Ten Commandments for Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

OK, not those ten commandments...
OK, not those ten commandments...

When it comes to chiseling our emissions profile down to a more respectable and streamlined shape, we are all aware of the usual suspects. You know — those tweakings of lifestyle that are regularly wheeled out, just to add a splash of greenwash to a magazine article. Such actions often don’t seem capable of shifting the world much closer to a low emissions nirvana.

This isn’t to knock small steps… but it would be nice to throw in a few giant leaps to quicken up the pace. So, once you’ve changed your light bulbs, and turned your TV off at the plug socket, what is next? Well, here is a list of more substantial measures that we all can take- ones that will hopefully bring about a reduced emission heaven just that little bit more quickly.

First — thou shalt lean towards being a vegetarian. Admittedly, that doesn’t sound like much of a commandment, but being too proscriptive would probably be counterproductive. Just cutting back on meat can make a huge difference. Food derived from plant sources has a very different carbon emission consequences from those of our deceased animal friends

The fossil fuel inputs to derive protein from animals are eleven times greater than for the equivalent protein from grains; simply put, it is more efficient to get your protein direct, than via an animal as an intermediary. And don’t forget emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas – livestock are especially are prone to emit in this in vast quantities. So less meat is definitely more when it comes to saving the planet.

Second — thou shalt give your home an energy efficient make-over. Your home can leak energy from every crack and crevice, so it helps to become a heat-miser… and keep the heat locked cosily in your home. Lay insulation down thickly in your attic; equip you windows with properly fitted blinds and curtains. Then draft-proof your doors and wrap up your hot water tank snugly. Ideally, have your home audited by your energy company or a private auditor — they can advise you as to the most cost effective ways to slash your emissions.

Third — thou shalt look to the rails, not to the skies. We all want to get where we need to be as fast as possible, but excessive air travel, especially short-haul flights, can be a real emissions disaster. Over distances of less than 500 miles, carbon emissions per passenger can be 70% to 90% less for rail travel- and that’s without counting for the impact of contrails in the high atmosphere. So when thinking of taking those shorter hops, substitute the long waits and security checks at the airport with a serene sweep to your destination on the rails (or the bus).

Fourth — thou shalt stop working you car to death – and just bring it out to play. Admit it: driving a car can be fun, but commuting in your car is all too often at all fun. With 10% of total US CO2 emissions coming out of the tailpipe of the nation’s cars, switching to alternative methods of getting to work can make a real difference. Whether through car pools, public transport, cycling or telecommuting, everyone benefits from reduced levels of cars on the roads. Save the car for a fun spin on the weekend.

Fifth — thou shalt invest your money wisely, with the planet in mind. Your savings, stocks and pension plans are all monies that are placed at the disposal of others — to generate a profit for themselves, and a return for you. Don’t leave it to chance — there are many banks and funds that offer ethical investments these days. You can be sure that the companies that benefit from your money share your ethical and sustainable outlook, and put pressure for real change in the corporate sphere.

Sixth — throw your dollars to the wind. Not literally, of course, but by taking advantage of green power options from local utilities. This helps to channel money towards further investment in renewable infrastructure. This is one of the simplest, and most effective steps you can make to slash your carbon emissions – and your money will help blow a breeze of change over the carbon-emitting power utilities.

Seventh — thou shalt consume responsibly. Check the carbon footprint of all of your major purchases – Energy Star ratings help here. You can quickly transform your home into a low-carbon haven, and save yourself a lot money over the long-term, with lower energy bills. You don’t need to stop at the big-ticket items – if you place your grocery orders with those who source their good locally, you are cutting down on food miles. That cuts the embedded emissions picked up as food travels vast distances, just to reach your plate.

Eighth — thou shalt let the planet do the work. The wind can blow your washing dry, if you hang it on the line; the sun can heat your water, if you install solar heat collecting unit on your roof; your garden can be watered from the fall rains, if you have a water collection and storage system, to keep it for the dry months. Think laterally, and make the most of the energy given to us for free.

Ninth — let you car be colored green. You can start off with a light shade of green, by adapting you driving style to be more fuel efficient. Looking after you car helps too — properly inflated tires, and a well maintained engine can make a big difference to your mileage. Or you can always for the deeper verdant tone that comes with purchasing a hybrid car… or even an electric model, when the infrastructure is in place.

Finally — thou shalt love your neighbor. Don’t keep all of your new found wealth of goodwill to the planet to yourself. Spread the joy amongst friends and family and neighbors, so that they too can help realize a brighter future.

This article is a guest post from Adana Lima, a stay at home mom with 3 cute kids (Jamie, Pablo, Guerrero) who writes on the topic of adjustable dumbbells

Image credit: DrGBB at Flickr under a Creative Commons license

  1. Daniel Greenberg

    Thanks! These were great. A few more to consider:

    – Thou shall get to know your neighbors
    – Thou shall find time for silence (and get to know yourself)
    – Thou shall be compassionate to yourself and others

    In community,
    – Daniel

  2. Lower carbon for Movers

    Its a great read. But things have got more local instead of global. New York has already made a climate adaptation plan and contains begun to implement it. New York state is incorporated in the procedure for creating a plan. With predictions that extreme weather events this type of droughts, floods as well as heat waves will end up much more common and severe, understanding that sea level rise will accelerate in the coming decades, planning now will help prevent high costs and suffering in the future. If no effective action is taken globally to lessen skin tightening and emissions the level of carbon dioxide inside the atmosphere will continue to climb at an ever-increasing rate throughout this century and climate adaptation may eventually be impossible. In Europe, on the other hand, a quiet, a lot more effective green revolt continues to be occurring. That one is local and decentralized. It doesn’t look to big government for solutions: No federal mandates, no pleading with mega-energy corporations to be environmentally responsible, no looking forward to ineffective cap-and-trades. Instead, the root premise is that saving the earth must can start the local level–and that it makes good economic and social policy.

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