Jan. 10, 2017
While kicking off 2017 with promises to eat healthy or live more simply is a great start, have you ever thought about resolving to reduce the environmental impact that your lifestyle has on the planet?
We’re talking about your carbon footprint. Although carbon dioxide, a colorless, odorless gas known as CO2, occurs naturally in the atmosphere as part of the life cycle of oceans, soil, plants and animals, human activities are causing harmful amounts to be released into the environment. The resulting greenhouse gas effect is causing climate change.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the majority of human-related carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels (coal, natural gas and oil), the decay of solid waste and the combustion of wood products. In 2014, CO2 from human activities accounted for 81 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
The three main sources of carbon pollution in the U.S. are:
It’s also important to note the role that methane plays when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. Methane (CH4) is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the United States from human activities, according to the EPA. In 2014, CH4 accounted for about 11 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. And, livestock and their byproducts are responsible for 51 percent of CO2 emissions worldwide.
Why is it so important to reduce our carbon footprint? More than 6 million deaths a year can be attributed to air pollution, according to a recent New York Times report.
How to Reduce Your Carbon Dioxide Footprint
Did you know that a family of four with two cars and a 2,000-square-foot house in Northern California could generate more than 106 tons of CO2 a year, depending on how many airplane trips they take and other factors, including how much food they consume? (Check out how you compare by plugging in your numbers to this carbon footprint calculator tool.)
While you might feel like one family can’t do much to solve global warming, if everyone were to live their lives more sustainably, collectively we could make a difference in the health of our planet, especially when it comes to the air we breathe.
So get started by calculating your carbon footprint. Many of your daily activities, such as throwing away trash instead of recycling, or running the air conditioner instead of opening a window, can impact your household’s carbon footprint.
Then, make a commitment to reduce your footprint. Here are some steps you can take:
If you can’t go solar, there are many things you can still do to make your home more energy efficient, whether it be investing in ENERGY STAR® certified energy efficient appliances or weatherproofing your windows. (Learn more in this post about reducing your electric bill.) You can also choose to patronize businesses that have made the switch to renewable energy.
Spend less time in your car: Most cars and trucks use gasoline and diesel to transport people and goods, and this accounts for about 31 percent of total U.S. CO2 emissions. Consider biking to work (find 45,003 mapped miles of cycling routes via the U.S. Bicycle Route System), walking to the grocery store, or taking public transportation. You could also drive an electric vehicle. SunPower has a partnership with Ford that offers rebates to EV owners who go solar, and we’ll donate money to The Sierra Club on your behalf.
Reduce, reuse, recycle: The industries that produce the goods and raw materials that we use every day are one of the three main contributors to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Rather than throwing glass or aluminum in the trash, take advantage of local recycling programs. Recycling one good into another means you’re reducing your reliance on new products that add more waste to our landfills.
Make conscious food choices: Just like working out and getting in shape, conscious food choices start with one meal at a time. Try weaving in just one vegetarian meal a day. If you like the results, consider eating veggie for a whole day or week. Forming healthy food habits will help our animal friends and the planet.
Small choices add up to huge collective reductions in our collective footprint.