Environmental destruction is prominent in the media at present, but often we can associate being environmentally friendly with certain actions and products, for example, the combustion engine has been targeted for producing high emissions. What if you considered the fact that almost every lifestyle-related action we take has a carbon footprint attached to it? Meaning, it is almost impossible to live a modern lifestyle with a zero carbon footprint. However, if we can lessen our impact every little helps and small changes are a positive step in the right direction.
What is a carbon footprint? This phrase refers to the amount of carbon dioxide that is released into the environment as a direct result of a particular activity, individual, company or even community. For instance, food that we purchase from supermarkets has a carbon footprint fixed to it. The food requires resources to grow, harvest, package and transport it (Good Energy, 2019). Almost every commercial product that we purchase has a production cycle with a carbon footprint attached to it.
Here are five ways in which you can help to reduce your carbon footprint:
1. Cut Down on Meat Consumption
Greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural business’ that provide meat are an even bigger problem than fossil fuels (Huffington Post, 2019). Therefore, by lessening your consumption you can help to decrease the demand. Meat is not necessarily an obvious choice of culprit when it comes to environmental issues – and this is why it is important to remain informed.
Don’t forget to try to avoid processed meat and processed food in general. These are foods that have been packaged and altered since they were originally harvested, often containing chemicals that are as bad for the environment as they are our bodies. We must remember that in addition to using many chemical processes to package and conserve processed foods – transportation is also an issue. Sometimes these foods are transported thousands of miles to reach our plate! Where possible, try to buy locally sourced food or fresh food to cook rather than processed alternatives.
2. Walk More, Drive Less
Central London has introduced an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) which has been designed to discourage the most polluting diesel vehicles from driving into the city centre. The initiative is part of a long term plan to make the air in London cleaner for everyone.
Infact, any mode of transport other than driving is better for the environment! Being aware of each journey and its environmental impact can help you to be healthier; encouraging more exercise by walking, jogging or cycling – and lessening your carbon footprint in the long run.
3. Say No to Fast Fashion
Another vast contributor to the global carbon footprint is the fashion industry. We have created a culture of fast fashion, where consumers will purchase and repurchase on such a regular basis (especially with online orders being delivered to your door) that it has an extremely detrimental effect on the environment on a large scale. Fashions change so rapidly and this throwaway culture creates tonnes of unnecessary waste and unnecessary journeys to deliver the items.
But, before the clothes are even put to sale – many of the production techniques used are also bad for the environment. For example, bright colours, prints and fabric finishes are generally achieved using toxic chemicals. Textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of clean water globally, after agriculture (The Independent, 2019). Not to mention that due to high demand and retailers using cheap labour in alternative countries, corners are often cut during production when it comes to environmental policies.
Recycled content is the best option – shopping at car boot sales, vintage fairs, charity shops or organising a swap shop with friends or family. Another trend is to re-work old clothing into new items, whilst ensuring that you appropriately and ethically recycle your unwanted items as well.
4. Planting Shrubs, Plants and Trees
As we know, plants absorb carbon dioxide – a beneficial relationship for humans and the environment. This is why we often see reforestation and tree planting initiatives in an attempt to help the environment.
Even if you live in an apartment or flat in the city, you can have plants inside or have a miniature garden on your balcony (if you are lucky enough to have one).
5. Reduction in Home Energy
You can make a difference to your carbon footprint within your home, following these simple steps:
– Ensuring that you switch off lights, appliances and plugs when they are not in use. You can also switch old bulbs to energy saving ones – they aren’t much more expensive.
– Monitoring your thermostat, only switching on the heating and air con when absolutely necessary and setting a timer so that it isn’t on when you are not at home.
– Reuse and recycle. For example, if your washing machine breaks down and is deemed irreparable – ensure you dispose / recycle it appropriately, in a way that is environmentally friendly. If you contact your local council, they will advise the best way to dispose responsibly of the item in question.
A useful resource to monitor this and implement changes is the carbon footprint calculator available on The WWF website.
Michelle Whitney, BA (Hons)