In 2018, the U.N. climate science body released The IPCC report, which outlined how our best method of limiting climate change is to cut human carbon dioxide emissions by 45% by 2030. By 2050, it is argued that we need to be down to net zero. This may sound like an impossible goal, but we need to start making changes in our lives now if we want to slow climate change and preserve our planet’s resources for future generations.
What is a Carbon Footprint?
The term “carbon footprint” is thrown around a lot, but what does it actually mean? Your carbon footprint refers to the amount of greenhouse gas emissions you are responsible for in your lifetime, including the production of the following gases.
- Carbon Dioxide
- Nitrous Oxide
- Fluorinated Gases
You might produce these emissions through lifestyle activities like burning fuel for your car, flying in planes, eating meat, and throwing away non-biodegradable goods, among other things. As greenhouse gases wreak havoc on the ozone layer and increase the damaging effects of climate change, almost everything we do can negatively affect the environment if we’re not making conscious decisions to try to reduce our carbon footprint. To get a better idea of what your carbon footprint currently is, use this online carbon footprint calculator to help reduce and offset your emissions.
What simple activities can you do to reduce your carbon footprint?
While large corporations and policy leaders have the most power to protect the environment, you can also do your part to make more thoughtful choices when shopping and reduce your carbon footprint. With everything you shop for, from clean skincare to organic canvas sneakers, it’s essential to make eco-conscious decisions. Each small step helps us protect this place we call home. This is how you can start living a sustainable lifestyle.
The first and simplest way to make better decisions while shopping is simply to buy less. Take a good look at your closet — if there are items you haven’t worn in a while, why not bring them to the front and give them a second chance? Experiment with styling the pieces you already own in different ways, rather than always buying something new for events. Instead of buying a high quantity of inexpensive clothes, shoes, and household items, save up and purchase only a few high-quality pieces that will last a long time and be more meaningful. In sum, adopting a minimalist mindset where less is more.
Make a List of Items to Purchase Before You Shop
Before you go to any store, make a list of things you actually need. The trouble with showing up at a store unprepared is that you will be tempted to buy impulsively or might buy something not knowing where or how it has been produced. You might unknowingly buy something made from plastic or from a company with poor environmental or labor practices. Instead, make a list of items before you go and stick to that list. If you see something you would like to have, like a new pair of comfortable sneakers, write them down and go home to look up the brand before buying.
Do Your Research
Doing your research is a key part of shopping thoughtfully. Are those women’s sneakers you liked sustainable sneakers, or are they made using toxic foam? Vegan sneakers, like organic cotton sneakers, are usually your best option. If there is a product by a brand you haven’t heard of before, check to see what their practices are for their employees and the environment. You can either use a search engine to look up whether they have transparent sustainability reports or download the app Good On You, which has done your work for you by giving every brand a rating based on sustainability.
Even though the internet provides us the luxuries of endless choice and convenience of delivery, you can find most items in your local shops and they will often be of higher quality. For example, this is very much the case for fresh produce. Support your local farms by shopping at farmer’s markets for all of your groceries. By shopping locally, you are helping your neighbors, stimulating the local economy, and getting better quality goods and food. You can also cut down on the energy and packaging used in delivery by picking up the products straight from the source.
Buy Secondhand or Vintage
One of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint is to buy secondhand or vintage clothing and to sell your old clothes and shoes, rather than throwing them away. By reusing and re-wearing clothing and shoes, you are extending the lifespan of a garment and also not contributing to the waste that is necessary to produce a new one. Becoming a part of the circular fashion economy is not just good for the environment, it’s also fun and means no one else will have the same clothes you do.
Pay Attention to Materials
You can find out a lot about the sustainability of a product simply by checking the tag and seeing what the materials are. Most sustainable companies will tell you about their practices on the tag, but if they don’t, then you should look to see if the materials used are all-natural or synthetic. Many synthetics are harmful to the environment, so be wary. To put it in perspective, it takes more than 70 billion barrels of oil per year to make the amount of polyester used. Not only is the production unsustainable, but plastics do not biodegrade, so they leave traces of microplastics behind. Here are some synthetic materials to avoid in clothing and shoes.
Not only are natural materials safer, but they are also generally higher quality than polyester or plastic, which means you will be able to wear your clothes and shoes for longer. Here are some natural materials to add to your wardrobe.
- Organic cotton
- Pineapple Leaves
While animal leather is natural, it’s best to avoid buying it in most cases. Unfortunately, the tanning process of leather requires a lot of toxic heavy metal chemicals like chromium, plus it uses a lot of water and energy.
When you are shopping at a store, bring your own bag and opt for items that come free of any packaging. For example, you don’t need to use individual plastic bags at a grocery store for your produce — simply place your produce in your basket and carry them out of the store in a reusable tote. You can also find reusable eco-friendly packaging, like beeswax wraps that work just as well as plastic and are sustainable. Packaging creates a lot of unnecessary waste, particularly all the packaging that comes with items being shipped.
How to Purchase Carbon Offsets?
Beyond altering your shopping and making choices for energy efficiency, you can also purchase carbon offsets, or create them yourself. Carbon offsets are ways of absorbing carbon from the environment to even out the damage you have created. While you have produced some emissions, you are also taking some away. You can purchase carbon offsets online through an organization working against climate change, or by shopping with companies that have programs for carbon offsetting. You can also just plant a tree yourself through activity on Forest Nation, or organize a team to plant trees in your community. This is one of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint as trees naturally absorb carbon dioxide.