If you’re the head of the household, then your footprints are the heaviest of all—your carbon footprint, that is. That’s because you control the environmental impact of your entire family. The decisions you make everywhere—from the supermarket to the car lot—affect your carbon emissions.
Is your family especially large? That’s all the more reason to reconsider a green lifestyle. Read on to learn five ways to reduce your family’s carbon footprint.
According to WorldWatch.org, on average, “food travels 1,500 miles on average from farm to consumer.” All of those miles are attributed to and divided by the individual consumers. So if your five to seven member family is eating produce from a chain supermarket, you’re likely eating 1,500-mile old produce, which is not only nutritionally deficient compared to local fare, but troubled in its transportation emissions.
The same goes for any and all goods. Shop local. In fact, the impact can be 10 times as much for apparel and other items produced overseas.
Hand it Down First, Donate it Second
If you have a big family, then you can initiate the third “R” for recycling right in your own home. Reuse old clothes and toys by cycling them through the children in your family first. This will not only reduce the 68 pounds per person of apparel waste that would otherwise be transported and then dumped.
When it isn’t possible to reuse an item, donate it if possible. But choose your donation site wisely. Consider donating locally as well. Mom-and-pop thrift shops are less likely to transport their recycled goods out-of-state to other stores within a chain. Re-locating donated goods also creates carbon emissions and could negate your green intentions.
Choose Renewable Home Energy
The University of Florida found that electric power generation contributed almost 41 percent of the CO2 emissions from fossil fuels in the United States. You don’t have to install solar panels all over the roof of your home to take advantage of the carbon-reducing benefits of renewable energy. As the green trend continues, power companies take notice.
In addition to reducing utility bills for homes that use renewable energy, some companies allow their customers to buy energy from a renewable source. These sources include wind, solar, and even hydro power. The U.S. Department of Energy (UDE) offers a list of green pricing utility programs by state. Find out if you can participate to start reducing your emissions.
Drive a Hybrid Vehicle
Big families need big cars. One of the best ways to reduce the carbon footprint of your family is to choose the right type of vehicle. Say, for instance, you and your loved ones enjoy the finer things in life. Just because you do doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice luxury, since high-end car companies like Mercedes also make eco-friendly models to satisfy your expensive tastes.
For example, some of the best hybrids of 2014 include the Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Honda Accord Hybrid, and the Mercedes ML450 Hybrid SUV, which is the perfect high-end hybrid SUV that offers ample space for your family. Each hybrid vehicle offers its drivers and passengers appealing features that conventional vehicles are simply not capable of providing, such as higher gas mileage, improved performance, and better efficiency.
The UDE notes, “Hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles can have significant emissions benefits over conventional vehicles.” Diminish the effects of all the shuttling around town. You can’t help the need to get your family from point A to point B, but you can moderate your carbon footprint.
Get Involved in the Community
Going green doesn’t start and end with a couple carefully planned actions. Reducing carbon emissions is a lifetime commitment that you and your family will make. If you want to increase the environmental benefits, extend your big family’s reach.
Get the whole gang involved in environmentalism right in your community. There are tons of ways to make a difference; if there aren’t a lot of local food options, start a community garden. Get involved with the local government.
Above all, teach your kids the lifelong lesson of environmental responsibility. One day your big family will become other families, and so on. The more you preach, the more you extend your environmental reach—which goes a long way to reducing your footprint.
If you’re interested in your environmental impact, use a carbon footprint calculator to estimate your household’s emissions. How does your family reduce their carbon footprints? Where could you cut back more? Share your tips in the comments below.
DJ Miller is an avid writer and graphic designer from Tampa, Florida. He is an environmental tech enthusiast that covers everything from solar panels to cisterns. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @MillerHeWrote.