To be conscious about your lifestyle makes a big difference on your carbon footprint. Transportation, housing (energy/gas), eating and stuff. They all matter. If you want to work on that, here is how to reduce your carbon footprint. It is actually pretty simple. Anyone who ever tried a diet understands what I am saying.
Best way to reduce your carbon footprint
Taking a plane has the highest impact on your carbon footprint! Traveling long distances (e.g. London – New York return) is responsible for a quarter of a person’s annual emission. That’s why I choose my transportation consciously.
In 2017 I traveled to New Zealand. I knew I needed to travel by plane because all the other options – although very charming – were too much time consuming. I did travel a bit by bus inside the country but mostly I hitchhiked (zero emission).
When it is humanly possible I like to travel by bus. Humanly possible for me means a maximum of 20 hours. Traveling from Utrecht to Prague is 16 hours. Taking a night bus makes it more tolerable. Flixbus is one of the cheapest companies in Europe. Utrecht – Prague (one way is € 40. When I travel inside the Netherlands I rarely travel by car (I don’t own a car), either by foot or I take a train or bus.
Eating meat is the second worst impact on our environment. Especially cow and sheep produce large quantities op methane, a powerful global warming gas. You can reduce your carbon footprint by eating less meat or simple cutting out any beef. That only makes a big difference. Here you see my results after being vegan for only one year.
Home heating is a big part of enlarging your carbon footprint. Already a lot of houses are insulated these days but you can do more. Take a close look at your heating systems (old boilers and gas). Even if your boiler is working well, when it is over 15 years old consider replacing it. It can make a big difference. Buy gas and electricity from retailers who sell renewable power.
Replace as many lights in your house with LED’s. Not only will your CO2 footprint fall, but because LEDs are so efficient, you will also help reduce the need for national grids to turn on the most expensive and polluting power stations at peak demand times on winter evenings. LED’s last at least 10 years.
Do you need a dryer? A friend of mine with a family of 5 (3 teenage daughters) lives happily ever after without a dryer. And a dish washer when you are a family of 1 or 2? Really? Don’t assume buying the newest and lowest energy level machine will do the trick. You might be in for an unpleasant surprise.
Cars and gadgets
If you can reduce your annual driving distance from 15.000 to 10.000 kilomater, that wil save 15% of an average person’s footprint. And when you have to drive so many kilometers, consider an electric car. Even though the electricity to charge your car will be partly generated in a gas or coal power station, electric vehicles are so much more efficient that total CO2 emissions will fall. But manufacturing an electric car produces more emissions than what the vehicle produces in its lifetime.
The same is true for many other desirable items; the energy needed to make a new computer or phone is many times the amount used to power it over its lifetime. Apple says 80% of the carbon footprint of a new laptop comes from manufacturing and distribution, not use in the home.
The last new thing a bought was an iPhone in 2017. That was my first new phone ever! I am going to use this one as long as possible. I also own a MacBook Pro, which is refurbished (second-hand). Cutting on having less gadgets in general is a very good way of living more consciously and reducing your carbon footprint. I am watching Netflix on my 13″ laptop or even on my phone.
Consume consciously and less
Consumption (from fruits until clothing) can be a big win when you reconsider buying anything in that category. Do you need to eat organic asparagus from Chile (which are shipped by plane)? Eating more locally grown vegetables and fruits wil certainly reduce your carbon footprint. Or even better: grow them yourself! When I lived in northern Norway, we were doomed to eat potatoes, carrots and reindeer meat. I remember buying a very small basil plant for €7 which was gone the next day.
And how about clothing. To be honest, I love to buy new clothes. But since I am a nomad, there is no use for many clothes. And it never hit me that I could buy second-hand clothes (I know, at some points I am a slow learning). But now I know and I made a commitment that I would never in my life buy new clothes again. Maybe except for that one big day in my life that will come some day …
But even if you don’t want to cut on your nice stuff and clothes, then you can stil consider buying from a company that is working towards carbon-neutral or even better. Those are committed to only manufacture with 100% renewable energy.
If you are only applying one thing (or improving that one thing), I think you are a badass!