5 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

5 ways to reduce your carbon footprint

On the heels of our country’s not-so-graceful exit from The Paris Agreement, I’ve been wanting to do something… anything… to make a difference, even if it’s a tiny one. Being that I’m just one person, I know that I probably can’t affect policy or convince a major corporation to take appropriate action, but I can do my part on a daily basis, and encourage you to do the same!

There are countless things that we can all do to reduce our carbon footprint, but I’m specifically committing to the five below. It’s not about making huge lifestyle changes, just taking the time to be thoughtful about how you go about your day. They’re all easy and totally doable for pretty much anyone. Pick one or commit to all five with me!

1. Be diligent about recycling. I’m kind of a psycho about recycling and always have been. We make sure to wash used jars before putting them in the recycling bin, and I always check before throwing things away, if I can recycle them or not. Being a stickler about recycling only takes a few minutes a day, but it really adds up. Think about how much trash you produce in a week, then multiply that by 52 to consider how much in a year. Anything you can do to cut that down helps.

A reader recently introduced me to TerraCycle, a great website that helps you recycle products that aren’t traditionally recyclable. They partner with individuals and companies to make a difference. I just signed up, and am looking forward to seeing what I can do with them.

2. Skip the plastic bags. Keep reusable shopping bags in your car, so you never forget to bring them to the grocery store.  My rule of thumb is to put them straight back in after emptying them so I have no excuse. I also always keep a foldable bag in my purse or tote for unexpected trips to CVS or Whole Foods. BAGGU bags are my favorite because they fold up into a tiny case and aren’t bad to look at either!

I try to reuse produce bags as well. If they’ve only held apples once or twice, they’re probably good for a few more runs. I stick them in my shopping bags after emptying so they always stay together.

3. Drink with a reusable water bottle. I bring my S’Well bottle everywhere I go. Not only does it keep my water cold all day long (literally for 24 hours), but it prevents me from buying bottled water on the regular. Granted, I’m human and sometimes forget and need water, but I try to never leave my house without it.

I recently read that Americans buy more bottled water than any other country in the entire world… 29 billion (yes, billion) bottles a year. In order to make all these bottles, manufacturers use 17 million barrels of crude oil. That’s enough oil to keep a million cars going for twelve months (source). That is just crazy!

4. Eat locally and organically. Now that it’s summer, it’s a lot easier to buy organic meat, eggs, and produce from farmer’s markets. It supports your local farmers and cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions. According to the EPA, 13% of US greenhouse gas emissions result from the production and transport of food. (PS their site is down on Trump’s orders so I can’t link to this fact there right now.)

My goal is to visit my local farmer’s market weekly this summer, and buy as much as I can there (with my reusable bags, of course!) to do my part.

5. Cut down on beef and dairy. This one might not be as obvious but it takes a huge amount of resources to raise cows (which obviously produce both beef and dairy). Research led by scientists at Oxford found that simply cutting down on meat consumption (not even eliminating it completely) would make a huge dent in greenhouse gasses. They state that “adhering to health guidelines on meat consumption could cut global food-related emissions by nearly a third by 2050 (source).

Luckily I don’t eat a ton of beef anyway just because of preference, but when I do buy it for burgers or steaks on the grill this summer, I’ll at least try to buy it locally! If you happen to live in Fairfield County, Mike’s Organic has an amazing selection of local organic meats and produce.

I’m curious! What are your tips for cutting down on your carbon footprint?

  • Taylor Cannon

    So many great tips! These are all things that I try to live by as well!

    Taylor | http://www.livingtaylored.com

  • Bee

    Love this post! I’m with you on having to put my reusable bags straight back in the car so I never forget them. I’m also so happy to see you mention cutting back on beef and dairy. The environmental impact of the meat and dairy industry is awful and it’s unfortunate how little that’s discussed.

    Briana | youngsophisticate.com

    • I know! It’s crazy that people don’t talk about it more but if we all cut back just a little bit, it would make a HUGE impact.

  • BRN

    Great post! Way to use your blog for the greater good!

  • Yes! This has been on my mind too with all of the news. It gave us the motivation to start composting. We’ve also been trying to reduce our consumption of new products and packaging too, like using the library more, checking Craigslist before we buy something like a lawn mower new. We can do our part even if our government won’t. Great post !

    • I really need to start composting too. Maybe a good summer project 🙂

      • Virginia Merati

        @lemonstripes:disqus would love to hear about it if you ever start composting! We’re late to the green juice party but have recently started making our own and I feel so bad throwing the scraps out every day!

        • Amy

          Same!! Would love to star a compost. We raise chickens (eggs only we love our girls) and thankfully they can eat a lot of scraps!

  • Brittany Olander

    yuuuuuup. it’s so important to do our part for ourselves and our babies- raising them right can help change the world!

    xo, brittany
    white eyelet tops for summer roundup on my blog today!
    http://www.notablob.com

  • Being a renter I don’t know TOO much about it, but I think homeowners have various ways of seeking alternative energy sources for their homes these days. Solar is becoming more affordable to install, and Tesla’s battery program has been mentioned in the news a lot more (https://www.tesla.com/powerwall). There was a great VICE feature about battery grids about a year ago — the episode was all about the future of clean energy: http://www.hbo.com/vice/episodes/04/45-the-future-of-energy/ Obviously these types of changes are much bigger investments for individuals and in some cases not even available yet, but over the long term if the market moves in this direction, it has the potential for much broader impact on the environment. I think staying in the know about these things and talking about them can help spur additional interest and investment into these industries.

    Things like Nest thermostats (or similar!) are also great at turning heating/cooling systems on and off when you really don’t need them, saving energy along the way.

    Your post got me googling around, and this article had good tips: http://cotap.org/reduce-carbon-footprint/ The driving ones especially! It’s easy to forget that simple things like keeping your tires properly inflated can have an impact.

    • Ok, I have to add: was just clicking around the Tesla energy site and how cool are these solar roof tiles?! Probably suuuuper expensive. But still awesome: https://www.tesla.com/solarroof Hopefully something like this becomes a lot more commonplace!

      • We’re hoping to get Tesla solar soon for our Palm Springs house!

      • Super awesome but probably SUPER pricey like you said. I don’t know how well they’d work with New England weather though!

        • Carly

          I think the Tesla roof tiles are amazing. Hoping the technology becomes more in demand, driving prices down.

          I work at a Habitat for Humanity affiliate and we recently partnered with another non-profit to put solar panels on one of our homes. Our solar partner said that based on the number of solar panels we installed, 36 tons of greenhouse gas emissions should be off-set per home over the 25-year system lifetime. Plus it saves the homeowner money. Amazing!

    • Ooohhh going to watch that VICE this weekend, thanks! We actually have a Nest and it hasn’t made too much of a difference but I think it takes a few years to make a dent. Worth it in the end though!!

  • I’m so with you here. Now more than ever I feel a personal responsibility to reduce my carbon footprint and I also recycle like crazy. My hometown (a darling Midwestern suburb) has long been ahead of its time: recycling has been free for as long as I can remember, but each trash can you put out requires purchasing a sticker to pay for pick up. I credit that with helping shape my habits early on, and talk about providing the right incentives!

    Since I work in an office, I keep a coffee mug and insulated water bottle at my desk so that I don’t use disposable cups for coffee/tea/water throughout the day. I’ve even started traveling with my water bottle, thanks to the good example of my water-conscious friends and family in California.

    xx Jean
    http://www.skylineblossoms.com

  • Shawn

    Good for you Julia! If we all do our part, it will help a lot!

  • Virginia Merati

    I LOVE THIS POST! Thanks so much for letting us know about your plans to reduce your carbon footprint – definitely try to be super mindful of this myself! My only downfall is the plastic bottles for drinking water – I am a seltzer addict and have tried to use the Sodastream but didn’t really love it, so I’m relegated to at least one environmentally unfriendly behavior which I feel pretty guilty about on a regular basis. I do always recycle my bottles though!

    A blogger that I follow for interior design inspiration did a super unfortunate sponsored post encouraging readers to use more Glad bags the day after the US pulled out of the Paris accord, which I and many other readers found in such poor taste. Thank you for responding to this terrible decision by our President in such an appropriate and helpful way.

  • I am neurotic when it comes to reusable bags. I have them in the car, in my purse, and everywhere you can keep them.

    This post is so important and a great topic. Thank you, Julia for writing it. Shared on Twitter as well as with many of my friends who I’ve had recent conversations with about this.

    I only buy seafood during the summer from our local vendors. Keep them in business!

  • Emily

    Julia,

    Such a big fan of Lemon Stripes! I love that you took the time to write about such an important topic. My boyfriend and I moved in together four years ago and swore we would never buy paper towels or paper napkins. We have kept the promise ever since! We have beautiful cloth napkins in fun prints from Kate Spade, Lilly, Ralph Lauren, etc. and I love adding them to our kitchen table every day. We keep one or two kitchen towels near the stove during the week and have designated floor towels/sponges for spills. We additionally keep a wicker basket full of cloth hand towels in the bathroom and swap them out for fresh ones frequently. Once you start making it a habit you’ll never look back.

    Emily

    • Wow thats amazing Emily! I don’t know if I could completely cut out paper towels but we do try to use rags when cleaning the kitchen instead of paper towels. It’s amazing how much less we have to buy them now.

      I love cloth napkins and use them daily too!

  • Tara

    I am truly baffled that you can write this post, and your comment in your last life lately, with sincerity and find no irony in the fact that you wear and shop so many clothes…its so wasteful. And clothing has such a horrible carbon footprint, including many of the brands you shill upon your followers. And you encourage this behavior in others. How do these things align? There must be a lot of cognitive disconnect allowing you to keep both of these things in tandem….

    • That’s actually a very good point and something that I hadn’t thought of before. I wish you had said it in a kinder way, but I can get behind the idea. I think focusing on building a capsule wardrobe instead of buying a ton of new clothes every season is the answer to this, and something I hope to work on!

      Please try to remember that I’m not a perfect person, and am learning things along with everyone else!

  • Amy

    This is such an important topic and I loved reading about it on the blog today! My New Years resolution was to make an impact on the environment. I chose to not longer support animal cruelty (brands that test ok animals), I have reduced my meat and dairy intake, and I gave up plastic bags (this has been the hard becuase I am *very* forgetful). But I thought it was important to make these changes! I hope your post inspires others to make these changes too!

    • Amazing, Amy! Question: How do you know which brands support animal cruelty? Is there a resource where you can easily see them all in one place or do you just do the research?

  • Christine

    Great post. I strive to be really good about the first 3 tips, but I don’t know why I never thought about keeping a small reuseable tote in my purse. I hate when I make a impromptu trip to the store and don’t have a bag! Unfortunately, I feel like having a puppy increases our waste, so many paper towels to clean up dropped water and other puppy messes and plastic bags for picking up after her on walks and at the dog park. ps in response that negative comment – I actually really appreciate that you are one of the few bloggers that will actually rewear clothing items you have previously posted!

  • Stephanie

    Love this post! These are definitely things I need to work on. Unfortunately the town I live in in Texas doesn’t have recycling (I’ve been here for 2 years and that still blows my mind!), so I’ve fallen out of practice since I’m not always motivated to drive the 45 minutes to the nearest recycling place in the next town :/

    Thanks for helping me refocus on good changes like this!

  • My tip to add is to cut back on paper towel usage. It was brought to my attention and now even though it’s a little thing, I try not to use them at all. I can always use a hand towel or napkin and since those can be washed it’s easy to reuse. 🙂