Everything you do has an impact --- positive or negative --- on the environment. That's the concept behind your carbon footprint, which is one method of measuring the environmental effect of your lifestyle. A carbon footprint, measured in tons, indicates the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are produced as a result of your daily activities. You can reduce your footprint by changing the way you live your life. Even seemingly tiny changes can make a significant difference.
Measure Your Footprint
You can use one of many online calculators to find out what your approximate carbon footprint is. You will be asked to estimate your energy usage (most electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels, which produces greenhouse gases). You'll also need to input the make and year of your car or its fuel efficiency, and the total miles you drive per year. Your food choices are also a contributing factor. You should determine how your food is raised and processed and how far it travels to reach your table. You will certainly be asked about your recycling, composting and waste habits. The environmentalist adage "reduce, reuse, recycle" is designed to reduce greenhouse emissions and other environmental blights.
Reduce Energy Use
The easiest way to start reducing your carbon footprint is to cut back on your power needs at home. Replace the incandescent lights in your house with compact fluorescent bulbs. Weatherize your home and turn off heaters and air conditioners when you don't need them. In fact, turn off and unplug all your appliances when they aren't in use. That includes your computer and your TV. Turn off unneeded lights, and use natural daylight when possible. If you're serious about reducing your footprint and can afford the investment, consider redesigning your house or installing solar panels to make your home more energy-efficient without sacrificing comfort.
Aggressive driving, including speeding, hard braking and rapid acceleration, can lower your highway gas mileage by up to 33 percent (see References 3). Slow down, drive safely and avoid high speeds. You'll save money on gas, and lower your footprint in the process. Combine several errands into a single trip when possible. Remove any extra weight from your car, unless it's a coworker or friend you can carpool with. If you live in the city, consider forgoing traffic jams altogether and taking public transportation instead. Always keep up with your maintenance, so your car runs cleanly and efficiently.
Your food choices don't just affect your body --- they affect the environment too. In addition, making deliberate food choices based on local, seasonal ingredients can help support the producers who make that food possible. Choose organic and fairly traded food when you can, and support your local farmers by buying from farmers markets. Grow your own vegetables in your garden, and compost your scraps. Avoid wasting food, and choose products with eco-friendly packaging.
An award-winning blogger, Jessica Blue has been promoting sustainability, natural health and a do-it-yourself attitude since graduating University of California, Berkeley in 2000. Her work, seen in a wide variety of publications, advocates an environmentally-responsible and healthy lifestyle.
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