The simple guide to cutting your carbon footprint
Five steps to cut carbon that can boost your health, save some cash, and make you feel great about taking climate action.
Worried about the climate and want to do something about it? You’re not alone. Despite all the chaos of 2020, people are expressing record levels of concern about the climate — and companies, brands, and even countries are pledging to take action by going carbon neutral.
Here’s the thing: You don’t have to be a massive corporation or government to cut carbon and make a difference. You can shrink your footprint now — today — with a few simple actions. What’s more, you won’t just help the planet, you can also improve your health, save money, and feel good about living climate consciously. It’s a true win-win.
Wait — what even is my carbon footprint?
First, a refresher: The term ‘carbon footprint’ refers to the invisible, ever-growing cloud of greenhouse gases generated by our modern lifestyles. That includes carbon dioxide (where the name comes from), methane, nitrous oxide, and other gases that trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming.
Because we can’t see them, we often forget about them, but everyone’s individual carbon footprints are part of the problem. The latest science shows that we only have until 2050 to take global emissions to net zero to avoid major catastrophe. That means everyone, from governments to business to individuals, should cut as much carbon as possible as fast as possible.
We’re here to help — and to remind you that reducing your emissions doesn’t need to be a huge sacrifice. In fact, you might find that cutting carbon can actually improve your quality of life. Ready to see how? Let’s dive in.
Step One: Eat well and eat it all
Three times a day you have a chance to shrink your footprint. That’s because every meal you eat has a carbon cost. Some are much lower or higher than others.
Take lunch: Simply switch from a hamburger to a chicken burger. Even switching from beef to chicken can cut a quarter of your food emissions, on average. That’s because cows emit an incredible amount of methane — 37% of all methane produced by human activity.
Want to get next level? Skip animal products entirely and fall in love with a plant-based diet. Swap your burger for a black bean patty. Simmer up a veggie stew. Whip up a fresh fruit smoothie (tip: add a frozen banana to get the creamy texture of ice cream). Scientists have estimated that going vegan for just two-thirds of your meals would knock a whopping 60% off your food-related carbon footprint. Huge!
And don’t forget about what’s already in your fridge: Those late-season strawberries and tomatoes aren’t going to eat themselves. Right now, Americans waste 40% of the food they buy. Every scrap of that used carbon to grow and transport to the market.
These kinds of changes can have huge health boosts. Not only will you feel better, you’ll have a better chance of living longer, too.
The key is this: Eat as far down on the food chain as you can, as often as you can, and eat it all. When you do this, you can have a mega impact — on your health and the planet.
Step Two: Change up your commute
Transportation is a serious chunk of our emissions — on average it represents nearly a quarter of an American footprint. But with a few easy changes, you can get around with less CO2 and save some cash, too.
Have you been struggling to find time to exercise? Ride your bike to work. It’ll help you get your daily sweat on, improve your mood and health, and save you money on gas.
If you live too far to bike, or it’s simply not feasible, then consider public transportation. Taking the train or bus to work, even once a week, shows your support for green transit, and cuts your carbon footprint immensely.
No trains where you live? Then consider carpooling. It’s a great way to get to know your colleagues or classmates, and cuts emissions and gas costs for everyone in the car.
The big takeaway: Try to skip fossil fuels in your commute whenever possible — it'll save you money and could even help your health!
Step Three: Travel the world up close and personal
We’ll never tell you not to travel — it’s an incredible way to learn, grow, and appreciate the world around you. But the way you travel can have an immense impact on your footprint.
Did you know that a single long-haul flight can easily emit more carbon than many people emit in a year? Instead, take the train — or even a road trip — and you’ll avoid a massive chunk of emissions.
If you can’t escape air travel, do what you can to make it as green as possible. Fly shorter distances, fly coach, and consider taking fewer, longer vacations instead of many short ones.
This is a big one, but it doesn’t have to be a sacrifice. There are likely many incredible areas to explore close to home, and you can carve out a more personalized itinerary with the freedom of a car or the ability to hop on and off a train.
Step Four: Shop smarter
This one’s simple: Buy things that last and use them for a long time. The more clothing, electronics, and stuff we purchase, the more resources we use and the more CO2 is pumped into our air.
Here are some ideas for shrinking your shopping footprint:
When buying clothes, ask yourself how often you’ll wear each item. If it’s only a few times, or just one season, then give it a miss. If it’s something that will last you a lifetime (hello favorite sweater) then go for it!
If it’s possible, consider buying from sustainable brands. Look for keywords like organic, recycled, biodegradable, fairtrade, and sustainable when you shop.
Go further by shopping vintage. It’s simply more fun, better for the planet, and often way more affordable.
When shopping for your home, look for natural and biodegradable materials, like bamboo. Try to avoid plastic and other fossil-fuel derived products.
Step Five: Offset the rest
The truth is, some carbon can’t be avoided, and big lifestyle and political changes can’t happen overnight. In the meantime, you can offset your entire carbon footprint with the click of a button.
With Klima (hi, that’s us!), you can calculate your carbon footprint and offset it by funding impactful climate projects that prevent or remove the same emissions elsewhere. That means you can live carbon neutral immediately, while you plan on reducing your footprint sustainably over time — and push for structural and political changes collectively.
The good news is that the climate crisis is solvable — with action and commitment from us all. When we can start with the simple stuff, we can take action right away, no waiting required.