action, so, it's time we start paying attention. 

There is a lot that each of us can do every day that can help reduce these emissions, to get you started I've created a list of some of the ways you can start working towards that today. 

Eat A No Meat Diet!

This is not one of those "vegans-trying-to-convert-non-vegans" pleas, this is a "we-need-to-save-our-planet" plea. Cutting down trees and converting forest land to farmland is a huge impact on greenhouse gases. Not to mention, the very nature of trees is to help maintain the Earth's temperature and atmospheric cleanliness so removing this natural biofilter seems kind of counterintuitive. 

Also, ruminant farm animals such as cows, sheep, and goats produce a lot of methane and their manure which gets reused as fertilizer continues to contribute to that release of gas into the atmosphere as well. 

In a fun little experiment, I decided to calculate my own carbon footprint using this online calculator. I did it once taking into account my vegan lifestyle and not purchasing any meat or dairy products and then I tried it again playing as if I was a heavy meat eater. The difference? A 46% increase in the size of my carbon footprint from being a vegan to being a meat-eater. 

Plant-based proteins such as nuts and legumes - all of which provide ample protein to any diet - can be farmed on much less land and do not need huge facilities (such as slaughterhouses) to prepare them for human consumption. 

In fact, in one study by Poore and Namecek (2018) when comparing meat products to plant-based products, the plant-based options were anywhere from 10-50 times lower in their gas emissions. If you are interested in checking out the full study, please click here.

To further help you in your journey to becoming vegan I've also written my 5 Tips To Going Vegan.

Shop Wisely! 

We all love to shop and have new things, but, we can all start by being more conscious about how we shop. Staying local is one of the best things you can do to help reduce your carbon footprint. Transportation such as a ship or plane that bring in imports from other countries leads to high emissions. Choosing to purchase products and food that are local reduces transportation and lowers your carbon footprint. 

Shop at your local farmers market for fresh produce and when you go, bring your own reusable shopping bag! I personally have one large tote bag that holds all the groceries I need and fits comfortably right over my shoulder so it's super easy to carry when it's all filled up. 

Clothing and textiles are something we all love - even I'm guilty of wanting to follow the latest trends - but when the trend is over and you're no longer interested in the clothes you have bought, look for places where you can donate them! Sending them to the landfill will cause an increase in emissions as they lay there to decompose... gross. 

Shopping for a new appliance? Check out appliances that are energy efficient and energy star rated! Many companies and even city and state localities offer rebates for getting high efficient products. An alternative could always be to purchase scratch-n-dent products. Though it may seem a bit like a sting to not have "top of the line, brand new" scratch-n-dent and open boxed products are usually just as good as a brand new product only they're cheaper and are being reused instead of being tossed with the rest of the trash to the landfill. 

Keep your home Eco-Friendly! 

Switch your light bulbs, this seems so last decade but it's still prevalent! The smallest adjustments in your home can make a world of a difference. Change your light bulbs. Get some energy-efficient windows so there's no heating/cooling loss in your home. Switch your faucets such as sinks and showerheads to low-flow to reduce the amount of water being used. Turn off your faucets when not using them such as while you're washing your hands or brushing your teeth. Open your curtains and turn off the lights; unplug electronics when not in use. 

These may all seem so minor but using less electrical energy and water both help to reduce your overall carbon footprint. 

Change your travel habits! 

This may be the hardest of them all because for some, changing our ways of travel simply may not be possible. If your office is in NYC but you have a meeting in San Francisco there is little to be done about your travel options. Planes have helped shape our global economy by making all parts of the world reachable, but jet fuel is a huge contributor to gas emissions. 

For those in more rural regions, a car is likely the only way to get around, so for you trying to stick with eco-friendly vehicles will be the biggest way you can reduce your carbon footprint. For urban city dwellers, you have more options! You can choose to walk or bike whenever possible and for those places that are a bit further to reach use forms of mass transit such as a city bus or train line.

If you think you're just one person & your actions don't mean anything... THEY DO! 

For so long I thought this. I thought I am one small human on this planet how can anything I do have any kind of impact? The impact that you have by changing your habits is that it sparks interest in others to change theirs. And then once those others change their habits, their friends and family will be interested in changing too. Eventually, because you chose to change your habits you created a domino effect on so many other people. 

Now you're not just one person, but you're a group of people - a growing bunch of people - all changing their habits to save the planet. It has to begin with one person... It has to begin with you!

Take care, my friends - Namaste

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