How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint.

If you don’t believe in climate change this post isn’t for you. This post is for logical people. The most recent report from the UN on climate change was the most startling yet – but is it enough to make you try to change your carbon footprint?

Welcome to the hilarious world of carbon footprints!!! HAHAHAHAHA!!! They’re so funny!!!! Sorry, yeah, carbon footprints aren’t intrinsically funny but I figured if I started out with a BANG you’d stick with me. Said every high school girl ever.

I’ve done my best to make this information as digestible as a piece of dry toast – but the fun kind with an outline of the Virgin Mary burned into it to make it interesting and a bit alarming.

So let’s get started then.

What’s a Carbon Footprint

A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases produced and emitted into the atmosphere. This can refer to a business, individual or country. These greenhouse gases collect in the atmosphere and trap heat. BINGO. You have global warming and climate change because heat from the earth can’t escape the atmosphere.

The good news is if we continue on like this we won’t need to travel to tropical destinations for vacation because wherever you live will be a tropical destination. Also you’ll possibly be dead. So there’s that.

Your personal carbon footprint is a reflection of how good or shit you are in terms of controlling the greenhouse gases your life/lifestyle emits. A BIG carbon footprint means your particular life leads to a lot of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. A small carbon footprint means your life barfs fewer greenhouse gases into the air.

How big or small your carbon footprint is is based on the amount and how you travel, how much energy your home uses, how much shopping you do and what you eat. Among, ya know, other things.

So What are Greenhouse Gases?

Greenhouse gases are the bad things that block heat from escaping the atmosphere. They include Carbon Dioxide (from burning oil, coal or gas – think heating/cooling your home ), Methane (from the production and transport of oil, coal and gas and livestock – think cows/beef/sheep/goats ), Nitrous Oxide (agricultural fertilizers, and poop – again thinking livestock raised for you to eat ) and Fluorinated gases (from refrigerators, car air conditioning, foam production and aerosols ).

In very general terms the more you heat or cool your home, the more meat you eat, the more you shop & the more travel you do – the greater your carbon footprint.

non-expert but logical analysis by me

If you have your air conditioner set so cold you look like Jennifer Aniston in an episode of Friends, then you are creating more greenhouse gases than someone who keeps the temperature more moderate.

Both Canadians and Americans have the Bigfoot of carbon footprints. Only outdone by Australians. That’s in terms of individual use. As far as countries go, China is the worst for emitting greenhouse gases, followed by the U.S.

Right now, average individuals in Australia, Canada and the US have HUGE carbon footprints, emitting 16-20 tonnes per person per year.

In order to stop the world from imploding – or exploding – we need to reduce that to 2 tonnes per person per year. Holy shit is right.

So how can you start to reduce your carbon footprint? Here’s how based on the 4 biggest culprits in your life: travel, energy use, shopping and food consumption.

Travelling

Microchanges

  • Drive Less Cars are major emitters so before you hop in it to go to the store don’t. Either walk to the store if you can or just plan ahead so you’re taking ONE trip for several things instead of several trips for one thing each time.
  • Fly Less Even ONE trip in an airplane is monumentally bad. One flight from Toronto to Florida for example produces the same amount of greenhouse gases as driving for an entire year.

Can’t stop flying because (insert what’s probably a made up reason but justifiable in your head here)? Then you should try to do these things.

  • Fly direct. Flying direct might cost more but it uses less energy because there are less take offs and landings (where major emissions occur)
  • Fly during the day. I couldn’t begin to explain it but there are sciencey reasons why flying during the day produces less emissions.

Macrochanges

  • Make the next car you buy electric. Just remember to scream wildly out the window as you’re driving because nobody can hear those cars coming.
  • Don’t fly.
  • When you fly vow to offset your emissions.

Offsetting your emissions basically means giving money to organizations that put money into funding green energy or reducing emissions in other ways. A lot of airlines give you this option when you buy your ticket. Honestly. It’s a thing.

Energy use

Microchanges

  • Turn your water heater down to 120 F / 49 C. Unless you’re using your bathtub to cook hard boiled eggs, you don’t need it hotter than that.
  • Turn your air conditioner up or your furnace down by 2 degrees.
  • Use an energy provider that has a green option (power provided by wind or solar) or use offsetting. In Ontario, where I’m from, a company called Bullfrog charges you a fee every month that they invest in green energy to offset the fossil fuel energy your home uses.
  • Finally switch to LED lightbulbs. Seriously. Where are you even GETTING regular old lightbulbs?? You bought cases of them when you heard the switch was coming didn’t you?
  • Unplug instead of turn off. (the television, coffee maker, any other appliances)
  • Use a laptop instead of a desktop computer (they use less energy.)
  • Trees and shrubs. Plant ’em around your house. They can cool your home so much that your air conditioner won’t need to come on nearly as often. And in the winter they protect your house from cold blowing winds.
  • Dry your clothing on a clothesline.

If you ever see a farmhouse on the prairies or anywhere with open land surrounding it you’ll notice the house is usually surrounded by trees. It’s to protect the house from blowing winds and sun. So be smart like a farmer. Insulate your home with trees and bushes.

Macrochanges

  • Go solar. Solar panels, solar roofing shingles, solar lighting.
  • Make your home more energy efficient with insulation or new windows. Even just filling cracks with spray foam can make a big difference. But energy efficient windows, doors and skylights can make a bigger difference.

Shopping

Microchanges

  • Choose natural fibres over synthetics for clothing.
  • Shop Fair Trade. That means looking for the Fair Trade logo on food and clothing. It means it was ethically made and sustainably sourced. Don’t worry. There’s nice Fair Trade clothing. You won’t have to dress like a drunk Sherpa.
  • Calm the hell down with your midnight online anxiety induced shopping binges. The manufacturing, shipping and disposal of that $10 pair of pants that you only wear once is contributing to climate change.

You and the environment are better off if you buy ONE good thing that lasts and looks good for years than succumbing to all the Instagram ads for what is basically disposable clothing.

At Christmas nobody wants to see your family sitting on a bed wearing matching plaid pyjamas anyway. I know. You thought we liked it. We don’t. We know you’re just a regular family that normally wears old tee shirts to bed. It’s O.K.

  • Buy used and vintage. That goes for everything. Clothing, tables, chairs, make up. Just kidding. You can buy new make up. Nobody wants you to get a rash or pink eye.
  • Fix stuff. K, you need to learn to fix your own shit or pay someone to fix it. Because throwing it out and getting a new one isn’t a good option. Also complain to companies about their shit products. Everyone knows that things aren’t made the way they used to be. The reason for that is so people throw shit out and buy new shit that will eventually break and the cycle continues with big companies making lots of money.

Macrochanges

  • Stop shopping. Seriously. Just stop. Find another way to make yourself happy or reward yourself. Get a different hobby. Learn to make your own moonshine or make really awesome toilet paper covers or dog biscuits or something.

Food

83% of your personal carbon footprint

is created by FOOD.

THIS is the place you can make the biggest impact on your carbon footprint.


Microchanges

  • Eat Less Meat That’s right. Just less meat. You don’t have to give up burgers or steaks entirely. If you eat meat 7 days a week just give yourself one meatless day in the week. If you already cut down on meat, do it some more. Or swap beef for chicken.

WHY IS BEEF BAD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT?

It takes a lot of feed, land and water to raise cattle. And they BURP endless amounts of methane into the environment. Sometimes they fart too, but it’s the burping that’s destroying us.

I swear to god if you had told me that cow burps were more dangerous than rusty old carnival rides I never would have believed you.

The effect of raising cattle on the environment is multifaceted. They take a lot of feed, water and land to raise and once raised they burp a LOT producing one of those sneaky greenhouse gases – methane. To raise the beef, forested land is often clear cut. This takes away the one thing in this world that’s silently working to reduce greenhouse gases: trees.

The creation of *one* pound of ground beef releases 14.8 pounds of CO2 in the the air.

One mature tree can absorb 48 pounds of CO2 per year.

The number one thing we want to do is reduce the amount of CO2 in the air. Trees do that naturally every second of every day. But don’t be fooled. Just planting trees isn’t going to fix this. We need to do other things too.


  • Grow Your Own The biggest contribution to greenhouse gases is in the production of food as opposed to the delivery of it. Eat food that’s in season and grow what you can at home. Growing your own helps reduce greenhouse gases produced by large commercial grow operations plus you aren’t hopping in your car to go to the grocery store as much. Also chances are what you’re growing is a Black Krim tomato as opposed to a 2,000 lb Black Angus cow. However, having backyard chickens is a good way to reduce your carbon footprint.

I know these seem like stupid little changes that’ll never amount to anything. Just because something seems insignificant doesn’t mean it is.

  • Don’t waste food. Like I mentioned above, food is probably the main source of your entire carbon footprint. Wasting food is like directly shooting all of the greenhouse gases into the atmosphere with a tee shirt canon for no reason at all.

Only buy what you need. 🥒 Make a menu for the week and buy the exact ingredients you need for that. 🍽 Rework leftovers into something new or suck it up and just eat leftovers.🍗 Scan your fridge every week to see what you need to use up before it goes bad. 🥜 Don’t impulse buy bulk if you can’t use it up.

If it comes in a container you could safely plummet over Niagara Falls in, you probably don’t need that much of it.

Macrochanges

Become Vegan. Going vegan is the #1 way you can reduce the carbon footprint produced by your food consumption. By doing this you eliminate 2 of the biggest greenhouse gas culprits – meat & dairy.

Become Vegetarian*. That’s O.K. You’re not willing to give up cream in your coffee or scrambled eggs. Going vegetarian is still going to make a huge difference in your personal carbon footprint.

*Or you can be a pretend vegetarian like me. I eat meat, but only a couple of times a week.

Continue to eat meat but grow all of the other food you consume. Sounds hard and it is. But it can be done. I grow the majority of my own vegetables, fruit, dried beans and some of my grains on a 40′ x 40′ rented community garden plot. Throughout the summer I preserve everything for the winter. To be honest, by February I’m really sick of canned beans and root vegetables. #truth

6 Easy Things You Can Do TODAY

  1. Look through your fridge for food that’s getting old and use it.

2. Fill cracks in your house foundation and around windows with a can of that spray foam. The aerosol is bad and the foam component is bad. But it’s offset by the benefits of insulating your house.

3. Walk to the store instead of driving.

4. Turn your heat down or your air conditioning up by 2 degrees.

5. That sour cream container you’re about to throw out or recycle can be washed and used to store other stuff like your yogurt or roasted tomato sauce in the freezer. Which only needs to be set to 0 F / -18 C by the way. Stick a thermometer in your freezer and increase the temperature if it’s needlessly low. That’s a bonus tip for you.

6. Keeping your car windows rolled up so your toots don’t escape isn’t an efficient way to reduce methane. Turning the air conditioner in your car off and rolling down the windows instead is. If you do go for a drive today roll down the windows instead of blasting the air.

If you made it all the way to the end of this, thank you. It’s easy to think this is someone else’s responsibility. That someone, somewhere, won’t let the planet burst into flames. But it’s already happening. So clearly that approach isn’t working. For any of us.

You don’t have to change everything. But you have to change something. And you need to start doing it today. Don’t make it a bigger deal than it is. Nobody’s asking you to eat cow farts. Just eat a bit less meat, don’t buy garbage you don’t need and change your thermostat by a couple of degrees.

The action isn’t a big deal but the impact is.

How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint.

121 Comments

  1. Righteously indignant says:

    I specially enjoy the comments of people describing themselves as logical and using quotation marks around the word.

  2. Kari in Dallas says:

    Regardless of how you feel about this post, it is clear that the way most of the world is living is not sustainable. Whether you approach positive change as a way of combating climate change or as a way of saving money, or a way to throw a big ol’ eff you at Jeff Bezos, you’re still doing something good for future generations.

    Think it’s all bullshit? That’s fine, you do you. But maybe try to buy your meat from a local rancher, use in-season produce from local farmers (FYI, they both taste better than the shit that comes from WalMart). Maybe do a combined Amazon order which may take a day longer, but reduces the ridiculous amount of gasoline, paper, and plastic it takes to get that $5 roll of duct tape to your front steps.

    Anyway, Karen, I appreciate you, girl. Your site is called the Art of Doing Stuff for a reason. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen people take umbrage with ideas about how to keep chickens happy, what to do with a pile of bones, or why your logo involves a meat cleaver. So, keep
    those ideas on how to do stuff coming. It’s good to learn something new (even if if doesn’t agree with one’s personal worldview)

    BTW, I am a student of environmental science and public health, and can confirm the current situation is a complete and total shitshow. If anyone wants more info on peer reviewed science papers regarding this, I’m happy to help you find those resources.

    Fondly,

  3. Carrie says:

    Thank you Karen for all these practical tips for living life properly and sensibly. To everyone talking about “negatives” I’d just like to say your energy could be better spent commenting on blogs that don’t even try to help with the problems we all know are going on like consumerism, waste and pollution. There’s a lot of blogs that glorify fast fashion and excess. Why crawl out of the woodwork now when Karen is just listing stuff that used to be normal like don’t waste food and don’t waste money? Live sustainably… that’s NEVER bad advice! Shame on anyone who tries to act like this was a post worth unsubscribing over, that’s just silly. Shake your head and look at the big picture, people.

  4. Great blog as usual, I am passing it on!

  5. Jody says:

    Wow….on so many levels. Thank you for providing the list of actions we can all do to make our planet a bit better.
    I’ve read through the comments….and again…..Wow.
    Karen, please, PLEASE, keep providing useful information to help this planet of ours survive.

  6. Maria Largaespada says:

    Um….so chickens don’t burp?

  7. Kristin says:

    If YOU are among the people that don’t think we are destroying this planet, think again.
    You don’t have to call it climate change. But WE ALL need to do better than we have been.
    Thank you, Karen!

  8. Donna says:

    I find this whole comment section sad. And snide. I agree with some of Karen’s post and disagree with some. I would not snipe at her and play the “I’m gonna take my toys and go home game” like a two year old. Neither would I insult the intelligence and/or character of people who are playing that game. I’ve a,ready started making changes years ago. I live in TX and keep my thermostat at 80. 82 when we go to 3 digit temps. I keep all the shit in the house unplugged or and/turned off unless I’m using it. If there’s a blue light emanating I unplug. Haven’t figured out how to 7nplug oven or frig electronic display. I am growing food. Some anyway. I’m learning regenerative soil practices but it’s a bit over my head yet. I recycle food through my worm farm. Age and nerve damage prevent traditional composting.
    I do recall a science major telling me centuries ago that rolling up the windows and running AC “moderately” uses less gas than rolling down windows, due to wind resistance. I have reduced my beef consumption. Will not end it but do buy grass fed. Switching to chicken is problematic if you’re gonna buy the industrial raised chicken. But my only real complaint or disagreement is with the suggestion not to travel, by air or by car. My closest child is five hours away. The other two are cross country and not in major cities so there are no direct flights. If I took that advice “literally”. I’d never see my grandkids. But I’m know she didn’t mean that and I think there is a lot of common sense advice in the post. I’m sure I’ll get slammed for staying I’m very much a Christian. By my daily reading of the Bible, I’m sure God expects us to be good stewards of this magnificent planet. I’m incensed every time I read about someone taking a private jet and then preaching about climate change, or worse, taking a private jet and then preaching about religion

  9. Cindy G says:

    Climate change is such a complex issue! And, most of the changes really do need to come from the top- government and big business. But, even the changes listed above can make a difference if enough people make them.

    Also, I recently took a class about population growth, and the biggest, and most surprising, takeaway for me was that one of the best ways to help climate change is to educate women. The biggest reason for that is, in a nutshell, because women are more likely to take control of when they have children, and how many they have, which is critical because the population growth is a huge factor in climate change.

    So, when considering how to offset your own carbon footprint, consider donating to an organization that helps to educate women!

    • Becky says:

      This is so true. If we all donated to and supported ways to lift women and girls up, and give them real choices in life – education, economic equality and especially reproductive rights, not only would it have a huge positive impact on climate change, it would make the world a better, happier and more just place. Ditto reducing poverty and inequality in general. Check out Prof Hans Rosling on this. There’s a reason why climate change denial is associated with the Right. Conservatives have also been proven to be more squeamish and averse to unpleasant things, psychologically, which I interpret as their reason for acting out of ignorance rather than facing hard facts. It’s not nice to think about the precarious state we’re in, but ignoring it just because it’s scary, and creating a whole nonsensical finger pointing hissy fit over a blog post about climate change, just to cover up your own fears, is beyond childish.

  10. Tricia Rose says:

    How immediately the comments were politicised! I do many of your suggestions because I am cheap as chips. Nobody needs to waste.
    Good on you Karen!

  11. Vikki says:

    Gold Stars for you!! for this post. It takes so little for each person to make a difference. I’ve been working on these for 30 years now and I hope everyone joins in. One of the definitions of an adult is: the ability to postpone gratification. In the U.S., we don’t have many adults. Everyone is traveling, buying, consuming as fast as they can. They seem unable to deny themselves anything. Baby Boomers–the entitled ones—we have much to blame you for!!! Everyone–time to do what is best for the common good.

  12. Mary W says:

    I buy and eat yogurt almost every morning – plain, full fat, yummy NOT greek, yogurt. But I also make my own jellies and top it with them or a banana but normally, I cover the top of the mound with plain bran flakes. It has been my staple for a couple years and my grands have grown to love it, also. So making my own will be a treat – stove top method, mason jars, in towel in closed OFF oven or microwave. Can’t wait for my breakfast tomorrow.THANKS!

  13. Erin M. says:

    Holy hannah, some people need more science and less bullshit in their lives. Did it occur to any of the people announcing their departures that even if you don’t agree with 98% of scientists on the planet, that maybe doing some of these things wouldn’t be a bad idea in general? Because it’s just better to do? Oh, no, that would take that ‘logic’ thing that you’re flinging around like you know what it means or that you’ve actually applied it to this situation.

    Karen: keep rocking. All of these things are excellent ideas to help improve things on our poor planet. You’re still one of my favorites. *high five*

  14. Della says:

    Karen, thanks for the reminder. Have you watched the show, Kiss the Ground? Brings to the forefront the health of our soil. Even, home gardeners can gleam some insight and put it into practise in their small yards!

  15. Eden says:

    You haven’t lost me Karen.
    I’m with you now, more than ever. Thank you.

  16. Andrea Berneche says:

    Do I love you? Yes
    Do I agree with everything you said? No
    Did I get my panties in a bunch and threaten to leave? No
    Why? Because most everyone is doing the best they can most of the time with the information they have been exposed to… and there is soooooo much information out there -and a lot of it is conflicting.

  17. Mim says:

    Well done, Karen! One thing I would add for those who have a hard time even thinking about giving up meat is to switch to buying your meat from local farmers, who raise their own on a small scale, with far less ecological impact. I’m not saying their cows don’t fart, or that there is no carbon downside to small-scale farming, but you’re getting meat from animals who are treated well, grazed on grass, and in ideal circumstances, slaughtered humanely. Our sheep graze 8 months out of the year in organically-certified meadows and eat hay from those meadows in the winter. They rotate to new pasture every two days, constantly fertilizing and enriching the soil and assuring they have fresh, clean grass to eat. Fences and barns are powered with solar energy, water is from the spring. So my advice is to check out your local food sources – for vegetables as well, when possible – instead of factory farms. The difference in taste is amazing, and you’ll be helping the local economy as well as the planet.

    Thanks again, Karen. Don’t let the haters get you down.

  18. Aunt Diane from Streator says:

    I just started reading this blog 10 days ago. I really enjoy it! I do many of the things suggested. I only drive one day/week; I eat very few animal products; I’m trying very diligently to reduce food waste; I recycle, and I try to buy used, high quality products. I do these things because I want to do my part. Let’s not turn this blog into a political arena. Be nice, everyone! Do what you can. Do what you wish. But, do everything with love.

  19. Ada Berry says:

    Karen…you’re the BEST!!! Thank you!!! We all just need to be more mindful. No spider destroys its own web, no rabbit destroys it’s burrow.
    Keep on keeping on Karen.

  20. If only we knew this years ago, oh wait, we did. Sadly this will fall on deaf ears, like the DP’s of the world, just as it did years ago. All I can say is be ready when the time comes. Repent, the end is near, wash away your sins with Shining Waters Soap.

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