There is so much discussion these days about carbon footprints. People are trying to reduce them, major corporations are offsetting them, governments are even trading for allowances for them. The problem is that while the discussion of how big and bad they are, it’s very rare you hear a discussion about what can actually be done about them. In fact, my circle of friends agrees that yes, carbon footprints are bad, but they can’t tell me clearly what a carbon footprint is or how they can reduce it. So, let’s start at the very beginning. A “carbon footprint” is defined as the amount of CO2 emitted by a particular person or group of people due to the consumption of fossil fuels.
Okay, so now that I know what it is, what can I do about it? The obvious answer is to drive less, or switch to hybrid and/or electric vehicles. We’ve all heard this lecture so many times we probably know it by heart: Carpool! Public Transportation! Bicycle to work! Buy a Prius! In theory I support all of these points; in practice I’m aware they aren’t always feasible. For example, I bought a car 2 years ago that is not a hybrid. (Sorry fellow greenies, it was a little out of my price point.) While living in the DC area I religiously either carpooled or took public transportation. It was awesome. But I no longer live there. I live in a place that has put minimal effort into public transit, and absolutely No One in my neighborhood (or the two surrounding it) work anywhere near where I work. According to what most people know about carbon footprints and how to reduce them, I am a terrible “environmentalist.”
In truth there are far more ways to reduce our carbon footprint than what many people realize, and it all starts at home. Did the apples or eggs in your fridge come from the “local” big chain grocery store? Try the farmer’s market instead; not only will you get a better price and help the local economy, but you’ll reduce your carbon footprint. The eggs, apples, and myriad of other goodies at the farmer’s market have far less packaging, and travel a far shorter distance, than the stuff at your local Giant Wiggly Lion.
Check out your household appliances. Three of the biggest culprits in your house are (in no particular order) the hair dryer, the fridge, and the T.V. Ladies, if you towel-dry your hair before picking up your blow dryer, and then use is on the “low” setting, you’re cutting both carbon emissions and hair damage. Keep your fridge at 37F and your freezer at 3F. Anything colder and you’re just wasting energy. As for the T.V, trade in just one hour a day of television for quality family time playing a board game or reading a book.
There are lots of other ways to cut your carbon footprint, you just have to look at the things around you. Turn off unnecessary lights, go “unplugged” for an hour each day (fully power down your digital devices while you’re reading or arguing over whether or not “zoink” is in the scrabble dictionary), wash your laundry on cold. The more we realize how much energy we use as individuals, the more we can do for each other as a society.