A Beginner’s Guide to Reducing Your Carbon Footprint and Living More Sustainably. Your carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases that are generated by your actions.
Let’s break that down. What are greenhouse gases?
Greenhouse gases absorb and emit radiant energy from the sun but prevent heat from leaving the atmosphere, causing the “greenhouse effect”. The earth needs greenhouse gases and without them, our planet would be too cold1. But our human activities are adding too much of these gases to the atmosphere causing global warming, climate change, and air pollution2. Common greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, which is the gas most emitted by humans, methane, nitrous oxide, and water vapor3.
Different actions and activities lead to the emission of different greenhouse gases; however, the main sources worldwide are deforestation, fossil fuel combustion, and livestock farming3. Dozens of countries at the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) have committed to net zero emissions by 2030 to curb global warming and fight climate change. The Australian Government has shown an irresponsible lack of urgency by only adopting the net zero by 2050 pledge and not increasing any short-term 2030 targets or climate policies and emissions but instead protecting the interests of Australia’s fossil fuel industries.
If this news, had you stressed out, you’re not alone! But we can still take action to reduce our carbon footprint, which is mainly an accumulation of our choices of transportation, food, products, and energy use. By making some of these small changes to our everyday habits, we can make a big difference in protecting and improving our environment.
Here are our top five tips to reducing you carbon footprint:
Drive less and take public transport more, or better yet, ride a bike to get from A to B! BGoing carless for a year could save about 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide4, plus it’s a great way to get exercise into your day.
Thankfully, there are now more affordable electric vehicles on the market, which offer a low-carbon alternative. So, if driving is essential to you, it may be worthwhile thinking about investing in an electric vehicle.
Buy and eat less meat and replace with more plant-based food! The production of meat, in particular red meat, uses a lot of water, land, and crops. The livestock industry is a massive cause of deforestation globally and makes up for one-third of the world’s total land5! The industry is responsible for releasing enormous amounts of carbon dioxide and is the second-largest polluter after the electricity industry5. Farming practices producing vegetables, grains, and legumes use far fewer natural resources and produce substantially fewer greenhouse gases.
Reduce your waste. When you throw food in the bin, it goes to landfill and starts to breakdown, producing the greenhouse gas, methane. Some simple solutions to reduce your food waste, include meal planning and writing weekly shopping lists to avoid over-purchasing, reusing leftovers in inventive ways, and freezing food with dates written on so you know when to eat it. Composting your food scraps is also a great way to give plant nutrients and carbon back to the earth through the soil.
It’s commonly known that single-use plastics is a huge source of pollution and landfill, with some problematic single-use plastics like cutlery and straws set to be banned in Victoria by 2023, finally! Going completely plastic-free can be daunting, especially when so many of our daily essential items are made from plastic or come in unnecessary plastic packaging.
Here are some easy first steps to limit your plastic waste:
- Bring your reusable cup when buying your coffee.
- Explore and shop at your local farmer’s market.
- Keep smaller reusable produce bags in your shopping bag.
- Invest in beeswax or silicone wraps instead of cling film.
- Make your next toothbrush purchase a biodegradable bamboo one.
- Switch to bar soap instead of liquid soap.
- Collect you’re the soft plasticsthat you can't avoid and recycle at your local supermarket.
- Read and learn the Plastics Identification Code so you can recycle your plastics correctly in your council bins.
Dress more sustainably by shopping for quality clothing at op shops and vintage stores, which can also be found online! When you do shop new, try to avoid fast fashion and seek out brands that are committed to sustainability. Fast fashion is pretty much how it sounds, large quantities of clothing produced quickly, cheaply, and unsustainably, which has changed the way people buy and dispose of clothing6.
The fast fashion industry has huge environmental impacts, including an enormous percentage which gets sent to landfill, the growth of water-intensive cotton, toxic chemicals, and pollution6. Sadly, the industry is also responsible for using discrimination and violence to exploit workers in under-resourced communities7.
The Ethical Fashion Guide (link- https://baptistworldaid.org.au/resources/ethical-fashion-guide/) is a handy tool to browse brands that are actively protecting their workers and the environment!
Reduce your home’s energy usage by turning off lights and appliances when not in use, reducing the amount of heating and cooling you use, and making the switch to greener electricity suppliers.
Hopefully, this inspires you to incorporate more of these small changes into your day-to-day living to support present and future generations.
- Thompson L. G. (2010). Climate change: the evidence and our options. The Behavior Analyst, 33(2), 153–170. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03392211
- Margaret Rosso Grossman, Climate Change and the Individual, The American Journal of Comparative Law, Volume 66, Issue suppl_1, July 2018, Pages 345–378, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcl/avy018
- Cassia, R., Nocioni, M., Correa-Aragunde, N., & Lamattina, L. (2018). Climate Change and the Impact of Greenhouse Gasses: CO2 and NO, Friends and Foes of Plant Oxidative Stress. Frontiers in plant science, 9, 273. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2018.00273
- Seth Wynes and Kimberly A Nicholas 2017 Environ. Res. Lett. 12 074024
- Dopelt, K., Radon, P., & Davidovitch, N. (2019). Environmental Effects of the Livestock Industry: The Relationship between Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behavior among Students in Israel. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(8), 1359. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16081359