10 Simple Things You Can Do Right Now To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

by Wendy Wisner
Originally Published: 
Pavel Ilyukhin / Shutterstock

After two major back-to-back hurricanes that coincided with a catastrophic multi-day wildfire on the west coast, many of us are wondering WTF mother nature is so damn pissed about. Although scientists aren’t able to pinpoint one stand-alone cause, they are in agreement that climate change and global warming have an impact on the increased strength of natural disasters.

In an article about this very topic, Scientific American points to a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which consists of an independent committee of esteemed climate-change scientists from around the world. Their report lays bare the connection between climate change and an intensification of weather.

“A changing climate leads to changes in the frequency, intensity, spatial extent, duration and timing of extreme weather and climate events, and can result in unprecedented extreme weather and climate events,” the panel concludes.

Well, that sounds totally reassuring, right?

If you’re feeling like I am—sort of helpless in this matter, considering we have a president who basically believes climate change is a hoax—then it’s time that we all do our part to slow down climate change and reduce our carbon footprints. (Carbon footprint meaning that CO2 emissions from all kinds of junk we use every day is part of what is causing climate change, and reducing these emissions can help immensely).

And don’t worry: If you’re like me—totally unable to afford solar paneling or hybrid cars, and feeling like composting would just make you barf—I’ve got you covered. There are actually some pretty easy things we can all do to reduce our carbon footprints.

1. Avoid driving when possible.

Cars are among the worst when it comes to carbon emissions, and the fact that there are so many of them doesn’t help. So whenever possible, try to walk or bike to local places. Carpooling helps a ton too. You’ll be more fit, you’ll save money, and you’ll be loving on planet earth.

2. Insulate your home to save energy.

Seal your doorways and windows tight this winter, and try to keep your thermostat as low as possible. You’ll reduce your heating bill (score!), but you will also be reducing your reliance on electricity, which is often made by environmentally unfriendly energy sources.

3. Turn off the damn lights.

It’s so easy to forget this one, but turn off the lights whenever you leave the room (try to get your kids into the habit too). Replacing incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent or LED lights can also help conserve energy.

4. Eat local when you can.

Eating locally sourced food means that fewer trucks need to schlep your food across the country to you, thereby reducing the CO2 emissions from those gigantic vehicles. It’s been estimated that a whopping 13% of greenhouse emissions come from production and transportation of food, so this could make a huge difference.

5. Look for simple ways to conserve water.

Turn the faucet off when you’re in the middle of the dishes and your toddler needs a nose wipe. Take shorter showers when possible (luckily, most of us moms have that one covered). Whenever you need to purchase things like new shower heads or appliances, always pick the energy efficient ones. These little things add up.

6. Reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Almost everything you throw away can be recycled: it’s not just newspapers and bottles. Get yourself a nice big bin dedicated to paper and plastic, and go to town. Also keep in mind that the manufacturing of new products is one of our biggest energy zappers, so buy second-hand whenever possible.

7. Reduce your meat intake.

Many of you will gasp at this one, but I’m not saying you need to go vegan. The fact is that the meat industry is one of the biggest energy wasters. According to Denis Hayes and Gail Boyer Hayes, co-authors of Cowed: The Hidden Impact of 93 Million Cows on America’s Health, Economy, Politics, Culture, and Environment, eating a pound of beef has a greater impact on climate change than filling your car up with gas.

8. Go paperless.

“STOP SENDING ME JUNK MAIL!” That’s what you say every time you open the mailbox, right? Well, it’s not just annoying, but it’s bad for the environment. has some awesome tips for cutting down your junk mail. In general, you can also make a point to tell every company you work with to send everything digitally. Better for everyone that way.

9. Unplug your devices.

You really don’t need to have your chargers plugged into the wall all the time, even when your phones, tablets, and computers aren’t being charged. This uses up energy! You also don’t need to keep things charging past the 100% mark. I’m guilty of all of these things, but I’m gonna change that now, because it’s quick and easy.

10. Bring your own bags to the store and carry your own water bottle.

I’ve been using my own cloth grocery story bags for years now, and let me let you in on a little secret: not only does it save plastic, but they are much easier to carry and can hold so much more. You can get some pretty ones too, and they will make you happy. Same goes for water bottles: bring your own whenever possible. Get a reusable water bottle for each member of your family. It makes a difference.

See? That doesn’t sound too terribly hard, does it? And even if you can’t do them all, just making any small change is fantastic. If we all changed little things here and there, can you imagine how much of an impact that would have?

And don’t forget to support climate change organizations, and cheer on the scientists out there who are learning everything they can about this problem, and trying to educate the rest of the world about it. They are the real heroes and we need to heed their warnings with the utmost seriousness, and do what we can to prevent this problem from getting worse.

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