How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Your carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced from your lifestyle. The carbon footprint of specific products or services can be determined by calculating the total emissions released into the atmosphere over the course of their life cycle. The yearly carbon footprint of the average global citizen is around 4 tons. In the United States, it’s closer to 16 tons.

Why is your carbon footprint important?

Human-created GHG emissions are the largest contributor to climate change, which is the biggest threat facing the world today. Global shifts in temperature and weather patterns have resulted in catastrophic impacts to the environment and human populations. Climate change drastically impacts the natural world and human health, and it’s already impacting your local community. To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we must reduce our emissions to help keep our planet livable for future generations.

What is your carbon footprint?

Most aspects of your daily routine create emissions and impact your carbon footprint. Some actions have a higher carbon footprint than others. Lifestyle choices that have the greatest impact on your personal carbon footprint include transportation, energy use, and diet.

Tools like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Carbon Footprint Calculator can help you measure your impact. You can also use the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies to better understand your emissions in concrete everyday terms. For example, a carbon footprint of 16 tons is equivalent to burning 17,685 pounds of coal or charging 1,946,282 smartphones.

How can you reduce your carbon footprint?

Simple changes can lower your carbon footprint and help combat the climate crisis. Here are ways to take action.

Choose clean energy.

Electricity production is the third largest contributor to GHG emissions in California. By choosing clean energy, MCE’s customers have eliminated almost 500,000 metric tons of GHG emissions.

How to take action:

  • If you are an MCE customer, opt up to Deep Green 100% renewable energy at your home or business.
  • If you opted out of MCE, return to MCE’s Light Green 60% renewable energy service, or opt up to Deep Green for 100% renewable energy.
  • Support local businesses that run on 100% renewable energy.

Improve energy efficiency at home.

Improving the energy efficiency of your home is one of the easiest ways to reduce GHG emissions from electricity, which currently accounts for around 14% of GHG emissions in California.

How to take action:

  • Switch to energy-efficient electric appliances that produce fewer pollutants compared to traditional gas appliances.
  • Unplug vampire appliances that drain energy even when they aren’t used. Take advantage of power strips with an on/off switch to control the energy usage of multiple devices at once.
  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with LED bulbs, which use 70−90% less energy.
  • Upgrade appliances that are 15 years or older to energy-efficient models. When evaluating your choices, look for ENERGY STAR® certified models for air conditioners, stoves, refrigerators, and water heaters.

Commute sustainably.

The transportation sector is the largest source of GHG emissions in California, accounting for almost 40%. Transportation is also a leading cause of air pollution, which leads to thousands of deaths and childhood asthma cases every year in the Bay Area.

How to take action:

  • Switch to an electric vehicle and charge it with 100% renewable energy.
  • Walk or bike instead of driving your car.
  • Carpool or take mass transit to reduce the number of cars on the road.

Eat sustainably.

Food accounts for 10-30% of a household’s carbon footprint. Emissions from the food sector can be attributed to land-use change, farming, processing, transportation, and more. Over 50% of food-related emissions come from animal products.

How to take action:

  • Cut down on the amount of meat in your diet. Give meatless Mondays a try!
  • Buy food locally to reduce the emissions associated with transporting food.
  • Choose food that comes in no packaging or sustainable packaging.

Fly less.

Airplanes emit GHGs and water vapor into our atmosphere, both of which contribute to climate change. In 2018, 9% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions came from aviation. A round-trip flight between Los Angeles and New York generates around 1535 pounds of CO2, which is more than the CO2 emissions produced by the average person in 50 countries in an entire year!

How to take action:

  • Explore options to travel locally.
  • Choose direct flights.
  • Opt to travel via a fuel-efficient vehicle or train when possible.
  • Choose airlines that prioritize fuel efficiency.

Reduce waste.

When organic material breaks down in landfills, it emits methane and other GHGs that contribute to climate change. Plastics made from oil, coal, and natural gas also contribute to emissions. In 2018, the United States generated 35.7 million tons of plastic, of which only 8.7% was recycled.

How to take action:

  • Compost food waste. Visit your local waste hauler’s website to learn what is and isn’t compostable in your area.
  • Invest in reusable products like shopping bags, straws, utensils, and water bottles.
  • Reduce packaging waste by buying in bulk or buying products in paper packaging that you can compost or recycle.

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