A carbon footprint is the amount of impact a person, house, or business has on the planet. We hear a lot about the negative impact people have on the environment around them, but what real, effective methods are there to actually reduce your carbon footprint? You can do so in numerous ways, whether in lifestyle changes or simply making a different decision when buying a product.
Energy efficiency is good for the planet, which is enough reason to invest in these strategies. However, when you work to reduce your carbon footprint, such as by reducing energy usage, you’ll also be saving yourself money. Here are several strategies you can employ right now to reduce your carbon footprint.
Table of Contents
- Your Most Effective Carbon Footprint Reduce Strategies
- 1. Stop Wasting Food
- 2. Complete an Energy Audit
- 3. Reduce Your Water Consumption
- 4. Go Big with Solar Energy
- 5. Consider an Electric Vehicle
- 6. Insulate Your Home
- 7. Stop Driving Everywhere
- 8. Consider Carbon Offsets
- 9. Don’t Buy Fast Fashion
- 10. Let Your Grass Grow Longer
- 11. Buy Less Stuff
- 12. Keep Your Water Heater Set a Bit Lower
- 13. Avoid Flying When Possible
- 14. Waste Less Overall
- 15. Keep Your Vehicle Operating Efficiently
- 16. Support Companies That Are Trying to Reach 100% Renewable Energy Goals
- 17. Shop from Organizations That Care
- 18. Grow Your Food
- 19. Amplify Your Heating and Cooling System
- 20. Be Proactive Within Your Community
Your Most Effective Carbon Footprint Reduce Strategies
1. Stop Wasting Food
At the top of the list is one of the most important and simplest things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint. Don’t waste food.
According to Feeding America, 34 million people in the U.S. are faced with hunger, and every year, 119 billion pounds of food – the equivalent of $408 billion and 130 billion meals are thrown out. It’s estimated that as much as 40% of all food in the United States is wasted.
That’s a big deal and not only impacts people, but it also is a direct concern to carbon emissions. The more food that needs to be produced, the more impact on the environment, including livestock, responsible for nearly 14% of all global greenhouse gas emissions (according to Columbia University).
There is also the cost of growing, transporting, warehousing, packaging, and using plastic-based products to move that food from where it is grown to where it is purchased. Then, so much of it lands in the landfill.
What can you do?
- Buy organic and local foods that don’t require transportation.
- Choose a vegan diet or reduce the amount of meat you consume daily, especially red meat.
- Reduce your in-home food waste by purchasing less, creating a menu, and consistently eating at home rather than eating out. Local foods consumed at home use less energy than any other.
Carbon footprint reduction should start with the basics, costing you nothing and saving you money.
2. Complete an Energy Audit
Do not overlook the importance of reducing energy consumption in your home to improve your carbon footprint. The little stuff often helps, like turning off lights in rooms you are not in and unplugging appliances not in use. But, they don’t overlook the bigger (and often more impressive ways) to reduce energy consumption.
To do so, start with an energy audit. Your utility company may offer one, or your HVAC team will.
They will come to your home and look for areas of lost energy – where your heating and cooling costs go out the window. A home energy audit should look at how much you are spending and how efficient specific systems in your home are, including:
- Your home’s heating system
- The home’s cooling system
- Water heater efficiency
- The amount of electricity your home uses (and potential gaps in where you are overusing)
- Water consumption systems
- Insulation to reduce energy loss
An energy audit is a tool. It does not fix any of these problems, but it does two things.
The first is to bring awareness to how much energy you use and potentially waste. Second, it gives you a solid plan of action of what strategies you can employ right now to see improvement and reduce your average carbon footprint.
See Related: Is It Possible to Get Tesla Free Supercharging?
3. Reduce Your Water Consumption
Water isn’t a fossil fuel that we often hear about regarding carbon emissions and energy efficiency, but it is a valuable and limited resource that needs to be conserved. Luckily, there are numerous ways to do so.
According to the EPA, the average family in the U.S. will waste 180 gallons of water every week, which is about 9,400 gallons. That is the same annual household water use across 11 million homes.
How can you reduce water consumption and do your part in reducing the impact of climate change? Here are several key strategies:
- Invest in a low-flow showerhead. For example, the Pressure Boosting Shower Head from Aqua Elegante Store offers a strong stream but significantly reduces the amount of water coming out.
- Upgrade to a low-flow faucet aerator on each of the faucets in your home. The Niagara Conservation N3210B-PC-T model is one example.
- Purchase a low-water-use toilet. Look for one that is WaterSense certified, like the India Reserve Elongated Toilet. They use less water with every flush.
- Take shorter showers. Simply reducing the time you spend in the shower can help lower energy costs. Use a timer to give you more clarity as to how long you’re in the shower.
- Invest in a new dishwasher that uses less water. Look for an ENERGY Star-approved model, like the Whirlpool 1-Hour Wash Cycle on model 55dBA. Then, only run it when you have a full load of dishes. Also, don’t rinse your dishes before loading them; that uses even more water.
- Switch to a washing machine that uses less water. Many of today’s models, especially front loaders, are more efficient, like the GE UltraFresh Vent System.
- Invest in a smart outdoor watering system. While you shouldn’t waste watering grass if you don’t need to if you’re growing your food, a smart sprinkler system that senses a need for water can help. Check out, for example, the Orbit lineup of smart controllers.
No matter what you are using water for, find a way to reduce the amount you are using. Remember that sometimes, the best way to reduce water is to raise awareness of how much you are using and then educate your family members on how to reduce the amount of water you are using.
4. Go Big with Solar Energy
What if you could stop relying on the electric company to power your home? While solar energy systems have long been discussed, they often seem too expensive or hard to install. That is not the case. Solar panels are one of the best ways to reduce annual emissions, and they may be more readily available than you realize (and affordable).
Solar panels generate power for your home using solar energy, converting the sun’s rays into power using a solar panel and storage system. You don’t have to change anything you’re doing in your home – rather, the inverter transfers that power into a source your home can readily use.
The result is you continue to have access to the power you need, but you are no longer paying the high cost of electricity. You’re saving the planet from carbon emissions from fossil fuels and pollution.
Here’s the really good news. There are many ways to keep the costs of going solar lower. Consider these strategies.
- Take advantage of the Residential Clean Energy Credit. This credit equals up to 30% of the cost of adding a new, qualified, clean energy system to your home. That’s a huge savings opportunity to reduce taxes and convert your home to solar power.
- Find out if your state offers a solar energy credit or if your local utility does. Many local programs in place can further reduce your energy costs and give you more access to free power.
- Consider community solar programs. These programs help communities come together to reduce the cost of energy on a grander scale. Check out Arcadia, for example. They offer a community solar system that allows you to use clean energy to meet your home’s needs but does not require the cost, maintenance, or logistical complications of having a private solar panel system installed in your home.
Moving to solar energy can significantly impact your home’s energy bills and carbon footprint.
It is also important to note that many other strategies listed here can be improved upon when you move to solar. For example, by switching to solar to power your home, everything in your home that uses electricity improves, too.
You are now using renewable energy for all of your appliances. Even your heating and cooling impact global warming less because renewable energy sources do not power them.
See Related: Solar for Low-Income Households: Financing Options
5. Consider an Electric Vehicle
Hybrid and electric vehicles are also highly effective ways to reduce carbon footprint. If you are in the market for a new car, you can significantly reduce the greenhouse gases you create by driving to and from work with an electric vehicle.
A hybrid or electric vehicle uses less gas, relying more on electricity to do the work. (that’s even better if you have an EV charging system at your home powered by solar energy!)
Consider the Clean Vehicles Tax Credit from the IRS to offset the cost of buying an EV. New, plug-in electric or fuel cell vehicles purchased in 2023 or after qualify for this savings opportunity, which could include as much as $3,750 in savings.
Consider, for example, EnergySage. The company will install solar panels and an EV charger for your home. That means every day you come home, you plug in your vehicle so it is ready to go, and you indirectly use the sun to power your transportation needs.
Also, EnergySage can help you with backup power sources, heating and cooling systems, home solar, and community solar. You can learn how to reduce carbon footprint factors in your home by working with their team to estimate your solar power savings opportunities.
See Related: Best Auto Loans for Electric Cars
6. Insulate Your Home
How much energy is your home losing because it lacks insulation? The EPA shares that installing new insulation in your home could save an estimated 11% of your total energy costs and 15% of your heating and cooling costs.
They also note that 9 out of 10 homes in the U.S. are considered under-insulated, meaning this is often a big opportunity for today’s homeowners.
Insulating your home helps you reduce your carbon footprint by creating a more energy-efficient home. Your home’s heating and cooling costs are significantly lowered. On top of that, it can help to reduce pollen, dust, and noise in your home while also providing better humidity control.
There are several ways to insulate your home.
- Consider investing in a reflective foal insulation shield that blocks UV rays from heating the home.
- If you have attic steps that lead into the unheated and cooled area, invest in an Attic Stairway Insulation cover that helps to minimize loss there.
- Talk to your local roofing company about adding eco-friendly insulation to your attic. This can help to reduce your energy costs.
- Use thermal insulated curtains and drapes, like those from BGment, that help reduce energy loss through windows.
The more you can keep the treated air from your air conditioning furnace, the less energy you use. Choosing renewable energy like this will significantly improve your home’s ability to use less energy to keep temperatures comfortable.
See Related: Best Energy Efficiency Loans for Homeowners
7. Stop Driving Everywhere
We already mentioned the benefits of moving to a hybrid and electric vehicle. Still, you can reduce your carbon footprint by not getting in your car when you can avoid doing so. Walk to and from as many locations as possible, especially if it’s just up the street.
You can also ride a bike (you’ll get some great exercise like this) or use public transportation. Typically, these steps will help you reduce your carbon footprint while also helping you save money on fuel costs, maintenance, and even having to replace your vehicle. If you use public transport to work daily, you save exceptional energy and keep money in your pocket.
8. Consider Carbon Offsets
A carbon offset is an amount of money you can pay towards a project somewhere else that specifically reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Sometimes, you cannot eliminate your energy use, no matter what you want to do. For example, you may need to fly across the country for a loved one’s funeral. In this case, you can pay carbon offsets.
The money you pay goes towards a project somewhere else. You can use a carbon offsets calculator to help you determine how much your carbon emissions are costing the planet and then put that money towards a project you are interested in.
There are various organizations out there that can be supported, including those in third-world countries. MyClimate.org offers some outstanding calculators and tools to help you with protecting the climate and how you can help both locally and globally. You can buy carbon offsets through the organization or learn about other programs offering them.
This is also a great location to learn more about carbon reduction examples worldwide. You may find a few programs that interest you that you can support when you purchase carbon offsets and contribute your time to volunteering. You can always give only what you create in carbon emissions, or you can do more – giving more to these local climate action groups who are working to make a difference.
9. Don’t Buy Fast Fashion
It is easy enough to fall into the trend of buying clothing every season just because it is new and trendy. Often, that can be one of the worst ways you are contributing to the production of greenhouse gases without realizing it.
You could go out and purchase vintage or recycled clothing, but even if you keep the clothing you own a bit longer, you will see improvement in your contributions.
Fast fashion is a term used to describe purchasing clothing to stay fashionable, often clothing made quickly in factories that typically do not have energy efficiency or greenhouse gas emissions controls in place. Then, that clothing ends up in the landfill, taking up space and contributing to carbon emissions.
According to Earth.org, an estimated 100 billion pieces of clothing, or about 92 million tons, hit landfills yearly. They note this is enough clothing to fill up a garbage truck full of just clothes every second.
There are several things you can do to reduce this risk:
- Purchase vintage and recycled clothing instead of new, off-the-rack items.
- Choose to invest in companies working to reduce their manufacturing-related carbon emissions.
- Ensure that you donate it when you can no longer use it. Recycled clothing within your community can help many people who may not have the finances to purchase brand-new items.
10. Let Your Grass Grow Longer
How much time do you spend cutting your grass each week? Take that and multiply it by the season, and you’re spending hours out there.
That is time you could be doing other things. If you cut your grass every other week, by contrast, you would be saving yourself money and reducing your carbon footprint while you do so.
It takes energy to power your lawnmower. You can save gas by simply not cutting the grass as often. Also, note that the environmental impact of grass cutting with a lawnmower that uses gas is also worrisome. You contribute to climate change every time you run the lawn mower, especially on a hot day.
Here’s a great way to save time and money and reduce your carbon footprint. Switch to a robotic lawn mower that uses electricity to cut the grass. The Husqvarna Automower 430X Robotic Lawn Mower is an excellent option. Others are available as well.
11. Buy Less Stuff
The next time you head to the local store to pick up groceries or other items, second guess everything you pick up. You can ask whether you need the item and if the item is the most environmentally friendly option. Here are some ideas:
- Choose organic food always. It’s produced without pesticides and chemicals that harm the planet.
- Determine if your product could be purchased in bulk with less packaging to reduce its environmental impact.
- Consider buying less meat and more vegetables that are grown locally.
- If you plan to buy new products, choose items made with recycled material.
- Skip the specials, promotional items, holiday décor, or other items that are anything but good for the environment.
When you buy less overall, you make a big difference in your impact on the planet. You also keep more money in your pocket.
12. Keep Your Water Heater Set a Bit Lower
Check out your water heater right now. Is it operating efficiency? There’s nothing quite like a hot shower, and you should not lower it too much as it can impact the water’s ability to kill germs.
Here’s the solution. According to Energy.gov, you can turn your water heater down to 120 degrees instead of the 140 degrees it is often set at automatically. By doing that, you will save more than $400 per year.
If you are using a natural gas water heater right now and it is time to consider an upgrade, talk to your plumber about the benefits of switching to a tankless, electric water heater instead. This system removes the tank itself, meaning your home does not have to keep using energy to keep a big tank of water hot, even when no one is home.
A tankless water heater only heats water when it is needed, and that conserves energy. There are numerous options on the market, including the EcoSmart ECO 27 Tankless Water Heater.
13. Avoid Flying When Possible
One of the biggest ways people contribute to greenhouse gas emissions is by flying. Again, there are times when you need to do so, but anytime you can drive, especially with a public transport option, do so.
Electric cars can offset your carbon emissions, especially if you choose an electric car that is fuel-efficient overall. Yet, there is no way to do this when it comes to flying. The cost of flying could be lower than driving in some cases, but the carbon emissions from airplanes are toxic to the planet. The more you can drive, the more you will lower your carbon footprint.
If you do have to fly, go economy class. When you sit in business class, you contribute much more due to the added room and amenities. Economy class allows some of those emissions to be better spread to more people.
14. Waste Less Overall
The more you can reduce the amount of trash going out to the curb each week, the better. Every time you toss something in the trash, think twice about it. Could you use it in another way, donate it, or recycle it?
We already mentioned the incredible amount of food that makes it into a landfill, but there is much more that you’re tossing out. According to the EPA, in 2018, 146.1 million tons of trash were added to the landfills. About 24% of that was food, but the others were hard goods and other items that may be possible to recycle.
15. Keep Your Vehicle Operating Efficiently
We already mentioned things like using an electric car, but you can do a few additional things to help improve fuel economy so that when you hit the road, you save as much as possible.
- Use cruise control on the highway. It helps to reduce the amount of energy your car is using because it reduces the speeding up and slowing down that often occurs.
- Driving with tires properly inflated can also contribute to fuel efficiency, saving you money on fuel costs and reducing wear and tear on your tires.
- Have your car serviced often. Ensuring that you are keeping it updated on maintenance tasks minimizes the risk of problems down the road.
See Related: Tips for Buying a Used Tesla
16. Support Companies That Are Trying to Reach 100% Renewable Energy Goals
Whether you are choosing who you shop for based on their energy reduction efforts or you are investing in companies that are trying to make a difference in minimizing climate change, there are numerous ways you can play a role in encouraging change.
Do you use your investment tools like Robinhood? If so, buy stocks and support companies with positive environmental processes. Which companies are working to become 0% carbon-free? No matter their work, you can support them in those efforts.
If you use tools like that, consider investing in organizations researching and developing new energy-efficient solutions. You will find that it feels good to help support organizations that are trying to make a difference by developing new efficiencies and products.
17. Shop from Organizations That Care
Another valuable way to reduce your carbon footprint is to make better decisions about where you buy anything. For example, you can reduce your carbon footprint by shopping at local farmers’ markets.
When you buy your food locally like this, you reduce the energy consumption and carbon emissions related to transporting food, which can be very high, especially when food products are moving across countries.
At the same time, eating local can also help. Be particular about which companies you frequent for dinner.
Look for those that get their produce and other products from local sources instead of massive distribution companies. That will help reduce the amount of food being trucked from one side of the country to another.
18. Grow Your Food
Start an herb garden on your kitchen windowsill so you don’t have to buy spices in plastic wrap and jars. Consider a container garden on your backyard patio. That’s a simple way to increase the quality of food available to you and your family and reduce your dependence on other sources.
Then, amplify these efforts. You may wish to invest in raised garden beds for your backyard. This will allow you to grow more of the food your family needs.
Choose those made of wood or steel that do not impact the environment as much. This option by the Quictent model is a durable option. It even has a greenhouse design that can help to harness the sun’s rays more effectively.
You can also invest in a rain barrel to collect water from the rain to water your garden. It costs you nothing but helps with controlling water use. A system like the My ECO Barrel is made from environmentally friendly materials.
Yet another way to improve your impact is to invest in a kitchen composting system to help feed your garden plants nutrient-rich goodness while reducing your environmental impact. The AIRNEX Countertop Compost Bin is a simple system that can make a big difference.
19. Amplify Your Heating and Cooling System
You can reduce your carbon footprint by investing in routine maintenance and upkeep of your home’s heating and cooling system. How much carbon savings could you see by ensuring your home’s major systems like this operate well? That depends on what your system needs. Here are some strategies to help you:
- If you need to invest in a new heating and cooling system, look for those with a lower overall carbon footprint, renewable energy, or ENERGY Star products.
- Ensure you have the system inspected at least once a year to minimize overconsumption of energy or loss of coolant.
- Keep the air filters changed and clean. That is going to help the system to operate more efficiently overall.
- Use a programmable thermostat for your air conditioning and heating to reduce costs. A product like the Asefuoirk Smart Thermostat can save you money.
20. Be Proactive Within Your Community
How much do your neighbors know about their role in the food change and high waste production? Do you think your neighbors could learn more about their overall carbon footprint?
Get involved in the community and even speak to local representatives about laws and regulations you want to see improved that could help improve the carbon footprints of not just yourself but your entire community.
Greenhouse gases are a problem that impacts everyone. You can take numerous steps to significantly improve your carbon footprint. Even if you make small changes, you’re making a big difference.
- What is a Carbon Offset? Definition & Things to Know
- Best Carbon Tracking Apps to Monitor Your Footprint
- What is Carbon Accounting? A Clear Definition with Examples
Kyle Kroeger, esteemed Purdue University alum and accomplished finance professional, brings a decade of invaluable experience from diverse finance roles in both small and large firms. An astute investor himself, Kyle adeptly navigates the spheres of corporate and client-side finance, always guiding with a principal investor’s sharp acumen.
Hailing from a lineage of industrious Midwestern entrepreneurs and creatives, his business instincts are deeply ingrained. This background fuels his entrepreneurial spirit and underpins his commitment to responsible investment. As the Founder and Owner of The Impact Investor, Kyle fervently advocates for increased awareness of ethically invested funds, empowering individuals to make judicious investment decisions.
Striving to marry financial prudence with positive societal impact, Kyle imparts practical strategies for saving and investing, underlined by a robust ethos of conscientious capitalism. His ambition transcends personal gain, aiming instead to spark transformative global change through the power of responsible investment.
When not immersed in the world of finance, he’s continually captivated by the cultural richness of new cities, relishing the opportunity to learn from diverse societies. This passion for travel is eloquently documented on his site, ViaTravelers.com, where you can delve into his unique experiences via his author profile.