How to Reduce Your Own Carbon Footprint
A carbon footprint is defined as “the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of the activities of a particular individual, organisation, or community” So, on a personal level this might be the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by your car exhaust or the fossil fuels used to create energy to charge your laptop. Carbon dioxide, along with other air pollutant particles and chemicals that trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming are called greenhouse gases.
While your own carbon footprint might seem insignificant on a larger scale, there has been an insurmountable surge of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere by human activity since the Industrial Revolution. This increase of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere has caused a more rapid warming of the planet which can have immediate and long-lasting devastating effects.
Reducing greenhouse gases sent into the atmosphere could slow down global warming and even help prevent premature death. The smog that you see over industrial or busy cities is actually air pollution, and it is incredibly harmful to human health.
One of the more devastating particulate matter released into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels and bio-fuels is black carbon. Black carbon is a strong light absorbing particle. When it comes to climate change, black carbon reduces the reflectivity of ice and interacts with the clouds in the atmosphere which changes the natural climate. Black carbon is largely responsible for increased temperature and accelerated snow and ice melt, particularly in vulnerable areas like the arctic or the Himalayas.
While factories and power producers are big contributors to the amount of particulate matter, especially black carbon, sent into the atmosphere, household emissions from wood fires, wood stoves, hydronic heaters and furnaces all contribute significantly.
Black carbon has a short atmospheric lifespan which means that a significant reduction in the particles released could see a more stabilised climate in the next few decades.
Surprisingly, there are simple and easy ways to reduce your carbon footprint by slightly altering your lifestyle and by adjusting how you run your household. Start off small and slowly introduce more eco-friendly practices into your everyday routine.
Ways to reduce your carbon footprint
To cut back on your household black carbon emissions, you will need to find alternatives to wood fires, wood stoves and furnaces. In addition, cutting down on electricity and reducing power consumption in your home will hopefully reduce the amount of fossil fuels being burned to create power.
Invest in renewable energy – It will be an initial investment at first but it will pay off in the long run. Depending on the scale that you use renewable energy, you can reduce or even cut out your electricity bill. There are also great tax incentives when using renewable energy. There are a few options to explore:
Rooftop solar panels - Having a few squares of solar panels on your roof could be enough to power your entire household. Solar Shingles are now being used to replace actual roof tiles. The effectiveness of solar panels obviously depends on the amount of sun your house receives, but it can be a very successful source of renewable energy.
Wind turbines – Wind turbines are often found offshore or on wind farms, but if you own a large piece of property you could set up wind turbines to create energy. The downside is that they are large, noisy and not very visually appealing.
Solar Water Heating – If you aren’t ready to jump headfirst into complete solar power, solar water heating is a good way to start. Solar panels heat up a reserve of water that can be sent to radiators to warm the household, or sent to faucets or shower heads.
Reduce household energy use – It is really simple to get into the habit of reducing energy use at home. The less energy you use, the fewer fossil fuels need to be burnt to supply this energy, and therefore fewer greenhouse gases sent out into the atmosphere. Here are some simple ways to reduce energy usage at home:
Buy eco-friendly and efficient heating and cooling equipment
Seal heating and cooling ducts
Switch to LED light bulbs
Unplug unused devices to minimize standby power consumption
Check light and appliances are off before going to bed and leaving the house
Wash clothes in cold water and hang them up to dry
There are many ways to reduce your carbon footprint – big or small. Start out by doing the simpler eco-friendly tasks and soon enough you will be able to take on the bigger projects. Reducing your carbon footprint will set an example for others, and you can rest assured that you are doing your bit in bettering the environment and protecting it for future generations.