By Neil Stawski
The Earth’s surface is protected by an atmosphere that keeps our overall environment fairly stable and capable of sustaining human life. However, greenhouse gas emissions have begun to destabilize the atmosphere. The good news is that we can begin to minimize this disruption and create a healthier world for our children and grandchildren.
What are greenhouse gases?
Greenhouse gases, most notably carbon dioxide, which accounts for more than 82 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, have a negative effect on the environment. These are gases emitted due to human activities and are derived largely from fossil fuel production in the electrical, transportation, and industrial sectors, according to the EPA. The amount of greenhouse gases an individual generates each year is referred to as a carbon footprint.
Reduce your carbon footprint
National Geographic explains that one powerful way to reduce your family’s carbon footprint is to switch to energy-efficient LED light bulbs. These typically use up to 80 percent less energy than outdated incandescent bulbs. They also last longer, reducing reliance on landfills. You can also lower your home’s thermostat, wash your clothes and dishes in cold water, and recycle paper and plastics.
On the road
One of the things you can do with the most impact is to have a positive effect on the environment is swapping four wheels for two feet. Walk wherever you can and utilize the amenities in your neighborhood for recreation. If it isn’t possible to walk, consider investing in a hybrid or fuel-efficient vehicle. Avoid air travel when possible and forgo the comforts of first-class seats, which tax the environment more than those in economy.
At the store
When possible, purchase locally grown foods. This includes seasonal fruits and vegetables and meat. Avoid bottled water and instead, use a refillable bottle if you must carry a drink with you. Global Stewards also suggests planning your meals and freezing leftovers. Pre-plan meals whenever possible to reduce trips back and forth to the grocery store or farmers market.
Your food is not the only consumable that increases your carbon footprint. You must also consider large purchases, including appliances, when factoring in your personal environmental impact. Look for appliances with the Energy Star label. Each year, EnergyStar.gov lists the most efficient washers, dryers, and heating and cooling systems along with other common large purchases.
In the community
If you want to make a real difference in the world of tomorrow, you must help your friends and neighbors reduce their carbon footprint, as well. Start by working with other people in your neighborhood to plant a community garden. Carpool when possible and allow your children to ride the school bus.
Renergy notes that producing more renewable energy sources is another excellent way to have an impact on your community. Talk to other homeowners about installing solar panels, which will have the added benefit of saving money on your electric bill.
With your pets
Our pets have a carbon footprint, too. You can help lower this by buying local dog food (ask your veterinarian for recommendations) and walking your dog through the neighborhood instead of driving to the park. If you’re too busy to walk your pup, consider hiring a dog walker to help with the responsibility.
Talk to your children about ways they can preserve energy. Encourage them to turn the water off when they brush their teeth and turn off the lights when they exit a room. Explain that televisions and computers should never be left on when not in use. While these may be small contributions, they will create awareness and lifelong good practices.
There is never a bad time to work toward lowering your family’s impact on the environment. You don’t have to make extreme lifestyle changes, but you do have to make a conscious effort to be a good steward to your home, community, and world.
Neil Stawski believes an informed, engaged public is the only way to save the planet. He created ClimateWise.co to educate the public and encourage people to take action. ClimateWise helps visitors stay up to date on the latest climate change developments–from news stories to information about the latest research to what climate change deniers are doing to mislead the public.