I have a good friend who is a climate change skeptic. Let’s call him Jack. In a recent conversation, the topic of my last blog, we found we had several things in common, even though we disagree that climate change is man-made. At the end of our discussion, Jack agreed to at least look at joining me in taking one big step toward saving the planet—even though we don’t agree why it needs saving.
I am doing it to reduce my carbon footprint. Jack may take steps to reduce the amount of coal burned to produce electricity, and because it’s easy. Jack did at least agree that coal is not the cleanest thing from which to produce energy and was interested in hearing that alternatives such as solar and wind power are actually becoming cheaper alternatives to coal.
The following steps are in order of their impact on reducing our carbon footprint.
Jack may take some of these steps because they are easy or even save him some money. I have taken many of them to reduce and even become carbon negative in an effort to take up the slack for my skeptical friend.
The bottom line is, the more of us who take these steps, the closer we’ll be to becoming carbon neutral.
Switch To A Renewable Energy
You don’t have to install solar panels and batteries or your own windmill to switch to renewable energy. You can select the option through your utility or a certified renewable energy provider. Oklahoma was the nation’s third-leading wind electricity producer in 2017, generating enough power for 1.66 million average households.
Consumers have an easy way to tap this homegrown resource. Tulsa County’s American Electric Power (AEP)—Public Service of Oklahoma (PSO) WindChoice Program allows customers to source all or part of their electricity from Oklahoma wind turbines. Beginning January 1, 2017, the company slashed the premium cost to participate in WindChoice.
Currently it costs only about five dollars more per month for an average household to source 100 percent of its electricity from wind (based on monthly usage of 1,200 kWh). For the cost of a latte, many customers could convert entirely to zero-emission wind electricity.
Buy Carbon Offsets
Calculate your carbon footprint and buy carbon offsets from a certified provider (you can always reduce payments later as you make other changes). Companies like TerraPass and CarbonFund channel money into projects like planting forests, building wind farms, capturing harmful methane from cow manure and landfills, and others.
Environmentally-conscience citizens can make the effort to reduce their carbon footprints and can purchase offsets to take care of the rest.
My wife and I intentionally moved to an area of town where we are within walking distance of most everything we need. We have grocery stores, hardware stores, a library, shopping and restaurants. Even Jack rides his motorcycle to work every day, although it’s not because he wants to lower his carbon footprint but rather to enjoy the ride. Every little bit helps.
We can all help by walking more, using public transportation, and biking—saving longer trips for our most fuel-efficient vehicles. Nearly 28% on the average American’s carbon footprint is due to transportation.
Choose Your Food Carefully
My friend Jack likes to eat meat—a lot of it. But you don’t have to become a vegetarian to reduce your carbon footprint. Consider buying meat that has either a lower production footprint such as pork, chicken, tuna or salmon as opposed to lamb or beef.
The post production carbon footprint of food includes transportation, processing, retail, storage, and waste. Consider buying locally such as a local farmer’s market.
Purchase Energy Efficient Products
When you consider large appliances, try to purchase Energy Star appliances.
Reduce Your Heating and Cooling
Space heating and cooling are the biggest contributors to energy usage in your home or office, so adjusting the thermostat accordingly will make a big dent in your carbon footprint. Consider a programmable thermostat.
Insulate and Weatherstrip
Add insulation and weather-stripping, especially for doors, windows, and attic.
Lower Water Temperature
Water heating is the second largest contributor in your home. Consider lowering the temperature or reducing to vacation setting (or turn off if electric) when you’re away on a trip.
Wash your clothes in cold water
Today’s modern detergents perform well in cold water.
Change to LED Lighting
Even my friend Jack has replaced all his lighting with energy efficient LED bulbs.
Line Dry your clothes
All those modern gadgets we have use a lot of electricity, even when they are not in use. Consider unplugging them.
Reduce Water Usage
I’m guilty of wasting water. Consider taking shorter showers, hand wash dishes, install aerators on faucets, and turn the water off when you brush your teeth.
Less is more when it comes to lowering your carbon footprint. Consider your purchases carefully as the average American’s footprint is comprised of 26% of the things we buy. Buy used items whenever possible. Buy items with the least amount of packaging and processing.
Try to recycle as much as possible. Tulsa, Oklahoma makes it easy to do with multi-stream recycling containers. Try to recycle even when you travel by asking for the location of recycling bins. Attempt to buy products with recycle-able/minimal packaging. Search online for ways to recycle hard-to-recycle items in your local community, such as batteries and foam packaging.
Compost Food Waste
Even if you can’t compost, try to reduce the amount of food that spoils by preparing food and freezing extra for later use.
Air travel is a major contributor to green-house gasses. Try to reduce your air travel by: web-conferencing, consolidating trips, and not flying to destinations less than a four-hour drive away. When you do fly, consider purchasing carbon offsets for your trip.
Choose Low Carbon Activities
When you go out and enjoy the great outdoors, choose activities with a low energy cost, such as hiking vs. sky diving, kayaking vs. powerboats, or biking vs. four wheeling.
Strive for a Minimalist Lifestyle
Declutter your home and donate unneeded items to charity. Buy used clothing, electronics, furniture, cars and other products whenever possible.
Share What You Learn About Lowering Your Carbon Footprint
This article is one of my efforts to share what I have learned. What steps will you take to reduce your carbon footprint or become carbon neutral? Tell us in the comments!
The All Souls Green Team is a social justice group committed to increasing our congregation’s awareness of and response to critical environmental issues, including climate change and reducing our carbon footprint. The Green Team is guided by the principles outlined in the UUA’s Green Sanctuary program, which includes four components: Worship and Celebration, Religious Education, Environmental Justice, and Sustainable Living. The Green Team meets on the 2nd Wednesday of the month at 7:00 p.m. at All Souls in Tulsa, Oklahoma. To join, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jim Perrault is a long-time All Souls member and strives to reduce his carbon footprint through sustainable, daily practices.
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