Investing in Community Energy is one great way to cause a positive impact in the world and in the struggle for a more environmentally friendly energy ecosystem but there are many more things you can do to contribute, among them taking steps to reduce your personal carbon footprint.
1. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle
This one is an oldie but that doesn’t make it any less true. Most manufactured goods produce anywhere between 4 and 8 pounds of CO2 for every pound of product so you should find ways to extend the life of the things you own as much as you can. The other thing you can do is ask yourself a simple question before buying anything: do I really need this? Is it going to make a big impact on my life? If the answer is no maybe you should consider not making the purchase. Ultimately, on a fundamental level, the three R’s are about consumerism. Being more environmentally-minded doesn’t require we live like cave-dwelling hermits, but a little reflection on our consumption habits is welcome. With Christmas right around the corner, the time of year in which we consume the most by far, it would be good if everyone remembered this.
2. Eat less meat
Mass production of meat, especially cows and pigs, is one of the biggest contributors to global carbon emissions. Breeding and raising animals is inredibly resource intensive, so much so that the production of one pound of red meat can generate up to 22 pounds of CO2, as well as methane and N2O. A large portion of this comes from producing the feed with which the animals are fattened, with each cow consuming thousands of pounds of feed over its lifetime. Reducing your carbon footprint doesn’t mean you have to become a vegetarian or a vegan, you can just reduce the amount of meat you eat on a weekly basis and you’ll be making a significant impact. The other thing you can do is replace red meat with chicken and other types of poultry where possible, as poultry farming has a much lower carbon footprint (6 pounds of CO2 per pound of meat). And even better, if you reduce your meat consumption you’ll be able to afford better quality when you do buy it. As you can imagine, grass fed beef raised in your area is less harmful to the environment than factory farmed animals that need to be transported long distances to get to your table.
3. Purchase local products where possible
Buying locally-made doesn’t only apply to meat, you can further reduce your carbon footprint by choosing local products over imports. From vegetables to soaps, clothing, furniture, or anything else you need. The shorter the distance a product has to travel to reach you the lower its carbon footprint will be. Another way to be mindful is to buy seasonal products. The agricultural industry wants everything to be available year round but if you’re finding mangos in northern England in January there’s a good chance they’ve traveled hundreds –if not thousands– of miles to reach you. Importing fruits and vegetables from Africa and Latin America is not environmentally sound and unfortunately all too common. There’s usually a price premium on locally produced products, so it’s not always possible to buy exclusively local, but doing a little bit is better than doing nothing.
4. Drive less and more efficiently
One of the easiest things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint is keep your car in its parking spot and use public transport instead. A good amount of work commutes and errands that people usually make in their personal vehicles can be made just as easily by bus or train, and if you purchase multi-trip tickets it can also be cheaper than driving. If you absolutely have to drive you can try to carpool with other people when possible. The biggest inefficiency of motor vehicles is that on any given day there are millions of cars making the same trips with only one or two people in them, when they could easily fit four or five. That means that each one of those people is enjoying the luxury of having his or her own personal combustion engine burning fossil fuel just for them. An image is said to be better than 1000 words, so have a look at the following picture by Seattle-based International Sustainable Solutions. It presents a very compelling case for making a more rational use of cars.
5. Use better lightbulbs, and make sure to turn them off when you’re out
This one seems obvious but too many of us forget to do it resulting in higher energy consumption and thus a larger carbon footprint. If you’re still using old, incandescent bulbs anywhere in your home you can switch to LEDs or CFLs (compact fluorescent bulbs). A 15W CFL or a 12W LED have a similar light output to a typical 60W incandescent bulb, while consuming 75% to 80% less energy, and having a much longer life expectancy. Most of us turn off the lights when we’re out of the house, but there are a lot of other appliances and electronic devices we can unplug when they’re not in use. Anything that has a little red standby light when not in use can be unplugged at night or when we leave for extended periods of time. Each one of these lights consumes very little electricity individually, but most of us have tons of them in our homes and we often leave them running 24/7 all year round. The effort you’ll have to make to correct this is minimal, and every little bit counts towards reducing your carbon footprint.