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Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Photo by Rick Fatica

This past January, I went running outside wearing shorts and a t-shirt. I’m not crazy; the weather that day was just crazy warm. In the middle of January, Ohio shouldn’t be that warm. Global warming is something that each and every one of us on this planet contributes to by leaving our so-called carbon footprint on the environment.

What is a carbon footprint?
According to carbonfootprint.com, a carbon footprint is “a measure of the impact our activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases we produce. It is measured in units of carbon dioxide.” The measurement of your footprint includes electricity usage, types of recreation you participate in, how you get around (foot, bike, public transit, car, plane), the food and drink you consume, along with the clothes you buy and the frequency in which you utilize all of these things.

Why reduce the size of your carbon footprint?
Wendy Buckley, commercial director of carbonfootprint.com says, “By reducing energy consumption, you are reducing carbon emissions, slowing the depletion of earth’s natural resources (fossil fuels), and saving money. Energy prices are at an all time high – you will save on both your domestic natural gas and electricity bills.”

Ready to reduce your footprint? Let’s do it.
Level 1: You’re a carbon Bigfoot. Let’s start small so you don’t go into shock. Replace your incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents. Turn off computers (or at least hibernate them) when not in use. Plant a tree, or just don’t cut one down. Unplug wall chargers and use power strips for items like TVs and stereos – they draw a “phantom” charge even when they’re turned off – so turn them off by hitting the strip’s button instead of the device’s. Layer clothing and turn the heat down. Take shorter showers. Rather than chug two separate plastic bottles of water after your workout, fill and refill a reusable water bottle. Even recycling uses extra energy, so don’t think that you’re not harming the environment just because you toss the empty plastic into a blue bin.

Level 2. You’re an enviro-vangelist. You can talk the talk, but do you walk the walk? Install low-flow showerheads. Carpool, use public transit, bike or walk to work and to the store. Use a push mower (and get more exercise). Check and make sure your water heater is set to 120 degrees or lower. Air dry your clothes. Buy organic and local foods. The closer to home they originate, the less fuel and energy will be wasted to get them to your kitchen. Use cloth grocery bags rather than the plastic ones the stores supply. Weatherize your home to reduce heat loss during cold months. Purchase minimally packaged goods - the less packaging there is, the less there is to throw away, so don't shy away from asking for less cellophane at the market.

Level 3. You’re a tree-hugging dirt-worshipper. Already have a footprint of negative .52 but still looking to improve? Purchase a hybrid or fuel efficient car. Replace old appliances that may waste large amounts of energy with newer ones like a tankless water heater. Switch to double-pane windows. Look into purchasing carbon credits. “Carbon credits work by offsetting an equivalent amount of CO2 that you emit by making reductions elsewhere in the world by renewable energy projects,” says Wendy. You can put down as much green to save as much green as you desire.

What’s that about recreation?
According to carbonfootprint.com, “carbon intensive” activities include motorized four-wheeling on the trails and sky diving. So don’t sweat the mountain biking and backpacking. Your biggest concern should be how far you travel to get to the places where you play. Try to stay closer to home more often and it will have a big impact, especially if you don’t fly.

It all boils down to the fact that you can’t just slap an “I (heart) Mountains” bumper sticker on your car and say you’re done. Reducing your carbon footprint can be a win-win situation. “Saving energy takes no more time, preserves our world resources, landscapes and natural habitats,” says Wendy. “Here's your chance to put the money back in your pocket and protect our environment.”

Colleen Kennedy has a carbon footprint of 19.829, which is just below the national average of 20.4, but is actively working to lower it. Calculate yours at www.carbonfootprint.com and start shrinking.