Our daily choices and our carbon footprint can contribute to the health of our planet rather than harm it. Let’s calculate our carbon footprint and consider how much it can be reduced with simple choices! The New York Times defines “carbon footprint” as the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions that come from the production, use, and end-of-life of a product or service. The average carbon footprint for a person in the United States is 16 tons, one of the highest in the world. Globally, the average is closer to 4 tons. With a large and immediate concerted effort, we could cut black carbon emissions by 75% and methane emissions by 25% - and eradicate hydrofluorocarbons – all in the span of the next 25 years. We have the power and technology needed to combat climate change.
One day of sustainable choices can protect both our health and the health of the planet! We can choose to leave a positive impact on our environment. Here’s how you can choose sustainability in your everyday life, and how you can measure the difference that it will make.
A sustainable diet means choosing foods and products that have a positive influence on the environment. Production, processing, packaging, and transportation of food is highly dependent on the use of fossil fuels and chemical fertilizers.
If every American skipped one meat-based meal per week, the carbon dioxide savings would be equal to taking more than 500,000 cars off of the road. For every pound of meat not consumed, you could save as much water as six months of not showering!
How many water bottles do you consume in a day? Plastic bags? Single-use take-out containers?
We can reduce our waste by choosing and purchasing reusable items. Single-use plastics may be short-lived, but they will stay in landfills all over the planet for thousands of years. According to the EPA, an individual generates 4.51 pounds of waste per day! It’s easy to ditch plastic and purchase a reusable bag. The average reusable bag has a lifespan equal to 700 disposable plastic bags. One person using reusable bags throughout their life would save over 20,000 plastic bags from being sent to a landfill!
Before purchasing an item, consider the stages of production, from raw materials to the finished product on a shelf. Consider the resources, energy, method, and usage before purchasing a product. Converting raw or recycled materials into new products requires energy that depletes nonrenewable natural resources. When the products are transported, vehicles burn fossil fuels that release carbon emissions.
Using the product could also affect the environment, because when products need to be plugged in for electricity, they require energy. When the product comes to the end of its time, consider what parts may be reused and how to properly dispose of the product. Sustainable choices are based on the necessity of the item, not how much you want it! In fact, before you buy a new product, consider what consumption is necessary in the first place - it may be simpler to save your money and the resources involved in producing a new good.
Product Sustainability Checklist:
- Is the product energy and water efficient?
- What are the product's minimal life cycle costs?
- What is the minimal risk of toxic chemicals?
- Does it have a long product life?
- Does the company support sustainability efforts?
- What is the potential to refurbish or reuse the item?
- Does the company that produces it make verifiable environmental claims?
Making sustainable choices in your daily life can be a simple change to the way you already live. In the long run, these changes can add up to big improvements for our planet. Get started today, and subscribe to our blog for more ideas.