How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint: Be Carbon Neutral in One Week!

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

August 18, 2021

With greenhouse gas emissions wreaking havoc our planet’s oceans, ecosystems, and life, many people ask themselves how to reduce carbon footprint? It might seem like a daunting task, since everything we do, from surfing the internet to picking up fast food, generates carbon dioxide. And although the planet is designed to absorb it… our modern lifestyles are pumping out way too much.

Because we need to balance our carbon emissions (and ecological footprint) with what the world can handle, it’s crucial that we start to rectify the situation… by becoming carbon neutral. Fortunately, there are some simple things that you can do right now to lower your environmental impact and reduce your carbon footprint immediately.

Measure Your Personal Carbon Footprint Now

Pie graph showing the energy use of household appliances (non energy star). Clothes dryer coming in at 35%, refrigerator 28%, clothes washer 27%, and dishwasher 9%.

How to Be Carbon Neutral: Eliminate Carbon Emissions at Home and Abroad

You know that every day you are generating CO2 emissions. Your car and your home are the biggest polluters, but other things like the food you eat and the products you buy all contribute to the whopping 20 ton yearly average held by the average American. Twenty tons is HUGE! That amount of carbon requires 20,000 square meters of rainforest to ‘clean’ from the atmosphere.

(Want to skip ahead to a Carbon Offset solution now? Click Here)

What It Means to Be Carbon Neutral: Definition (Can I Really Be Carbon-Neutral? 3 Practical Ways)

Learning your environmental footprint is the first step to eliminating your impact on the planet and having a ‘net zero’ carbon amount. And although complete neutrality is the goal, using our vehicles for work, powering our homes, and buying groceries are all essential tasks, so it can seem difficult to have a balance. Thankfully, it isn’t.

All of these activities can be “offset” (CO2 can be erased) with a variety of techniques, including small tasks you can take today (which will also save you money), to larger lifestyle changes. In addition to carbon offsets, you can use the following three tips to reduce the global footprint (and your own).

Step 1. Control Your Transportation Emissions (Cars/Boating)

Beginning in 2016, emissions from transportation (29%) in the United States exceeded those from electricity. In order to reduce that amount, we can:

  • Walk, bike, or use public transportation, when possible.
  • Increase fuel efficiency through regular vehicle tune-ups, and maintain tires at their correct pressure.
  • Avoid idling vehicle engines and do not accelerate or decelerate quickly.
  • Consider replacing a petrol-fueled vehicle with a hybrid or fully electric vehicle.
  • Combine errands so that you reduce the amount of driving time.

Step 2. Consider the Impact of Your Food

Food plays a large part in your carbon footprint calculation. In addition to the packaging, there’s the transport, the energy used in production, plus the ecological impact.

Calculate Your Food Footprint Here.

The production of meat and dairy contributes approximately 14.5 percent of total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Livestock utilizes large quantities of water, food, and land, and they also produce methane, a greenhouse gas, through their excrement. Additionally, grazing land is often created through deforestation, thereby reducing the earth’s ability to remove emissions from the atmosphere.

All of this combines to make the ecological footprint of your food a big part of your household’s impact. Studies indicate that anywhere from 10-30 percent of an American household’s carbon footprint is food, with the higher percentages directly related to lower-income.

How Reduce Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Food

There are a number of things you can do to lower the carbon emissions of your diet. One of the easiest is to alter your intake of meats and dairy. Doing so can reduce carbon emissions from diets by 35 percent. Even skipping meat for one meal a day can make a big difference to the planet.

  • Purchase food with limited packaging: Those individual bags of chips might be easier to pack in lunch boxes, but the extra CO2 emissions they generate aren’t worth it!
  • Only buy what you need and freeze leftovers: This helps reduce waste and saves you money.
  • Compost organic materials, such as unused vegetable stems, coffee grounds or spoiled food.
  • Buy local produce from farmers markets: These products typically travel shorter distances, which means slightly less emissions.

Does Eating Local Reduce Carbon Footprint and Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

Many people wonder if buying local really helps the environment and the answer is simple… Absolutely!

Since the produce is grown locally, there aren’t any emissions tacked on from transportation. Imagine how much fuel it takes to send your head of lettuce from Mexico, compared with the veggies you buy that were driven across town. And, this is true for all sorts of consumables. Buying from local small businesses that create their own products is a great idea.

Is There a Way to Erase Ecological Impact?

Many people wonder “what does your ecological footprint measure?” An ecological footprint is defined as the resources required (and used) for existence, in relation to the resources the planet has available. Basically, it means the land and all the other resources Earth has, minus the part we all use.

You can get an ecological footprint for yourself, your town, your state or your country, but the sad truth is that since 1970, people have been consuming and using more resources than the world can regenerate. Right now, it would take 1.75 earths to provide the resources to cover what humans use.

Step 3. Simple Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint at Home

As an ecological footprint example, 28 percent of emissions in the United States come from the energy sector, largely from the burning of fossil fuels including coal, oil, and natural gas. In the home, these simple things can improve ecological footprinting:

  • Turn off lights that are not in use and unplug items from the wall.
  • Reduce laundry to two full loads per week using cold water and air-dry clothes instead of using a dryer.
  • Replace old bulbs with energy-efficient light bulbs, seal windows and door frames (or replace with energy efficient upgrades), insulate attics and external walls to use less heat in the winter and less cooling in the summer.
  • If the option is available, choose a renewable (green power) electricity supplier.

How to Reduce Your Flight Travel Carbon Footprint

It can be difficult to travel and stay carbon neutral, especially because the average footprint from aviation is responsible for 2.5 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. Although this sounds small, it can make up a large portion of a personal eco footprint. If possible, opt-out of airplane travel and take a train!

Otherwise, choose long flights with few connections as the take-off portion of the flight consumes the most jet fuel. If renting a vehicle during travel, look for the Smart Way symbol, which represents the Environmental Protection Agency-approved most efficient vehicles.

Bonus: Going Proactive: The Best Way to Reduce Your Footprint

Some of the best ways to reduce your CO2 emissions include using carbon offset programs that focus on forestry, as well as supporting sustainable businesses and choosing eco-friendly products.

Forestry Carbon Offsets

Trees provide numerous benefits to the environment by reducing atmospheric temperatures, reducing soil erosion, and sequestering (removing) carbon from the atmosphere. In fact, these ‘carbon sinks’ are crucial for the health of the global ecosystem. A forestry offset allows you to plant trees to erase the carbon from specific tasks or even a certain time frame.

You can certainly plant trees around your home, but to erase the carbon emissions generated by the average American, you’d need to plant a lot… like 20,000 square meters’ worth.

However, vegetation around the house will improve energy efficiency (lowering your heating and cooling bills), so it’s certainly worth it.

Plus, programs like 8 Billion Trees (and other reputable carbon offset providers) do more than just sequester your CO2. These organizations help conserve existing forests and provide wildlife habitat restoration and protection.

Chart displaying the average person is responsible for 20-24 tons of emissions and amount of emissions caused by flights (1.1 ton of CO2), 10 miles of road travel (7.9lbs of CO2), and laundry appliances (7.3lbs of CO2).

Eco-Friendly Products

Overall, humans must consume less to reduce the global ecological footprint. Whenever possible, grab secondhand items from thrift stores or look for items made with sustainable materials, such as bamboo or hemp.

Appliances and other products with an Energy Star symbol means the product upholds United States standards for energy efficiency. Also, look for products that include recycled packaging and materials, and those that are shipped using eco-friendly methods.

Searching Out and Supporting Sustainable Companies

Many people do not realize the power they hold with their money and what they chose to buy. Conducting research on sustainable companies and purchasing their goods is a ‘vote’ for companies that are green-conscious and support sustainability and free trade.

Right now, the climate is telling us that something needs done. From severe wildfires to extreme tropical storms and unexpected blizzards… reducing carbon emissions is our duty.

Can you really be carbon neutral in one week… You bet! Click here to get started now!