How to Reduce your Carbon Footprint at Home
Are you wondering how on earth to make your home emit less carbon? We promise — it’s actually not that hard. As long as you know how to make earth-conscious decisions when it comes down to it, you can transform your home into an eco-friendly oasis of sustainability in no time.
Not every impactful change has to be as big as adding solar panels to the roof of your home. That’s great, but it is also not feasible for everybody.
Still, there are also so many small yet meaningful changes you can make at home. This can be as simple as turning items off when you’re not using them, doing your laundry in a more eco-friendly way, and so much more.
Are you ready to take the plunge into making your home a more sustainable version of itself? Keep reading for 10 simple ways to reduce your carbon footprint.
Turn electronics off when not in use
t seems so simple, but the American statistics for electricity use tell a different story. In fact, they are downright alarming. According to theU.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. residents used 10,399 kilowatt-hours (for an average of 867 kWh per month) annually as of a 2017 report.
That’s a whole lot of electricity. In fact, if you want an exact breakdown of Americans’ electricity usage, this is where all of it goes. The below figure — taken fromU.S. Energy Information Administration — shows that the biggest named category of electricity usage comes from cooling and air conditioning. In fact, cooling and air conditioners account for 14.7 percent of U.S. electricity usage. The second-highest category for electricity usage in the U.S. is space heating (so, think using ACs in summertime and space heaters in wintertime) at 14.2 percent.
The largest category is the one undisclosed and tapped as “other miscellaneous uses.” Other miscellaneous uses, according to the USEIA, accounts for 31.5 percent of electricity usage in the U.S.
- Cooling/air conditioning—14.7%
- Space heating—14.2%
- Water heating—11.9%
- Televisions and related electronic equipment—4.3%
- Clothes dryers—4.1%
- Computers and related equipment—1.8%
- Heating equipment fans and pumps—1.7%
- Clothes washers (excludes water heating)—0.7%
- Other miscellaneous uses—31.5%
So, what can we do? Based on these statistics, Americans should be making an effort to cut back on their electricity usage. This may sound difficult and to some, downright impossible, but there are many small ways in which you can reduce the amount of electricity you use.
For starters, unplug anything that is not in use. I know, I know, it’s so much more convenient to keep things like your TV, your phone charger, and your bedside lamp plugged in even when they are not actively in use. But chances are, you’re at work all day and if you are not even home, then there is really no reason for all these dormant (as in: not-in-use) electronics to be unnecessarily plugged in.
Shut off lights not-in-use
Lighting accounts for 6.2 percent of electricity usage in the U.S. and it’s arguably one of the easiest fixes to make around the home.
The next best thing you can do for reducing your electricity (which will do wonders for your electricity bill, by the way!) is turning off the lights. Seriously, it’s that easy? Yes! You would be amazed by how often people (why do I feel compelled to write “especially children” here?!) accidentally keep the lights on in a room they’re not using or say, in the middle of the day when lights are not necessary. You know, because of natural sunlight.
During the daytime, rely on natural sources of light if you can. If a light is on in a room not in use, turn the light off. This goes for small things like lamps and night-lights, too. It can be all too easy to leave them on and plugged-in 24/7, but it makes a big difference when you simply turn off all the lights that are not in use.
Hang your clothes to dry
According to the USEIA, clothes dryers account for 4.1 percent of electricity usage. That might not seem like a big number — but it can beso easily reduced! Reduce the amount of electricity your home uses by hanging up your clothes to dry instead of using the clothes dryer.
Of course, if you have some items that really do better in the dryer, then, by all means, use your dryer. I’m not saying shirk off your dryer forever and sell it on eBay. But you will find that in many instances, a clothes dryer simply is not necessary; in many cases, it’s a luxury.
If you can afford to sacrifice that luxury a couple of times a week, chances are you will be significantly reducing the amount of energy your clothes dryer uses weekly.
Compost your food scraps
Believe it or not, it’s not just about electricity, though reducing electricity consumption plays a big role. Another way you can make your home have a lower climate change impact is by choosing to “reuse” your food scraps.
I know what you’re thinking: How the heck do you “reuse” food scraps that otherwise would end up in the garbage? Well, the answer is relatively simple: You start composting.
Composting food scraps that otherwise would have made their way to landfill actually repurposes the food scraps. The scraps turn into soil because food is organic matter, which means it breaks down on its own. Most food is biodegradable, which means it breaks down in its natural environment.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 14.1 percent ofmunicipal solid waste produced in 2009 was made up of food scraps. That makes for a total of 34 million tons of food scraps in the garbage annually. That might not seem like a deal but when food scraps go to the landfill, they don’t really break down.
Sure, food is organic matter and it can break down naturally, but in landfills, scraps aredevoid of the necessary oxygen they need to break down. It happens anaerobically, but very, very slowly. In a compost situation with the right nutrients and oxygen levels food needs, food scraps break down much more quickly.
Don’t run the faucet while brushing your teeth
Colgate is sponsoring aSave Water Challenge that basically challenges people to turn the tap water off while brushing their teeth. As you brush each of your teeth with toothpaste and a toothbrush, the water does not need to be running.
Basically what Colgate wants you to do is take the pledge to turn off the tap while you’re brushing and only turn the water on to rinse off the brush.
According to Colgate, brushing your teeth this way can help you save up to 8 gallons of water per day, just by turning off the faucet while brushing. #EveryDropCounts.
Use a shower bucket
A what?! A shower bucket is an easy and efficient way to make your home more sustainable. In essence, a shower bucket is a bucket that sits in your shower and collects the excess water that comes out of the showerhead, the water that you do not use.
According to zero-waste blogger Kathryn Kellogg, who runsGoing Zero Waste, the water that a shower bucket collects can be used to either water your plants or to flush your toilet!
Switch to bar soap
Bar soap is always a better idea if you are trying to commit to a low-waste or no-waste lifestyle. Most conventional soap is full of yucky chemicals and additives — not to mention it comes in single-use plastic packaging. Reducing the amount of single-use plastic packaging can really do wonders for the planet.
That’s where bar soap comes in. Nowadays, there is a bar soap for virtually every other kind of soap you might need. Body soap, hand soap — even shampoo and conditioners now come in bars. You can find these either locally or at a zero-waste store likeLush.
Some bar soaps will still be packaged in single-use plastic, but it is possible to find “naked” versions. You can find these at Lush, at a local goods store, or even Whole Foods.
Grow your own food
Listen, you don’t have to go crazy. No one is saying it is your environmental obligation to plant a backyard garden or erect a greenhouse over night. If you can and want to do that, great! If that’s not really in your wheelhouse, you can do things on a very simplified scale that has a great environmental impact as well.
Even planting a few seeds at home is good for the environment. Not big on gardening? Try with something simple like herbs! Plant a few basil, rosemary, and thyme seeds at home in a planter on your windowsill. Not only are you eating locally — which is so, so good for the environmentandfor you — but you won’t have to buy the stuff from the supermarket, where it is likely wrapped in plastic.
Invest in Castile soap
Castile soap is an amazing zero-waste investment because a) it can be bought in bulk and b) it has innumerable uses around the house.
You canuse Castile soap for everything from washing the dishes, doing the laundry, mopping the floors, shampoo, body wash, face wash, shaving, window-washing, as a dog shampoo, and so much more.
With just one product replacing so much of the cleaning products that come in single-use plastic packaging, you will be eliminating so much plastic packaging… and all the harmful chemicals that often come with those products, too.
Make fair-trade purchases
There is a lot to digest when it comes to making sustainable purchases: There’s fast-fashion to think about, fair wages, chemicals and toxins, and so much more.
When buying products for your home, try your best to invest in fair-trade purchases. Items (of all kinds!) that feature a fair-trade certification have met a standard to make sure that the people that made these products were paid fairly, worked in appropriate and safe conditions, and so much more. When it comes to food, the fair-trade certification also tells you the food was made and grown with sustainable agriculture methods.
Some of these items could include coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, chocolate, and fruit. Even clothing and other knick-knacks can feature a fair-trade certification, particularly if the item has been imported from somewhere else in the world.
Making your home more sustainable should not feel like a chore. Really, you can do it over time with a bunch of small, impactful changes.