When it comes to the environment, the true cost of the energy we use to power our vehicles and homes is more than just dollars and cents. The energy we use releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which ultimately takes a toll on the health of the planet. A healthy planet maintains a balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the atmosphere so that all living things can breathe easily: plants use carbon dioxide molecules to “breathe” and in turn release oxygen for us to breathe.
However, the scales are tipping. As we replace forests with factories and release even more carbon dioxide into the air as a result of burning fossil fuels, we are upsetting the delicate balance. Today, there are not enough plants on earth to keep up with all the carbon dioxide that we are producing, but we have the power to change that.
Here are five strategies you might consider trying in order to help reduce your carbon footprint and help restore the balance:
Simple Step 1: Optimize Your Travel
Most Americans rely on cars to get around, which contributes greatly to our carbon footprints because they run on fossil fuels.
Did you know?
- According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “A typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.”
- The average American household spends over $2,000 on gasoline every year, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).
- Safe drivers use less gas than aggressive drivers! The more you stick to the speed limit, use cruise control, and make slow, infrequent stops, the less gas you’ll use during each trip.
- The use of air conditioning in vehicles also increases the amount of gas it consumes, but running the heater does not, because it just uses excess heat from the engine.
- Overall, the best way to reduce emissions is to reduce traffic. Congested roads cause more breaking, idling, and ultimately more time car engines spend running. You can minimize traffic by carpooling or taking public transportation, as well as avoiding travel during peak hours whenever possible.
- You can find out how much your car costs by clicking here.
Simple Step 2: Optimize Your Electric Usage
According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average American household uses over 10,000 kWh of electricity annually, which costs roughly $1,300 and generates over a 12,000 pounds of carbon. That means every kWh of electricity costs about $0.13 and is equivalent to approximately a pound and a fifth of carbon. It may not seem like a lot, but it adds up fast. Every kWh counts!
One of the easiest ways you can reduce the amount of kWh you use is to unplug appliances that aren’t being used. When your cell phone charger is plugged in, it still draws power even if your phone isn’t attached!
But the real “power vampires” are usually much larger and older appliances like TVs, computers, etc. There’s bound to be a spare room in your home that hasn’t been used in forever! Unplugging everything will make a difference.
3 More Electricity Saving Tips
- Leaving computers on (including idle) can also be a significant power drain. If you’re going on vacation, or don’t expect to use your computer or other appliances for a while, it might be best to turn them off.
- Is your fridge or freezer too cold? Turn up the temperature just a notch to save energy without even thinking about it… but remember not to keep the door open too long!
- Televisions use a lot Try to limit your household to only one on at a time—reducing your electric bill and your carbon footprint is as good excuse as any to bring the family together for a movie!
Simple Step 3: Temperature Control—More Bang for Your Buck
According to the EIA, Louisiana uses more electricity than any other state. Where it’s hot and humid year-round, air conditioning systems are likely part of the reason why. Of course, when it gets as hot as it does in Louisiana, we can’t do away with air conditioning altogether. And we all know those people who like it especially cold… it might be impossible to convince them to turn up the thermostat. But what if we could keep it as cold as they like it and still reduce the cost and carbon footprint?
Remember that spare room nobody ever goes into? Close up the doors and vents so that no energy is wasted cooling that room! With fewer rooms to cool, the air conditioning system won’t have to work as hard, and it will use less energy.
Do you have insulation panels you’ve meant to put up but haven’t gotten around to it? You could reduce your electric bill and your carbon footprint significantly if you do it sooner rather than later.
For those in colder climate states, heating up our homes also contributes greatly to our carbon footprints, but often with gas. It’s important to make sure everyone is comfortable and that your pipes don’t freeze, but during the winter months, who doesn’t love a good excuse to get wrapped up their favorite blankets and sweaters? Saving on your gas bill and reducing your carbon footprint is in fashion next winter. Who says you can’t wear scarves indoors?
Simple Step 4: Reduce Waste
The average American creates over 1,000 pounds of waste each year, according to truth-out.org. Much of that waste is taken to landfills, where rotting garbage emits carbon dioxide. Transporting all that weight is also quite costly. New York City alone pays over 300 million dollars every year to ship its garbage to landfills across the country.
These landfills are filling up faster than we realize because we produce new layers of garbage before the old layers have time to break down and decay. Some facilities burn garbage to accelerate that process and fit more into the landfills, but that releases all sorts of pollutants into the air as well as excessive amounts of carbon dioxide.
Ideally, we would produce less garbage to be dumped into landfills in the first place. Here are three simple steps to reduce waste:
- Waste Less Food: Americans waste a lot of food. According to the EPA: “ In 2014 alone, more than 38 million tons of food waste was generated, with only 5.1 percent diverted from landfills.”
- Recycle: Communities across America are beginning to mandate, or at least offer recycling programs to help keep waste out of landfills. It also reduces the cost of transporting waste, which is determined by weight. You can imagine what a difference it makes to remove heavy materials like metal and glass! Plus, when we recycle paper and cardboard, we cut down less
- Donate: Have unwanted clothes, appliances, toys or anything that are still in decent condition? Before sending them to the landfill, consider donating them to your church or someone in need!
Simple Step 5: Sponsor a Tree
Now that you’re aware of some of the most common factors that determine your carbon footprint, it’s time to figure out how to offset your impact and create balance.
You shouldn’t feel guilty for using and enjoying modern amenities, and you can reduce them as much or as little as you like. No matter what your impact is, you can offset it by contributing more oxygen into the atmosphere by planting trees.
This calculator will help you to determine how many trees it will take to truly offset your carbon footprint. But know that when you sponsor an olive tree with My Olive Tree, you’re not just planting a tree: you’re helping to transform a desert by investing in a nation that has a major return on investment.
My Olive Tree is on a mission to plant a million trees in the Negev Desert of Israel, which will take the desert from barren wasteland to productive, fertile land. Planting trees helps retain moisture and nutrients in the soil, which enable all kinds of plants to grow in a once-hostile environment.
The more plants that grow in the desert, the more oxygen gets released into the atmosphere, reducing everyone’s carbon footprint and creating balance for all. When you sponsor a tree with My Olive Tree you aren’t just putting a tree in the ground; you’re cultivating it. We keep the trees watered and tended so that they reach maturity, become self-sufficient, and continue to restore the desert.
How Will You Reduce Your Carbon Footprint?
It would be overwhelming to try to take on all five strategies at once, so feel free to start with whichever strategy seems easiest or most fun. The fastest way to reduce your impact is to sponsor an olive tree. In theory, if we planted enough olive trees we wouldn’t need to worry about reducing our carbon footprints at all!
My Olive Tree’s goal is to plant one million olive trees. Imagine the impact that would have on reducing carbon footprints! Every time you sponsor a tree, we’re one step closer.