Blog

How to Go Carbon Neutral

May 19, 2022

Republished and co-authored with permission by our partners at wikiHow
Click here for the original article

Climate change is a complex science that can be overwhelming and make it seem like you can’t make a difference. But you can! You can make choices in your day-to-day life that reduce your carbon footprint and make a direct impact on the environment. You can also make your home more energy-efficient so you can lower your carbon production. In addition to making changes in your life, you can purchase carbon offsets that will fund important projects and make you carbon neutral by reducing your net carbon levels.

Steps

Making Lifestyle Changes

  1. Calculate your carbon footprint with an online calculator. Find out how much carbon you’re using by entering information about your home’s energy use, transportation, fuel, and other uses of energy into an online calculator. Use information about your carbon footprint to make changes that will help reduce it.[1]
    1. Online carbon calculators will also have suggestions you can use to help lower your carbon footprint.
    2. Research indicates that in order to keep global temperatures from rising, each person needs to have an average annual carbon footprint of 1.87 tons by 2050.[2]
    3. The average carbon footprint in the US is 18.3 tons per person, while the average carbon footprint in China is 8.2 tons per person.[2]
    4. Carbon Footprint Calculators: Use Carbonfund.org Foundation’s Carbon Footprint Calculator at https://carbonfund.org/take-action/individuals/individual_carbon_footprint_calculator/ or check out the EPA’s calculator at https://www3.epa.gov/carbon-footprint-calculator/ to find out your own carbon footprint.
  2. Buy fresh, locally grown foods to reduce fuel and energy usage. The food at your local supermarket was likely shipped by means such as plane, ship, and truck which use fossil fuels. They also likely used coolants to keep the food from spoiling in transit, which increases emissions. Purchase your foods from local sources so you can reduce the fuel used to transport them and avoid frozen foods, which use much more energy to store in your freezer.[2]
    1. Look online for a farmer’s market in your area.
    2. Many grocery stores will advertise if a product was grown locally so you can choose them.
    3. Choosing your produce from a farmer’s market means you’ll be eating organic foods that are in season, and you’ll be supporting a local grower!
  3. Reduce your meat consumption. You can start out by going meatless one or two days a week, and then work your way up to a vegetarian or vegan diet if you want. Cows and sheep emit large amounts of greenhouse gasses. By reducing your meat consumption, especially beef, you can directly impact global emissions levels and reduce your own carbon footprint. There are also many other health benefits associated with reducing or cutting out meat from your diet.[3]
    1. Research indicates that a vegan diet, or a diet that excludes any animal products, can make as much as a 20% difference in your carbon footprint. [24]
    2. Livestock, or meat and dairy production, is estimated to be responsible for 14.5% of manmade global greenhouse gas emissions. [24]
  4. Wear vintage or recycled clothing to keep fabric out of landfills. Purchase vintage or recycled clothes that you plan to wear for a long time, rather than cheap or trendy items that won’t last or will be discarded. Clothing that ends up in landfills will produce methane and other emissions as they decompose. In addition, clothes that were made in other locations, such as China or India, were shipped and used fossil fuels, which also produce emissions.[4]
    1. Buy quality clothing that is made well so they last longer.
    2. Look online for thrift stores or consignment shops in your area that you can purchase recycled clothing from.
  5. Choose a fuel-efficient vehicle and keep it well-maintained. Choose a hybrid or an electric vehicle to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions. Keep your vehicle tuned up and your tires properly inflated to improve its fuel efficiency. Take it to a mechanic anytime you have a warning light, need an oil change, or are due for regular maintenance.[6]
    1. Maintaining your car well will keep it safe, reliable, efficient, and help it hold its value if you plan to sell it in the future.
    2. Purchase a carbon offset depending on the fuel efficiency of your vehicle.
  6. Use other means of transportation to reduce emissions. Walk, bike, or use public transportation to reduce the CO2 emissions created by burning fossil fuels when you drive a vehicle. Try to use alternative means of transportation whenever possible to lower your footprint and reduce the number of vehicles idling in traffic, which will reduce emissions as well.[8]
    1. Biking to work or around town can sometimes be even faster than driving because you won’t be stuck in traffic!
    2. Find or set up a carpool to lower your carbon footprint if you can’t use alternative means of transportation.

Reducing Home Energy Use

  1. Purchase clean energy to power your home. Clean energy refers to energy that was produced from renewable, zero-emissions sources such as windmills or solar panels. Sign up for clean energy for your home through your local utility provider or electrical company. If they don’t the option for you to choose clean energy, find a certified renewable energy provider to power your home.[10]
    1. Visit https://www.green-e.org/certified-resources to find certified renewable energy providers in your area.
  2. Replace incandescent light bulbs with LED bulbs. Install light-emitting diode, or LED light bulbs in all of the light sockets in your home to use a quarter of the energy that an incandescent bulb uses. LED light bulbs will also last up to 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs and produce less heat.[11]
    1. Many incandescent bulbs also contain mercury, which is highly toxic to humans.
  3. Turn off electrical devices, appliances, and lights when you aren’t using them. Switch off the lights to a room whenever you leave it. Turn off an appliance, such as a hairdryer or a coffee maker when you’re done using it. When you’re not using an electronic device, unplug it from the wall. Reduce your energy consumption by turning off any devices, appliances, and utilities when they’re not in use.
    1. Some devices will still draw small amounts of power when they’re plugged in, even if they’re turned off.
  4. Set your water heater to 120 °F (49 °C) to save energy. Turn the temperature control dial on your water heater down to reduce the amount of energy it takes to power it. Set your heater to an adequate temperature so you’re using energy more efficiently.[12]
    1. You may not realize how high your water heater is set and may not be using the temperature it’s set on, so a quick adjustment can go a long way to reducing your energy consumption.
    2. You can also wrap your water heater with an insulation blanket to keep it from losing heat and reducing its energy usage.
    3. Don’t worry, 120 °F (49 °C) is still plenty for a nice hot shower!
  5. Install low-flow showerheads to use less hot water. Fit your showers with low-flow showerheads to reduce both the amount of water that you use for a shower and the amount of energy it takes to heat the water. Take shorter showers to minimize energy usage as well.[13]
    1. You can find low-flow showerheads at hardware stores, home improvement stores, and online.
  6. Wash your clothes in cold water to use less energy. Choose a cold water detergent that’s designed to clean better in cold water. Set the dial on your washing machine to cold water to wash your clothes. Reduce the energy it takes to heat the water for a hot wash, which produces carbon dioxide emissions.[14]
    1. Washing 2 loads of laundry a week in cold water can save up to 500 pounds (230 kg) of carbon dioxide each year.
    2. Tip: Dry your clothes on a clothesline instead of a dryer to reduce energy consumption!
  7. Choose energy-efficient appliances when you’re buying them. In the US, look for an Energy Star logo that certifies that the appliance meets energy efficiency standards. Read the product description and look for the most efficient and products so you can reduce your energy consumption and lower your carbon footprint.[15]
  8. Insulate your home to make it more efficient. Insulate your home with fiberglass or cellulose insulation to reduce the amount of energy it takes to heat and cool it. Make sure your walls, ceilings, attics, and basements are all well-insulated to help keep the temperature inside of your home stable.[16]
    1. Insulation can degrade over time and can be damaged by pests or water. Replace your current insulation if it’s in bad shape.
    2. Avoid using foam insulation, which uses hydrofluorocarbon blowing agents that are greenhouse gasses.
  9. Purchase a Carbon Offset for the appropriate square footage of your home.

Offsetting Carbon Emissions

  1. Use an online carbon calculator to find your carbon usage. Online carbon calculators take information such as your home energy use, transportation, your diet, and many other factors to tell you how much carbon you produce. You can use that value to determine how you can offset that carbon to reach a neutral status.[17]
    1. Search online for carbon calculators such as the Carbonfund.org’s calculator, which can be found here: https://carbonfund.org/take-action/individuals/individual_carbon_footprint_calculator/.
  2. Plant a tree to help absorb CO2. Plant a tree to breathe in CO2 and breathe out oxygen, simultaneously reducing carbon in the air and increasing oxygen levels. Choose an area in your yard that has good drainage and receives at least 5-6 hours of sunlight a day. Plant a young tree that will grow into a natural carbon eater.[18]
    1. Trees will also provide shade, which will lower the temperature and reduce energy costs.
    2. Planting trees will also absorb rainwater, which prevents it from ending up in storm drains, which will reduce the costs of managing them.
    3. Even if the tree won’t be mature in your lifetime, planting one will benefit future generations.
    4. If you are unable to plant a tree yourself, you can purchase Tree Planting services that will plant on your behalf.
  3. Buy carbon offsets if you can’t go completely carbon neutral. A carbon offset refers to using money to pay for a project or cause that reduces greenhouse gassesgases somewhere else. Reduce your carbon footprint to zero, or carbon-neutral, by buying enough carbon offsets. For example, you could purchase carbon offset credits from a renewable energy company to offset the carbon emissions that you can’t eliminate in your own life.[19]
    1. Carbon offsets also promote sustainable development and increase the usage of renewable energy sources.
    2. Many people buy carbon offsets to compensate for air travel, which produces a lot of harmful emissions.
  4. Look for certifications to prove that an environmental group you donate to is legitimate. Look for certifications from auditors or standards groups like The Gold Standard or Green-e to show that an organization, project, or group will use the funds you purchase carbon offsets with properly. Don’t buy carbon offsets from groups that aren’t certified or seem dubious.[20]
    1. Companies and nonprofits that offer carbon offsets will often list their certifications on their websites.
    2. Tip: Check the database of standards groups such as Green-e to find projects that have been verified so you can purchase carbon offsets from them.
  5. Donate money to tree-planting projects to absorb carbon from the air. Search online for companies and nonprofits that deal in carbon offsets to fund tree-planting projects, such as Carbonfund.org Foundation and Arbor Day. Pay for the offset to help reduce your net carbon emissions and know that your money is being used to plant more trees, which will help reduce the overall carbon levels.[21]
    1. Many tree-planting projects are located in third-world countries such as Uganda and Malawi, so your funding to plant trees will also create jobs for people who live there.
  6. Give financial support to wind-turbine projects to produce green energy. Find wind-turbine projects online that offer carbon offsets in exchange for donations. Give money to renewable energy source projects to help reduce energy derived from fossil fuels, which produce greenhouse gas emissions.[22]
    1. Wind-turbine projects are a sustainable way to help reduce the dependency on fossil fuels.
  7. Support climate protection projects that you feel strongly about. Find a project that offers carbon offsets and is something that interests you. For example, the organization Carbonfund.org offers carbon offsets in exchange for money they use to purchase energy-efficient stoves in Kenya. Look online for a project that you feel strongly about and buy your carbon offsets from them.[23]
    1. Make sure the group is certified by a third-party before you buy carbon offsets from them.
    2. Other projects include installing solar power in the Dominican Republic, installing efficient heating systems in countries like Switzerland, and capturing landfill gas to create electricity.

References

  1. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-we-be-carbon-neutral/
  2. https://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2018/12/27/35-ways-reduce-carbon-footprint/
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jan/19/how-to-reduce-carbon-footprint
  4. https://www.nytimes.com/guides/year-of-living-better/how-to-reduce-your-carbon-footprint
  5. Kathryn Kellogg. Sustainability Specialist. Expert Interview. 28 June 2019.[v161055_b01]. 28 June 2019.
  6. https://www.nytimes.com/guides/year-of-living-better/how-to-reduce-your-carbon-footprint
  7. Kathryn Kellogg. Sustainability Specialist. Expert Interview. 28 June 2019.[v161055_b01]. 28 June 2019.
  8. https://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2018/12/27/35-ways-reduce-carbon-footprint/
  9. Kathryn Kellogg. Sustainability Specialist. Expert Interview. 28 June 2019.[v161055_b01]. 28 June 2019.
  10. https://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2018/12/27/35-ways-reduce-carbon-footprint/
  11. https://www.nytimes.com/guides/year-of-living-better/how-to-reduce-your-carbon-footprint
  12. https://www.nytimes.com/guides/year-of-living-better/how-to-reduce-your-carbon-footprint
  13. https://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2018/12/27/35-ways-reduce-carbon-footprint/
  14. https://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2018/12/27/35-ways-reduce-carbon-footprint/
  15. https://www.nytimes.com/guides/year-of-living-better/how-to-reduce-your-carbon-footprint
  16. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jan/19/how-to-reduce-carbon-footprint
  17. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-we-be-carbon-neutral/
  18. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/07/how-to-erase-100-years-carbon-emissions-plant-trees/
  19. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-we-be-carbon-neutral/
  20. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/24/climate/nyt-climate-newsletter-carbon-offsets.html?auth=link-dismiss-google1tap
  21. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/24/climate/nyt-climate-newsletter-carbon-offsets.html?auth=link-dismiss-google1tap
  22. https://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2018/12/27/35-ways-reduce-carbon-footprint/
  23. https://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2018/12/27/35-ways-reduce-carbon-footprint/
  24. https://interactive.carbonbrief.org/what-is-the-climate-impact-of-eating-meat-and-dairy/