Ways To Reduce Carbon Footprint
Zero Waste

How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint: 22 of the Smallest Changes With the Biggest Impact

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When you have a family to care for, it can be hard to also care for the environment.

However, there are small changes you can make that will diminish your carbon footprint without being a huge extra burden. We’ve collected together a list of family-friendly changes you can make.

Child near home holding garbage bin with recycle logo

Carbon Footprints – What They Are And Why They Matter

Your carbon footprint is a measure of how many tons of greenhouse gases your lifestyle creates. The main component of these gases is carbon dioxide, but the measure also includes things like methane. The average in the US is 16 tons per year. That makes it one of the highest in the world. The global average is currently 4 tons per year.

Carbon Footprints are a helpful measure. To get control of climate change and prevent global temperatures from climbing more than 2oC, we need to reduce the global average. It’s generally agreed that if the global average can be reduced to 2 tons per household a year by 2050, then we stand a good chance of hitting this goal.

How To Calculate Your Carbon Footprint

Calculating your exact carbon footprint can be a little challenging as many different factors contribute to your total. These take into account things like how much you travel, your diet, how much energy and water you use. There are some great calculators online that give you an estimate of your total.

It can be quite interesting to play with them. You can directly see which changes will have the most significant impact on your carbon footprint.

How to Offset our Carbon Footprint

The first thing to know here is that offsetting our carbon footprint does not mean reducing it! When we offset our carbon footprint, we are investing our (financial) resources into doing something positive for the planet such as planting more trees or installing solar panels.

While that is very good and we definitely encourage those who can contribute towards carbon offset projects to do so, these projects do not eliminate the impact caused by our emissions. They compensate ‘bad for the planet’ (i.e. flying) with ‘good for the planet’ (i.e. renewable energy)!

So, how do we actually reduce our carbon footprint?

How To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

There are loads of things that you can do to help reduce your carbon print. To help you pick the ones that will have the most significant impact, we’ve split them into categories. From calculating your carbon footprint, you should have an idea of which area is your most significant source of emissions. This is a useful guide for where you might want to start. 

Travel

Father driving car

#1 Drive With Care

Driving can be a necessary evil. When you have to get your family from A to B, there isn’t always another option. But, doing the school run every day can be a large contributor to your household’s carbon footprint. If not driving isn’t an option, then there are still ways you can limit your emissions and save some money at the same time. 

Driving more economically means that you drive more smoothly and consistently. So, no sudden braking of acceleration. If you don’t usually drive in this way, it can take a bit of time to adjust. Your mood when you’re behind the wheel can also affect your gas mileage. If you drive more aggressively when you’re angry, you could be using up to 40% more fuel than if you drive calmly.

So, next time you’re behind the wheel, take note of your driving habits. If you’re stressed, take a few calming breaths before setting off. 

#2 Maintain Your Car

Most of us are a bit lax when it comes to car maintenance. How many of us actually regularly check our tire pressure or oil levels? I know I don’t. But I really should. Maintaining the right tire pressure increases your car’s efficiency, as does staying on top of your regular maintenance. By giving your vehicle a quick once over every month or so, you could make it around 7% more efficient. Once you get into a routine, it won’t take any effort at all.

Another easy way to make your car more efficient is to clear it out every now and then. When you have kids, junk has a tendency to pile up in the car, and pretty much everywhere, really. But, the junk in your vehicle is added weight that you’re hauling around. So, cleaning out your car can reduce the weight and make your drives more efficient.

#3 Choose A Low Emission Vehicle For Your Next Car

I am not suggesting that you rush out and buy a new car right now. However, the next time you need to get a new set of wheels, you might want to look at the emissions levels. Choosing a low or no-emissions vehicle is not only good for the environment, but it can also save you money

These cars are no longer that hard to find. Most car manufacturers have realized that consumers want more economical cars. So you don’t have to compromise on getting the big car you need for your family. 

#4 Limit Your Flights

Air travel is one of the most significant contributors to greenhouse emissions. Obviously, sometimes there is no other choice but to take a plane. However, when you can, try to avoid faking a flight. For instance, if you could make the same journey by train or bus, it would be much less polluting. 

Food

Mom and daughter eating fruit and veggie salad

#5 Have One Meat-Free Meal A Week

There is a carbon cost to the food that we consume. In the case of plants, this is due to the machinery used to plant, harvest, and process it, as well as the fertilizer used to grow it. For meat, there are emissions from the animals themselves as well as their feed. Then there are all the emissions related to packaging food. With so many sources of CO2, it can be hard to know where to start. 

But if you want to have the biggest impact for the least effort, you can make one small switch. Have one meal once a week that doesn’t include meat. Red meat, for instance, has 100 times the impact that plants do. So, just one plant-based meal a week will be a big improvement. 

Let’s face it, we all know we should be eating more greens and a little less meat. This is just one more good reason to try and do it.

#6 Eat More Locally Grown Food

There is one other way that the food we eat can contribute to our carbon footprint. That’s the number of miles that your food had to travel to get to your plate. The more locally your food is grown, the smaller its environmental impact. 

You don’t have to go nuts and only buy direct from local farms. You could start by eating a little more seasonally. For instance, don’t buy strawberries in winter. You can guarantee that those strawberries clocked up a lot of miles to get to you. 

Water

#7 Get reusable bottles

Disposable bottles are a massive waste of plastic. Not only do they contribute tonnes of carbon each year when they’re produced, but they often end up either in landfills or polluting the oceans. If you can cut out disposable water bottles from your life, then you’ll be making a big step towards being more green.

Reusable bottle with water on sand

If you let your kids pick out their own reusable bottles, it’s a great way to get them to buy into this change. You might even find that they end up drinking more water when it means they get to use their BTS branded water bottle.

#8 Install a water-saving showerhead

Some of the most effortless changes are the ones you make and then never have to think about again. Fitting a water-saving showerhead is one of them. There are loads of great showerheads that use less water and provide you with a more satisfying experience. This is a change that’s not only easy but is also really efficient. 

If you want to go even further, you can even get/make devices that limit the amount of water your toilet uses with each flush. These still flush effectively. They just use less water to do so.

Energy

#9 Replace Old Bulbs With LEDs

If you haven’t already made this change, then this should be at the top of your list. LED bulbs use at least 75% less energy than an equivalent incandescent bulb. That means you get the same amount of lighting for a whole lot less money. 

Some people can be put off from LED bulbs because they are more expensive to buy than regular light bulbs. But, you do need to keep in mind that they last much longer. LED bulbs typically last between 10 -15 years. So they work out cheaper, and they are a lot less hassle. 

LED bulbs

The final reason to make the switch, if you still need convincing, is that LED bulbs are safer. Incandescent bulbs get hot. In fact, around 90% of their energy is wasted as heat. This can lead to burns and even fires. You don’t have the same issue with LEDs.

#10 Switch To Green Energy

I’m a big believer in switching your energy provider regularly. It’s an excellent way to save money. It’s also a good opportunity to check if you’re on a green tariff. Most energy companies these days offer green tariffs. These are deals where the electricity company guarantees to make the amount of electricity your home uses only via renewable methods. If everyone picked these tariffs, it would push more companies to invest more heavily in renewable energy.

It’s really not that hard to find green tariffs, and they’re not usually anymore expensive. So this is an easy switch that you can make the next time you change your tariff. 

#11 Choose Energy Efficient Appliances

There are a lot of myths around the benefits of buying new and running old appliances until they die. There is an argument that running an old appliance is better because it saves on the energy to produce a new one. However, in most cases, if an appliance is over 7 years old, you’re better off replacing it.

Energy-efficient technology is progressing phenomenally fast. So if you’re umming and ahhing over getting new appliances, one reason to do so is your carbon footprint. Picking new efficient appliances will lower your energy bills and decrease your footprint.

Clothes/Fabric

#12 Opt-Out Of Fast Fashion

How many clothes do you throw out every year? With kids, it’s hard because they can be hard on clothes and grow out of things fast. Even so, when the average American throws out over 80 pounds of clothing a year, there’s definitely a problem, especially when most of that ends up in landfills. 

Pile of old clothes

When it comes to clothing, try to make smart decisions. Avoid fast fashion. Buy items that you need and will last. If your kids grow out of clothes, and there’s still life in them, find them a new home. There are always families in need of kids’ clothing, so don’t throw good clothes into the trash.

#13 Try Reusable Wipes

Wet wipes are a godsend when you have kids. Unfortunately, they are also an environmental disaster. They use a lot of carbon in their production and when you’re done with them end up in landfill sites. The ‘flushable’ ones aren’t any better; they just end up polluting our waterways.

There is another option. You can get reusable wet wipes. They are basically just bits of cloth that you store in water. Then instead of throwing them out, you wash them. They are an excellent option for having at home with young kids. We have a set by our changing table for diaper changes and a separate set for the dining room table for hands and faces. 

They generate only a small amount of extra washing, you never have to worry about running out, and they’re a much more environmentally kind option. 

#14 Buy Second Hand

Buying second-hand clothes is a simple change you can make if you want to try and reduce your carbon footprint but don’t want to shrink your wardrobe. If you’re going clothes shopping, why not try a second-hand store first. There are loads of great options, you can find some real bargains, and it’s fun. You don’t have to get everything second hand, but each item helps.

Entertainment

#15 Avoid Standby mode

A lot of devices in our home don’t actually turn all the way off when we turn them off. TVs, laptops, computers, and stereos will often go into a standby mode instead of turning all the way off. They do this, so they turn on more quickly when you need them, but it also means they are drawing electricity the whole time they’re ‘off’.

There are two ways to get around this. With most devices, you can change the settings so that when you press the power button, they actually turn off. Or, if you don’t have that option, you can turn them off at the socket.

#16 Choose recyclable wrapping paper

Wrapping paper is fantastic. Kids love it. But, the shinier and more exciting it is, the less likely it is that it can be recycled. If you wrap a lot of presents during the year, then why not make a simple switch to recyclable wrapping paper. It works just as well, there are still plenty of cool designs, and you can put it in the recycling after your kids are done ripping it to pieces. 

#17 Buy Second-Hand Toys

Person holding second hand toys

Kids’ toys can be expensive. They also come in far too much packaging, much of which you can’t recycle. You can avoid a lot of this waste by looking for second-hand toys. There are loads of places you can find them. Charity stores, eBay, and even Amazon all offer second-hand toys. By buying pre-loved toys, you’re preventing old ones from going to landfills and reducing the amount of packaging that’s produced. You can also often save money as well.

Obviously, you’re not going to find the most popular and up to date toys second-hand. This is a good option for buying classic toys that never really go out of fashion, for instance, things like wagons, trains, lego, and building bricks.

#18 Pick Wooden Over Plastic

When it comes to choosing toys for your kids, you might find that they are often drawn to the flashing and brightly colored plastic toys. But, I urge you to try and steer them, and yourselves, towards wooden toys.

Wooden toys are a great option not only because of their environmental credentials but also because of their educational ones. Because wooden toys are often more straightforward by design, they actually foster more open-ended play, which can help children to develop imagination and problem solving skills. 

And, yes, they are more sustainable. Wooden toys can last for generations. If you do throw them out, they biodegrade, so they don’t just clog up landfills. Also, personally, I think they look great. My kids love playing with their wooden train set, so do their dad and all of their grandparents.

Household Waste

#19 Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies

Cleaning products are often filled with a lot of heavy chemicals and are packaged in plastic bottles. Both of these factors make them big contributors to greenhouse gases. Instead of using these harsh chemical cleaners, you could make use of products you probably already have in your home. Baking soda and white vinegar, for example, can be easily used to make all-purpose cleaners

The next time you finish off a spray bottle of your standard cleaner, why not refill it with a solution of your own making. If you’re not keen on the smell, just add some lemon juice, and you’re good to go.

#20 Don’t Individually Bag Fruits And Veggies

Mother and daughter holding grocery items mostly fruits and vegetables

When you’re next at the supermarket, buying individual fruits and veggies, you could choose to ignore the plastic bags. You don’t really need separate bags for your avocados and onions. Since you’ll either be peeling them or washing them, the extra layer of plastic is unnecessary. 

#21 Get Less Junk Mail 

Junk mail is annoying and wasteful. Wouldn’t it be great if you could get less of it? Well, it turns out that you can. There are several online services that can help you to remove your name from mailing lists for all sorts of things, from credit cards to catalogs.

Once you’re off the lists, you just need to avoid getting on any new ones. Whenever you give out your details to a company, you should write ‘no mailing lists’ next to your details. This can go a long way to stopping companies from selling your details. 

#22 Donate Rather Than Throw Away

We’ve already talked about making the decision to buy things second-hand. But you might also want to consider donating some of your items as well. When kids grow out of clothes before they’ve even worn them, donating the articles is a great way to stop them from going to waste. Toys are another good item for donating. Donating toys that don’t get played with anymore will free up so much space in your home. If you get your kids involved, it can also teach them some valuable lessons. 

This sort of recycling is great. It reduces the amount that goes to landfills and reduces demand for new goods. 

Does Any Of It Really Make A Difference?

Climate change is a big and scary prospect. Thinking about it can feel overwhelming. If this has you wondering if there’s any point in making these changes, then you’re not alone. Climate anxiety is a growing issue. But, it’s important to remember that if everyone made these little changes, then it would be enough to halt and reverse climate change. 

You can think of it like this, one ant isn’t enough to stop a picnic. But a whole bunch of ants certainly is. Making changes that benefit the environment is always worth it, no matter how small they are. All the little changes add up to make a big difference.

What’s The Single Best Change You Can Make?

Any of the changes on this list will have a good-sized impact on your carbon footprint. The best change to start with is one that you think you can maintain. In an ideal world, you’d make one change and stick with it until it feels natural. Once you reach that point, try adding another change. Small incremental changes that last are the best way to shift your household towards significant permanent change.

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