So far, 160 countries have pledged to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases by 2025 or 2030. Whilst this is an improvement there is still a long way to go to restrict the rise in the global average temperature to no more than 2C.
Warming of about 2C creates dangerous risks such as rapid sea level rise or the release of methane from gas hydrates in the ocean that could prove catastrophic, potentially causing millions of people to move from coastlines and more extreme weather. This will mean more migration and more refugees.
The next 20 years is of unique importance to world history. If cities are polluted, congested and inefficient, they will be terrible places to live in.
So how can you help to make your future more sustainable, more secure and more prosperous? Everyone has a responsibility to reduce their individual carbon footprint, and there are lots of ways to do so. Think about your lifestyle decisions and find opportunities to reduce your climate impact. Here are some good ways to start.
Reduce the Carbon Footprint of Your Car
Drive better - Studies have shown up to 30% of the difference in miles per gallon is due to driving habits alone. You could save more than a ton of CO2 per year by:
- Accelerating slowly and smoothly
- Driving the speed limit
- Maintaining a steady speed
- Anticipating your stops and starts
- Tires - Keep your tires properly inflated (just this can save 400-700 pounds of CO2 per year)
- Household fuel efficiency - If your household has two cars and one is used mostly for commuting, make the commuting car a real gas sipper if you can’t for both.
Reduce the Carbon Footprint of Your Travel
A lot of our emissions come from just being inefficient or not deliberate with our daily decisions. Every day think about how you could reduce the miles you drive and pretty soon you’ll start identifying lots of opportunities:
- Combine your trip with another.
- Carpool - Just once a week saves 20%.
- Check out your transit options - It may not work for you every time, but use it when it does
- What about your bike? - Get in shape, too!
- Only a mile? – Walk
- Think it through - Do you need to take this trip at all?
- Get it on the Internet
- Optimize - Save this trip for later and combine with another
- Telecommute - Work from home occasionally
Reduce the Carbon Footprint of Your Air Travel
- Think about the trip - Can you combine it with another or get more done on one trip?
- Train - For some trips the train may be a good choice for you.
- Fly nonstop - Nonstop flights are better than connecting flights (for many reasons)
- When you get there - Do some research ahead of time to find better ground travel options (shuttles, transit, trains, etc.) at your destination
- Lodging - Ask your hotel about their environmental commitment and steps they’re taking to reduce, offset
- While you’re away - Turn your stuff off. Turn down your thermostat and your water heater; turn off your electronics (even smarter: unplug them to protect from electrical storms). What’s the point of things being on with no one there?
- More tips - Take a look at these green travel tips
Reduce the Carbon Footprint of Your Home
- Lighting – Energy saving lightbulbs save more than 2/3rds of the energy of a regular bulb.
- Insulation – Weather stripping, caulking and insulation work together to save you energy, improve the comfort of your home, make it quieter and help you save money.
- Water-Conserving Showerheads & Toilets – You can reduce water and heating costs, even in your bathroom. To save even more water, turn the tap off when brushing or shaving. These simple changes and steps can save many thousands of gallons of water annually.
- Appliances – Always pay attention to the total lifetime cost, including energy—not just the price tag.
- Solar – We love solar, but make sure you reduce your energy load first to keep your costs down.
- Enable your power management - so your computer and monitor shut down.
- Do you need to print?- Consider saving a file on your computer, in a flash drive or emailing it
- Double-side print - Saves paper too
- Open up - If you have windows you can open, use them to intelligently save energy.
- Turn ‘em off - Only use the lights you need. If you’re using your computer you may not need your office lights on too
Reduce the Carbon Footprint of Your Life
Only 40% of the average person’s carbon footprint is due to their direct energy use. The other 60% is indirect; it comes from everything we buy and use—goods and services. Pay attention to your consumption and waste habits, and you’ll find lots of opportunities to conserve.
Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
- You’ve heard it before, but it’s still great advice. Manufacturing products produces an average 4-8 pounds of CO2 for every pound of manufactured product
- Buy locally if possible. Shipping burns fuel. A 5-pound package shipped by air across the country creates 12 pounds of CO2 (3 ½ pounds if shipped by truck)
- Eat less meat. If you’re already a vegetarian, you save at least 3,000 pounds of CO2 per year compared to meat eaters. If you’re not a vegetarian, just increase the number of vegetarian meals you eat each week by one or two. Also, poultry is less greenhouse gas intensive than beef
- Don’t waste food. About one-quarter of all the food prepared annually in the U.S., for example, gets tossed, producing methane in landfills as well as carbon emissions from transporting wasted food.
For more information and to keep up to date with the international climate campaign, visit Friends of the Earth.