Emissions not only contribute to global warming, but are also suspected of having immediate effect on regional climates.

Global warming will degenerate food and water supplies; cause rising sea levels, and expanding flood plains; and worsening air quality, resulting in additional morbidity and mortality from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. 

For Individuals

There are many ways to save energy, such as insulating your home or putting up solar panels. However we still need to make everyday changes to our lives to keep recusing our emission as far as possible.

First calculate your carbon footprint

Your carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases—including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, fluorinated gases and others—that you produce as you live your life. The Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project determined that in order to hold the global temperature rise to 2˚C or less, everyone on earth will need to average an annual carbon footprint of 1.87 tons by 2050. Currently, the average U.S. per capita carbon footprint is 18.3 tons. By comparison, China’s per capita carbon emissions are 8.2 tons. We all have a ways to go to get to 1.87 tons.

The EPA’s carbon footprint calculator can show how much carbon and money you will save by taking some of these steps. Here are some of the easiest ways you can start to shrink your carbon footprint.

Food

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1. Eat low on the food chain. This means eating mostly fruits, veggies, grains, and beans. Livestock—meat and dairy—is responsible for 14.5 percent of manmade global greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from feed production and processing and the methane (25 times more potent than CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere over 100 years) that beef and sheep belch out. Every day that you forgo meat and dairy, you can reduce your carbon footprint by 8 pounds—that’s 2,920 pounds a year. You can start by joining Meatless Mondays.

2. Choose organic and local foods that are in season. Transporting food from far away, whether by truck, ship, rail or plane, uses fossil fuels for fuel and for cooling to keep foods in transit from spoiling.

3. Buy foodstuffs in bulk when possible using your own reusable container.

4. Reduce your food waste by planning meals ahead of time, freezing the excess and reusing leftovers.

5. Compost your food waste if possible.

photo of women s clothing

Clothing

6. Don’t buy fast fashion. Trendy, cheap items that go out of style quickly get dumped in landfills where they produce methane as they decompose. Currently, the average American discards about 80 pounds of clothing each year, 85 percent of which ends up in landfills. In addition, most fast fashion comes from China and Bangladesh, so shipping it to the U.S. requires the use of fossil fuels. Instead, buy quality clothing that will last.

7. Even better, buy vintage or recycled clothing at consignment shops.

8. Wash your clothing in cold water. The enzymes in cold water detergent are designed to clean better in cold water. Doing two loads of laundry weekly in cold water instead of hot or warm water can save up to 500 pounds of carbon dioxide each year.

closeup photo black door yes we are open signage

Shopping

9. Buy less stuff! And buy used or recycled items whenever possible.

10. Bring your own reusable bag when you shop.

11. Try to avoid items with excess packaging.

12. If you’re in the market for a new computer, opt for a laptop instead of a desktop. Laptops require less energy to charge and operate than desktops.

13. If shopping for appliances, lighting, office equipment or electronics, look for Energy Star products, which are certified to be more energy efficient.

14. Support and buy from companies that are environmentally responsible and sustainable.

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Home

15. Do an energy audit of your home. This will show how you use or waste energy and help identify ways to be more energy efficient.

16. Change incandescent light bulbs (which waste 90 percent of their energy as heat) to light emitting diodes (LEDs). Though LEDs cost more, they use a quarter of the energy and last up to 25 times longer. They are also preferable to compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs, which emit 80 percent of their energy as heat and contain mercury.

17. Switch lights off when you leave the room and unplug your electronic devices when they are not in use.

18. Turn your water heater down to 120˚F. This can save about 550 pounds of CO2 a year.

19. Installing a low-flow showerhead to reduce hot water use can save 350 pounds of CO2. Taking shorter showers helps, too.

20. Lower your thermostat in winter and raise it in summer. Use less air conditioning in the summer; instead opt for fans, which require less electricity. And check out these other ways to beat the heat without air conditioning.

21. Sign up to get your electricity from clean energy through your local utility or a certified renewable energy provider. Green-e.org can help you find certified green energy providers.

architecture auto automobiles bridge

Transportation

Because electricity increasingly comes from natural gas and renewable energy, transportation became the major source of U.S. CO2 emissions in 2017. An average car produces about five tons of CO2 each year (although this varies according to the type of car, its fuel efficiency and how it’s driven). Making changes in how you get around can significantly cut your carbon budget.

22. Drive less. Walk, take public transportation, carpool, rideshare or bike to your destination when possible. This not only reduces CO2 emissions, it also lessens traffic congestion and the idling of engines that accompanies it.

23. If you must drive, avoid unnecessary braking and acceleration. Some studies found that aggressive driving can result in 40 percent more fuel consumption than consistent, calm driving.

24. Take care of your car. Keeping your tires properly inflated can increase your fuel efficiency by three percent; and ensuring that your car is properly maintained can increase it by four percent. Remove any extra weight from the car.

25. When doing errands, try to combine them to reduce your driving.

26. Use traffic apps like Waze to help avoid getting stuck in traffic jams.

27. On longer trips, turn on the cruise control, which can save gas.

28. Use less air conditioning while you drive, even when the weather is hot.

29. If you’re shopping for a new car, consider purchasing a hybrid or electric vehicle. But do factor in the greenhouse gas emissions from the production of the car as well as its operation. Some electric vehicles are initially responsible for more emissions than internal combustion engine vehicles because of manufacturing impacts; but they make up for it after three years. This app rates cars based on their mileage, fuel type and emissions from both the production of the car and, if they are EVs, from generating the electricity to run them.

Carbon offsets

A carbon offset is an amount of money you can pay for a project that reduces greenhouse gases somewhere else. If you offset one ton of carbon, the offset will help capture or destroy one ton of greenhouse gases that would otherwise have been released into the atmosphere. Offsets also promote sustainable development and increase the use of renewable energy.

This calculator estimates the carbon emissions of your flight and the amount of money needed to offset them. For example, flying economy roundtrip from New York to Los Angeles produces 1.5 tons of CO2; it costs $43 to offset this carbon.

You can purchase carbon offsets to compensate for any or all of your other carbon emissions as well.

The money you pay goes towards climate protection projects. Various projects include energy efficient cookstoves in Rwanda, installing solar power in the Dominican Republic, and sustainably planting trees in India, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda and Nicaragua to absorb CO2. There are also U.S. projects utilizing animal waste from farms, installing wind power, and capturing landfill gas to generate electricity.

Columbia Climate School

For Organisations

The Institute provides an Emission Reduction program Template free of charge to facilitate the implementation of the policies and procedures needed to reduce emissions on an ongoing basis.

To download the template in MSWord: click here

Businesses have the ability to work towards making an impact on climate change, as corporations are cited as one of the primary creators of greenhouse gas emissions. By measuring current carbon outputs and working to reduce their carbon footprint, businesses can send a message to their customers and the world at large that they understand their role in curbing greenhouse gases. There are several initiatives corporations can enact to reduce their carbon footprint.

More and more frequently, consumers are choosing to support entities that are socially conscious and showing tangible steps to reduce their carbon footprint. There are several key areas to approach when attempting to be more sustainable, including energy reduction, plastic reduction, transportation, supply chain transparency, and education, to name a few. For more information on how your business can work towards lessening its carbon footprint, please visit the EPA website to learn more.

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Reduce Energy Use

Energy use typically comprises about half of a company’s carbon footprint. Reducing a facility’s energy use not only cuts cost on energy bills, but also decreases the environmental burden for which a company is responsible. Whether that’s installing energy-efficient lighting, using energy-efficient appliances, or switching to a green web hosting company, there are many ways to make small changes. And those small changes have the potential for a big impact: according to the EPA, over 1.5 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions would be saved if every office product purchased in the U.S. was ENERGY STAR certified.

assorted plastic bottles

Eliminate Single-use Plastics

Single-use plastics are another large contributor to a business’s carbon footprint. Every time someone throws away a plastic straw, bag, cup or packaging materials, these products exact a toll on the environment. Almost all plastic products are made from fossil fuels, and refining those fuels into plastics is an energy-intensive process that is driving up global emissions. Items such as cafeteria cutlery, disposable coffee cups and plastic water bottles can easily be switched for reusable items instead. Opting for reusable replacements reduces a carbon footprint while reducing waste hauling costs, too.

group of people watching on laptop

Offer a Flexible Work Schedule

Does your organization offer work-from-home days? According to a recent survey, roughly 76 percent of Americans drive alone to work every day. As commuters drive to work, cars create a large amount of pollution that indirectly adds to a company’s footprint. Whenever possible, offer a flexible schedule where work-from-home days are encouraged. This will lessen the amount of pollution your employees create as a byproduct of their job duties. As an added bonus, a corporation’s company cars can be fuel-efficient or electric models reduce the environmental impact as well.

man in plaid shirt sitting in the body of blue truck and reading papers

Track for Supply Chain Efficiency

With so many interwoven pieces, an organization’s supply chain is brimming with opportunity for carbon footprint reduction. Oftentimes, money, time, and resources are wasted through inefficient operations. Directly ask suppliers if they have quantifiable measures on their generated greenhouse gas emissions. Some large corporations have already advocated for increased transparency from their suppliers. According to the CDP, Walmart, CVS Health, and Target have started collecting data from their suppliers in order to cut their environmental risks and reduce carbon emissions in their supply chains.

people working in front of the computer

Educate Employees

With the proper training, employees can be the greatest asset in reducing carbon footprint. To achieve real results, it requires a steadfast commitment from every member of the organization, from top to bottom. Make a public pledge to reduce carbon emissions, and ensure employees understand the reason behind the pledge and what they can do to help. Workshops, webinars, and signage are all effective ways to educate employees. When everyone is involved, a real difference can be made.

white airplane near man in green vest

Air travel

Air travel is responsible for a large part of a carbon footprint. Avoid flying as much as possible.. Go economy class as Business class is responsible for almost three times as many emissions as economy. This is because in economy, the flight’s carbon emissions are shared among more passengers. First class can result in nine times more carbon emissions than economy. If you can’t avoid flying, offset the carbon emissions of your travel.