Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing the world today. Evidenced by the increasing number of climate protests, young people are concerned about the future we are leaving them. But it isn’t just the youth who are worried, from winter sports enthusiasts to the Department of Defense, the spectrum of people and organizations calling on the global community to take action against global warming is increasing constantly.

This rise in attention is driven in part by the increased effects of climate change being felt more now, like the growth in frequency and strength of hurricanes and global food chain disruptions. So, you may be asking yourself, how can you help solve this global problem? Well, the first step is to calculate your Carbon Footprint.


Your Carbon Footprint

What is a Carbon Footprint? Your Carbon Footprint is the amount of carbon that is released into the atmosphere by the things you do and buy. This is important because carbon is the main contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, the leading cause of climate change.

Everything in your life has a Carbon Footprint, from the smallest items like pencils and cups to large purchases like cars and appliances. Even the food you eat and water you drink has a Carbon Footprint. Your Carbon Footprint is the combined Carbon Footprints from all of the things you do or buy added together. Everyone’s Carbon Footprints can be split into three groups called “Scopes”.

    • Scope 1: Carbon Footprint associated with your property, primarily heating.
    • Scope 2: Carbon Footprint associated with purchased electricity.
    • Scope 3: Carbon Footprint associated with transportation and everything you buy.

Calculating your Carbon Footprint can be tricky because of how many things you need to consider. There are many online Footprint calculators that you can use, with varying degrees of accuracy. Be warned though, most of these online calculators only consider emissions associated with your car and travel for Scope 3, omitting consumer purchases and other more intricate aspects of Scope 3.

Ethos’s mobile app, Pathways – Carbon Footprint, available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, has a state-of-the-art Carbon Footprint calculator that has a large library of Scope 3 emissions contributions that you can track. In whatever way you choose to calculate your Carbon Footprint, the next step is to make substantive changes to lower it. Pathways app makes personal sustainability simple as well as fun.


Eat Environmentally Friendly

impact of food and water on sustainability

One of the biggest ways to reduce your Carbon Footprint is to eat a more environmentally friendly diet. Every piece of food you eat or cook has carbon associated with its production, transportation, and storage. However, some foods have a bigger impact than others. For instance, red meat has a carbon footprint four times higher than chicken, and 10 to 100 times higher than plant-based options according to Our World In Data. This is a huge discrepancy but shows that limiting the amount of red meat you eat can greatly reduce your carbon footprint.

We at Ethos never recommend people become vegetarian or vegan, as this is a difficult personal choice, but we do recommend trying to reduce your red meat consumption, perhaps by trying meatless Mondays or saving steak for special occasions.

While the vast majority of emissions from red meat are from its production, many foods that are seemingly environmentally friendly have high impacts from their transportation. Moving food across the country or even across oceans has a giant impact, especially for wealthy countries that cause 50% of food-related transportation emissions despite making up 12% of the global population.

The solution here is simple, eat local. Sourcing your food locally is a great way to lower your Carbon Footprint while also supporting the local economy. Locally grown and small-farm-sourced foods are fresher and more fun to obtain. Try visiting the farm’s stand or a local farmer’s market. You can even sign up for a CSA to get locally grown food guaranteed and even delivered every month.

Food waste is also a major contributor to carbon emissions. Buying local and composting reduces food waste by lowering food lost in transit and repurposing the food you do have to throw out instead of putting it in a landfill.


Energy Efficient Household

strategic sustainability planning by ethos

While changing your eating habits can reduce your Scope 3 emissions, making changes around your house can lower the other two scopes. One of the easiest changes to make to lower your at-home Carbon Footprint, and save money, is to replace old light bulbs as they burn out with LED bulbs. LED bulbs burn cooler and therefore waste less electricity.

Put your hand near an incandescent bulb and feel how hot it is, this is all wasted money because you are paying for that heat via your electric bill. Switching your lights to LEDs can result in a 50% reduction in your lighting-based carbon footprint, and while their up-front cost is higher, they can last up to 20 years in some cases, paying for themselves over time.

Another great investment that can save you money and lower your Carbon Footprint over time is the installation of a smart thermostat. These devices control the heating and air conditioning of your home in a more environmentally friendly way by only heating and cooling when your home is occupied. They can learn your schedule to ensure you always come home to a comfortable house but aren’t wasting money and energy heating and cooling an empty one.

Pair this with Energy Star rated furnaces and cooling units and you will make a major difference in lowering your footprint. Energy star also rates dishwashers, water heaters, washers, dryers, and refrigerators so you can be sure your next purchase will lower your footprint over its entire life.

Changing your electrical provider is another option for people looking to use renewable energy without the cost of putting solar panels on their roofs. By choosing a renewable source for your home electricity, your Scope 2 emissions immediately drop to 0. If you have electric heating and cooling, then your Scope 1 emissions would also be zero, making your household Carbon Neutral without changing anything about your home.

Currently, states that are serviced by Investor-Owned Utilities (IOUs) in the District of Columbia, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Texas allow their customers to choose their electricity provider. If you live in one of the above areas, this is a great way to significantly reduce your carbon footprint. Further, while electric cars are always greener than traditional vehicles, charging them at a home that is powered by renewable electricity improves the positive impact of owning one.

However sustainably you choose to live, there will always be things that contribute to your carbon footprint over which you have no control. One way to deal with this is by purchasing carbon offsets from an accredited supplier. Carbon offsets are credits you can pay for that absorb or prevent the release of carbon in an amount similar to the amount you personally are causing.

For instance, when you take a flight, you can calculate how much carbon will be released by your contribution to the flight’s overall passenger load and pay for a credit to offset that footprint. Search online for an offset source that you and others trust and discover your Carbon Footprint using a calculator to ensure you purchase the right number of offsets to reduce your carbon footprint.


In Conclusion

Measuring your Carbon Footprint is a vital part of lowering your contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions in the effort to prevent and reverse climate change. Knowing exactly what your footprint is, and which areas of your footprint are the largest, can help you make smart decisions when undertaking changes to your lifestyle. Everyone’s footprint is different, so make sure you understand exactly what constitutes yours.

pathways - carbon footprint app

We recommended downloading the Ethos mobile app, Pathways – Carbon Footprint available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Our footprint calculator will show you where your impact is across 4 areas: Shelter and Energy, Food and Water, Transportation, and Consumer Purchases.

The app is full of actions, like those described in this article, that you can take to lower your footprint, as well as tracking tools to see how your footprint changes over time. Thank you for joining us on the journey towards a more sustainable lifestyle by understanding your Carbon Footprint.

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