how to reduce your carbon footprint

To better understand how to reduce your carbon footprint, it is important to understand what a carbon footprint is and to understand the sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

A carbon footprint is the amount of GHG emissions, particularly carbon dioxide emissions, associated with all the activities of a person, a company, a government, and/or a jurisdiction.

In order to reduce your carbon footprint, it is important to understand the primary sources of GHG emissions. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 2017, the United States’ domestic GHG emissions were from the following sectors:

  • 29% Transportation;
  • 28% Electricity;
  • 22% Industry;
  • 12% Commercial and Residential; and
  • 9% Agriculture.

Regarding how to reduce your carbon footprint in the U.S., it is most important to focus on your transportation habits and your electricity consumption, which collectively total approximately 60% of all the U.S.’s GHG emissions.

To reduce electricity consumption, you should find ways to be more energy efficient and to use less electricity. For example, you can: more regularly turn off lights around the home or office; install more energy efficient light-bulbs and appliances; or upgrade your home’s windows and insulation.

For the electricity you do consume, you can choose to support renewable energy sources. For instance, your utility company might provide the option to support green electricity for a small premium or you could purchase Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs).

The transportation sector includes all of our cars, trucks, busses, boats and planes. Similar to our electricity consumption, you should find ways to use less transportation that is reliant on fossil fuel combustion. For example, you can: walk more often; ride a bike; take fewer trips; carpool with colleagues; work a telecommuting schedule; decide to fly less and choose video-conferences; and purchase more local products which require less shipping.

When we do commute, we can opt for more efficient routes and use more efficient forms of transportation such as commuter rails.

In addition to our domestic electricity consumption and transportation habits, it is also important to understand the sources of global GHG emissions are slightly different than in the U.S. As reported by the EPA and based off work by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global GHG emissions in 2010 were from the following sectors:

  • 25% Electricity and Heat Production;
  • 24% Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU);
  • 21% Industry;
  • 14% Transportation;
  • 10% Other Energy; and
  • 6% Buildings.

As the AFOLU sector accounts for approximately 24% of global GHG emissions, it is important for U.S. consumers to support more globally sustainable forms of forestry and agriculture. For instance, you can: use less paper; support Forest Stewardship Council certified products; and purchase organic products which do not use petro-based additives such as fertilizers and pesticides.

To learn more about how to reduce your carbon footprint and to support third-party certified carbon reduction projects, please visit Foundation.