With the Earth rapidly heading towards 1.5C due to human CO2 emissions and anthropogenic Climate Change, we all need to reduce our carbon footprint. CrtrGrl and I have found some easy and not so expensive ways of doing it. The big changes cost a little bit of extra money, but we think it’s worth it. For us, it’s a work in progress, so we know we still have a carbon footprint and need to continue making changes. We’ve eased into it over time, so we’re not judging anyone for taking baby steps. Adopting one or more of these changes will make a big difference over time.
Reducing our carbon footprint helps slow the pace of global warming and reduces the pollution that comes with burning fossil fuels. It also shows our friends, neighbors and fellow humans that we take Climate Change seriously. In addition to the changes below, we also believe it’s critical to vote, sign petitions, and speak out about the need for the whole world to reduce CO2 emissions.
Alamitos Energy Center (AEC) Power Plant in Seal Beach, CA
For our home, we live small in a ~685 sq ft, one bedroom bungalow. This reduces the cost of everything, including heating, power and water. Since we rent, investing in solar isn’t possible or practical. So instead, we augmented our SDG&E power with Arcadia Power (Referral Link below*). They offset our electrical use with renewable energy and are available to both homeowners and renters. Our home electricity is now 100% based on wind energy.
January is our peak usage month and with a $195 base (SDG&E) electricity bill, we paid an extra $8.79 to have it all be clean & green wind energy. During the summer months, it’s about $5 extra per month. That’s totally worth it to us. In a little over 3 years, we’ve saved 9.42 metric tons of CO2 emissions through Arcadia Power.
If you own a home or have the option, solar is a great option. It’s a one time investment that will pay dividends over time. Depending on where you live, you may even be able to earn money on any extra power generated through a “Feed-In” Tariff. In most US states, and depending on the amount of power you can generate, however, you’ll just be able to save money on your power bill. This will still eventually pay for the investment in solar panels. It will also make your home more resilient to natural or man-made disasters that affect the power grid.
* Note: Feel free to not use our referral link. We really believe in Arcadia Power, so we'd prefer you switch to renewable power, whether or not both of us get $25 off.
Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the Mojava desert, CA
Oil rig Esther off Seal Beach, CA
Once we switched our home electricity to wind energy, we reduced our natural gas usage by purchasing an electric space heater. Natural gas has as large a carbon footprint as coal due to the massive amount of leakage during capture.
We no longer use the natural gas heater built into the place. The downside is that this costs more on our electricity bill than it would for gas, since electric heaters cost more than gas. CrtrGrl and I decided this was worth it to us and having a smaller place helps reduce the cost.
For drying our clothes, we have a gas dryer. If we were purchasing a new dryer today, we would definitely go with an electric one in order to eliminate the carbon footprint of drying our clothes. We hang dry about half of our clothes and that helps reduce wear and tear on the clothes, shrinkage and reduces our carbon foot print by a little.
Other sources of our carbon footprint that we haven’t eliminated include our small gas stove/oven and our gas water heater. For the water heater, we try to wash clothes in cold water more often, though we’re not always able to. I’m also encouraging CrtrGrl to do the Wim Hof method – take cold showers – even though I don’t. 🙂 The gas stove came with the rental, so we don’t have an option to switch to electric. However, probably 75% of our vegan meals are raw/cold, so we don’t use the stove to prepare them.
For a number of reasons, we went vegan. Our primary reason was ethical – to reduce the amount of suffering we cause towards animals. It also had a major impact on our carbon footprint. If you add up the amount of carbon sucking forest land lost to livestock, animal waste, factory and transportation emissions, going vegan/vegetarian reduces our carbon footprint for food by about half.
If you’re not ready to go vegan, just reducing the amount of meat you eat will make a difference. Try eating vegetarian/vegan one to two days a week, at first. Small changes make a difference over time and easing into eating less meat is much easier than going cold turkey. Pun intended.
We also shop at our local farmers market for our fruits and vegetables. We try to buy seasonal produce when it’s available, rather than buying products shipped in from other countries. Buying local supports our community farmers and significantly reduces the transportation emissions for our food.
Traffic on the Interstate Bridge across the Columbia River, OR/WA
I’ve been struggling with how to change my personal, single largest contribution to Climate Change. CrtrGrl and I have cut back on other areas, such as going vegan, switching our power over to renewables, but I’ve been stuck with a much bigger contribution. The best alternatives to driving would be public transportation, riding a bike or not traveling. An electric vehicle would be the next best option, especially if your home power comes from green energy.
For my day job, my weekly commute is about 520 miles. Public transportation isn’t an option, nor is riding a bike at that distance. Driving a car that gets about 38 miles per gallon, it adds up to about 16,773 pounds of CO2 (7.6 metric tons) per year. Inspired by the California ‘Clean Air’ day in early October, I finally did something about it.
I’m not able to retire yet and I’m not ready to buy a new electric car that has the range I would need. So I’ve decided to buy carbon offsets that cover my commuting for the year. For one year of driving to work, 4 days a week, it cost me $83.70 to buy offsets through Terrapass. That’s much cheaper than buying a new electric car or trying to purchase a used hybrid for incrementally better gas mileage. Terrapass uses the carbon offset payments to invest in:
- Greenhouse gas capture from existing sources, like landfills or farms
- The creation of new renewable energy, like wind farms
- Promoting projects that capture greenhouse gases, like maintenance of healthy forests
- Alternative power sources / solar
- Heating – use less natural gas
- Reducing meat consumption, purchase local
- Drive less, get an electric vehicle or purchase carbon offsets
Reducing our carbon footprint is critical to slowing the impacts of Climate Change. We all need to take steps toward reducing our individual footprints, in addition to supporting initiatives that speed the global adoption of renewable energy and electric vehicles. As more and more people choose to support companies with a smaller footprint, those products will become cheaper. And as a side benefit, we’ll have cleaner air and water!
There’s definitely more we can do. As humans, we can’t walk outside without leaving a footprint. But if we all make small changes, they add up to huge change. Through Big Green Heart, we hope to make it easier to find and support companies and products that have a lower carbon footprint.
Healthy forest in southern Washington state