There are fewer buzzier topics in the news these days than climate change. And the science speaks for itself: the temperate on Earth is now 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the late 1800s and is getting dangerously close to increasing to 1.5 degrees Celsius, which is the benchmark scientists say we must avoid.
While that increase may seem slight on paper, there is nothing subtle about the drastic effects a temperature change can cause. Increased temperatures cause dangerous heatwaves, destructive storms and permanent changes to our atmosphere, which affect everything from air quality to how crops grow. In fact, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2020 was the second warmest year on record.
This all sounds pretty scary, but just as humans helped create climate change, we can also help prevent it. Legislation efforts to prevent climate change are ongoing, but you don’t have to wait to make a difference in our planet’s future. Below are nine ways you can help reduce your carbon footprint and make an immediate impact on our home.
Adjust your thermostat
If you want to do something small, yet significant to help with climate change, take a look at the temperature in your own home. The less your furnace or air conditioner runs, the less energy they create, which is great for the environment and your budget!
So, think about how you use your heating and cooling and look for ways to use them at a lower temperature. Maybe you can use blankets and flannel sheets in the wintertime or utilize a natural breeze during summer nights. Or, if you have a programmable thermostat, adjust the temperature for bedtime or when you are not home. For example, the U.S. Department of Energy recommends keeping your thermostat set to 7-10 degrees back from its normal setting for eight hours a day.
Grow your own food
Gone are the days where you could only buy produce in-season. Nowadays, foods are shipped from all over the world, so you can snack on blueberries in the dead of winter or eat avocado toast all year round. But this convenience comes at a hefty cost: harmful fossil fuels are expended into the atmosphere to bring these foods to our table. By growing food at home, you can help reduce the impact on the planet and your grocery bill.
If you’re questioning how green your thumb may be, no need to worry! Plants such as tomatoes, radishes, zucchini and spinach are relatively easy to grow and maintain. Or you can start small with a few herb pots of kitchen staples like basil, thyme, oregano, parsley and rosemary. (Bonus: you can save money in the colder seasons by harvesting your herbs with these tips and tricks.) You can also visit your local farmer’s market to support your community and cut down on fossil fuels.
Try Meatless Mondays
When we sit down to enjoy a juicy burger, we probably don’t think too much about how much of a carbon footprint it left in the process. But the truth is that carbon emissions from livestock generate a large portion of our greenhouse gas emissions and the methane produced from animal waste warms the earth 20 times faster than carbon dioxide. Add in the emission from transport and we’re looking at a significant source of global warming.
You can help by mixing up your menu and dedicating at least one day a week to going meatless. Excluding just a quarter pound of beef in your diet a week for a year can save the equivalent of 348 miles of emissions made by a car. Plus, plant-based cooking has come a long way and your options extend far beyond a basic salad.
Rethink your logistics
The smaller carbon footprint we create, the better. So, think about the logistics of coming to and from your home and how you can help reduce emissions into the atmosphere. For example, you may be able to carpool with a friend or neighbor to the office or on your errand run. Or, when you order online, look for options that allow your items to be shipped at the same time. Every consideration like this can help keep one less car off the road.
If you are able, you can also consider walking or biking in your community. Several communities offer bike-share programs (or even zippier options like electric scooters) that you can rent for one-time use. Take a look at your community’s website to see what green-friendly travel options are available where you live.
Recycle the right way
If you recycle at home, you are already on the right track! In fact, many communities offer a recycling service that allows you to throw all recyclables into one container and have a third party sort them. However, it is important to be mindful of what is going into the bin. For example, certain items can’t be recycled. Look for a number on the packaging and refer to this guide to see what you can put in the bin.
In addition, recyclables that are not empty before going in the bin can slow down the system and actually create more waste. So, make sure you shake out those beverage cans and rinse out any condiment bottles or pasta sauce jars.
Turn your house into a green house
And no, we don’t mean fill it with potted plants like an Instagram photo. (Plants do offer many benefits, though!) But if you have the means to do so, it may be worthwhile to make some environmentally-friendly improvements to your home. These can include:
- Installing skylights for extra ventilation and energy savings
- Researching energy-efficient heating and cooling: look for the Energy Star Certification logo
- Planting pollinators for bees and butterflies
- Replace bulbs with energy-efficient LEDs
The bottom line: Climate change is scary, but we have the power to protect our planet. Going green at home can have a long-term impact, so look for ways you can cut emissions and save on energy.