Carbon Neutral Lifestyle Guide
Did you know that the wealthiest 1% of the world’s population is responsible for the emission of more than twice as much carbon dioxide as the poorest 50%?
Rich people take a huge part of the world’s carbon pie, due to “luxury emissions” like extra steak dinners, owning and driving cars or the greatest carbon footprint emitter: flying. 1% of the world population who fly account for half of all air travel emissions!
Hyperconsumerism, linked to the overexploitation of fossil fuels, the consumption of unnecessary items and the production of huge amounts of waste, has created a system endangering our planet’s ecosystems.
- What Is The Carbon Neutral Lifestyle?
- The Case For Carbon Neutral Living
- How To Get Started With Carbon Neutral Living
- Next Steps To Carbon Neutral Living
- Take Action
What Is The Carbon Neutral Lifestyle?
The carbon neutral lifestyle aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions derived from individual activity, in order to mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure a safer future for all.
Unsurprisingly, 100 companies around the world are responsible for 71% of all GHG emissions since 1998. These companies, and the governments that fail to regulate them, need to be held accountable for their pollution and attempts to pass the responsibility of solving the climate crisis onto the consumer. However, despite this, personal action is an important step in reducing worldwide carbon emissions. 55% of all humans live in urban areas and account for about 70% of all annual carbon emissions. These numbers are only expected to rise as more and more people are drawn to the cities and continue to buy, eat, and consume without any thought for consequences. If nothing changes, carbon emissions from cities could double by 2050, and take a heavy toll on our planet’s climate.
This guide to carbon neutral living will help you implement a more sustainable way of life, thanks to our easy tips on how to lower your carbon emissions in all aspects of your daily life.
Understanding your carbon footprint
Most of us purchase food, live in a house and use transportation. The amount of greenhouse gas emissions through these activities is what constitutes our carbon footprint.
“Reducing your carbon footprint '' has become exceedingly popular in recent years, as people look for ways to cut their carbon emissions. However, all actions taken to curb emissions are not equal. Reducing your driving, air travel, and meat consumption are more effective in cutting your GHG emissions than say recycling or turning off the lights. That is why one of the first, and major, steps in your carbon neutral journey will be to correctly identify which actions will curb your individual carbon footprint the most.
Here is a chart of the most efficient lifestyle changes to tackle your carbon footprint:
Another major lifestyle choice can impact your carbon footprint on a greater scale: choosing to have one fewer child for a US family could provide the same level of emissions reductions as 684 teenagers adopting comprehensive recycling for the rest of their lives.
As of right now the average US citizen emits about 16 tonnes of carbon a year, and many studies have shown that we should go down to 1 tonne of emissions per year by 2050 in order to stay within the temperature target and avoid irreversible changes to our biodiversity and environment!
Reducing your carbon emissions means completely rethinking the way you live, travel, eat and consume. This carbon neutral lifestyle guide is here to guide you on this journey, because, with the right tips, saving the planet can actually be quite simple!
The Case For carbon neutral Living
How are we emitting carbon?
When we talk about carbon emissions, the main focus is carbon dioxide (CO2), which is the primary driver of global warming.
CO² can be found all over the planet: it is in the air, in the oceans, and in animals and plants. While CO2 gets a bad rap these days, its existence is incredibly important in fostering a balanced climate cycle responsible for life on Earth. Being one of the greenhouse gases (GHGs), CO2 helps keep the Earth’s surface about 33 degrees warmer than the -18 degrees it would be if GHGs were not present. Other greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide are also products of human activities, but they are released in smaller amounts compared to CO².
The climate is inherently complex and our planet has seen natural fluctuations and interglacial periods over thousands of years. However, the influence of human activity on the amount of GHGs in the atmosphere over the past century, and its direct link to climate change, is unquestionable.
♥ Video: Is It Too Late To Stop Climate Change? Well, it's Complicated. ♥
Since the industrial revolution, the amount of GHGs released into the atmosphere has been exponentially increasing, due to the combustion of fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, oil) and massive deforestation, cutting down CO² absorbing ecosystems. We’ve been producing so much carbon dioxide that it would take hundreds of years to go back to pre-industrial levels!
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showed that the world has already warmed by about 1 degree since the middle of the 19th century and we could reach 1.5 degrees before 2050 if we do nothing.
What is the 1.5 degrees goal?
Recently, scientists have shifted their definition of what they consider to be a “safe” warming for the planet.
For decades, researchers have said that the global temperature rise should be kept below 2°C by the end of this century. But now scientists argue that keeping below 1.5°C is a far safer limit and the only way to avoid the worst impacts.
Why is it urgent to take action?
The global rise of 1°C over the past 70 years seems insignificant, but this change has brought forth severe consequences already, disrupting many ecosystems. We can already witness disastrous confounding effects for our planet like sea levels rise, coral reef extinction and the irremediable melting of glaciers.
What’s even scarier is at the current rate we are going on, we could reach 3 to 5°C by 2100, while a rise of 2°C in the world’s temperatures is already deemed likely, and sadly, a point of no return.
Mass consumerism, fossil fuels consumption, industrial agriculture, industrial farming, increasing air travel, rise in standards of living in developing countries, and other high carbon emitting activities are driving us towards a planet that could be uninhabitable for some populations within the next few decades, and to all if we continue consuming the same way.
The real impact of climate change is difficult to assess precisely, but it is certain that it will increase the frequency of extreme weather events, potentially causing fresh water shortages, dramatically altering our ability to produce food, and increasing the number of climate refugees.
♥ Video: How To Save Our Planet ♥
How To Get Started With Carbon Neutral Living
It is abundantly clear how disastrous the effects of climate change are, and the need for us to act. Here are our first tips to become your own version of the “No Impact Man”!
Assess your carbon footprint
In order to begin with low carbon living, you should first assess your carbon footprint and evaluate your areas of improvement.
Our carbon footprint calculator will help do so among the five main fields: home, food, travel, transportation and shopping. As you will see, each person has a different carbon footprint depending on their location, daily habits and personal choices.
Take the first step to save the planet: use our carbon footprint calculator and take a few minutes to estimate your carbon footprint. We’ll provide you with easy tips and tools to help you reduce your carbon emissions according to your score and targeted areas!
Target your areas of improvement
Once you have determined your areas of improvement, concentrate your efforts on reducing your emissions in these specific fields. Your personal journey may seem small in the grand scheme of things, but every step counts when our planet is warming at an unsustainable rate. The Next Steps to Carbon Neutral Living section will give you tools to reduce emissions in each of these five areas.
You can also read our blog articles on low carbon living in order to target specific improvements!
Buy carbon offsets
What are carbon offsets?
Carbon offsets are based on your carbon footprint. They are meant to compensate for your emissions of carbon dioxide, by funding a project designed to reduce carbon emissions by the same amount elsewhere. Carbon offsets can fund initiatives linked to renewable energies or forestry, as a way to “neutralize” the effect of your emissions.
Carbon offsetting helps attain true carbon neutrality. However, the goal remains to lower your carbon emissions and carbon offsetting doesn’t mean we should continue producing the same amount of CO².
Next Steps To Carbon Neutral Living
Use our Carbon Footprint Calculator and determine in which areas you should reduce your carbon footprint the most! These next steps to carbon neutral living will give you easy ways to cut your emissions on a daily basis.
Many people are not aware of the carbon footprint homes can have in the US. This guide will provide you with sustainable energy-saving tips to reduce your carbon footprint at home, as well as save money on a daily basis.
Heat, Lights and Appliances
On average, a US household uses 3 to 4 times the electricity of a European one. That is mainly due to inefficient appliances and lights, as well as poor insulation. Making even small changes to these can make a big difference.
- Turn down the heat and use a smart thermostat if you have one. Keep also your blinds closed to keep temperature stable inside.
- Turn down your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. It might make for a cold shower every once and a while, but you should be following the 5 Minute Shower plan anyways!
- Turn off lights and appliances when not using them. Try to put appliances to sleep or even to turn them off at the power outlet in order to maximize energy savings
- Replace incandescent lights with LED lights, which use up to 85% less energy, last up to 25 times longer and are way cheaper to run.
- Control the temperature of your fridge and freezer. The United States Department of Energy recommends about 35 degrees for the fridge and 0 degrees for the freezer. Old fridges are real energy-guzzlers, replace your 15 years old fridge and save money throughout the year!
- Purchase renewable energy from a clean energy supplier. If you can’t find renewable energy, try and pick a supplier which offsets its carbon emissions
- Always look for Energy Star-labeled products, this means they are certified to meet energy efficiency standards.
Make your home energy efficient
Making your home energy efficient will be a great way to reduce your spendings and carbon emissions. If you live in an older home, in particular, you could be losing up to 30% of the energy you pay for.
Small modifications to your house's insulation and design can help you minimize your carbon footprint at home, from DIY hacks to structural modifications. You may also do an energy audit or hire a professional to assess and grade your home's energy efficiency before you begin. If you want to carry out an audit yourself, the Energy Star website is a useful tool and you may even qualify for a tax incentive.
- Seal or draught-proof your home to avoid spots where warm or cool air can escape (attic, windows, doors, etc.). Keeping warm air from going out in the winter, and cool air from going out in the summer means you’ll use less energy to set the temperature of your home.
- Consider installing solar panels and search for utility incentives for renewable energy additions.
- Plant trees around your home, this easy insulation tip can be quite efficient, especially for older homes.
- Check the energy-efficiency rating for your windows and doors. If you can, replace those that don’t meet modern standards.
Food production accounts for about a quarter of total carbon emissions, but there are simple things we can do to help fix that.
Adopt a Climatarian Diet, which means a diet whose primary goal is to reverse climate change. This includes choosing pork and poultry over beef (to reduce GHGs emissions), eating locally produced food (to limit energy spent in transportation) and using every part of ingredients to limit food waste. The Kuri app will give you recipes to lower your carbon footprint!
Replacing the carbon-heavy beef with carbon-light chicken on your plate will cut your dietary carbon footprint in half. Meat consumption, especially beef, goat and lamb, is a large contributor to climate change. Meat and dairy specifically account for around 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization.
According to this graph from the Carbon Brief website, beef production emits more than twice the CO2 equivalent emissions than the second most polluting food (lamb and mutton).
Without reducing meat consumption, keeping a global warming temperature below 2°C will be incredibly difficult.
The plant-based diet is the most likely to have the lowest environmental footprint. Even switching from meat and poultry to fish can cut down your dietary emissions by 50%. On the other hand, red meat can have up to 100 times the environmental impact of plant-based foods. For example, the following chart compares the footprint of a regular beef burger with plant-based alternatives like the Beyond Burger or the Impossible Burger.
Switching to a vegan diet will be the best thing for the planet! To learn more about this topic, read our Vegan Lifestyle Guide.
And switch to items made without animal products, for a more sustainable consumption.
Eating seasonally and locally can reduce the carbon footprint of your food by up to 10%. Indeed, food travels a lot more than we do, and food miles are a part of our food’s carbon emissions.
However, the majority of carbon emissions come from growing and storing food. The production phase represents 83% of GHG emissions associated with food, while transportation only represents 11%.
Storing consumes electricity while growing food in a non-native climate may require a hot house or large amounts of fertilizer, both of which have an important effect on GHGs emissions. Weighing your options is important: bear in mind that even if organic food is better for your health, it’s still better to choose low-impact plant-based foods. Organic systems require more land and therefore can produce as many GHG emissions as conventional ones.
For products that necessarily come from afar, like coffee, we’ve found a special brand that will guarantee the finest flavours associated with an ethical production and a precise traceability!
Americans waste about 40% of the food they buy. Globally, food waste accounts for 8% of total GHG emissions each year. Luckily, there are some easy ways to reduce your waste in the kitchen, and save money and the planet at the same time.
Check what food you have in the house and plan your meals before going grocery shopping. Do not buy more than you can eat, and plan accordingly with the number of people you want to feed. Adapting recipes is not that difficult and it will help you cut large amounts of waste.
Freeze your food and leftovers, this will help you drastically cut waste as it will make them long-lasting.
Give your food scraps a second life. Use your vegetable scraps to make a vegetable stock or regrow the scrap ends of onions or other bulbs. Whether you have a garden or you’re into indoor gardening, growing your own food can only help as you’ll harvest only what you need to cook a meal.
Compost what you cannot reuse. Follow our composting guide in order to make the perfect compost at home!
Air travel is a major contributor to climate change. Our global economy is inextricably linked to aviation, as it carries goods and enables business. Leisure flights are on the rise and the increase in demand for overnight shipping has led some companies, like Amazon, to increase their cargo aircraft fleets. This demand is expected to increase as flight prices fall and consumer demand for flying grows in emerging countries.
However, new movements and concepts such as “flygskam” (“flight shame” in Swede) have emerged and people are becoming more aware of the negative effects of air travel on climate change. One of the most effective ways to cut your carbon emissions is to reconsider how, and how often, you travel.
Tackle your flights
With its GHGs emissions and the water vapour trails produced by aircrafts, air travel is responsible for about 5% of global warming, while just 3% of the global population take regular flights... At first, it looks like a small contribution but the truth is that only a very small percentage of the world flies frequently.
Air travel represents the greatest toll on your carbon footprint, as it’s by far the most damaging way to travel for the climate. For example, a return flight from London to San Francisco emits around 5.5 tonnes of CO² equivalent per person, which is more than twice the emissions produced by a family car in a year! Taking one fewer round-trip transatlantic flight saves 1.6 tonnes of CO² each time, these types of decisions can shrink your personal carbon footprint significantly!
Offset your emissions
If you cannot avoid flying, offset your emissions by donating money to sustainable projects. Airlines often give you this option themselves but you can also choose between a multiplicity of sustainable projects on specialized websites.
Scrutinize your hotel
When you’re traveling, choosing a sustainable accommodation is a good way to stay green. Hotels which are certified by LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) use renewable energy and green products.
We’ve also selected natural and environmentally-friendly products so you can stay green wherever you go!
How you go from one place to another is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
In the US, the transportation sector is responsible for about 28% of total greenhouse gases, according to the EPA. It means it’s the largest contributor, just before the energy sector.
The amount of transportation emissions usually depends on where you live, as city dwellers often have access to public transportation while people in the suburbs or rural areas tend to drive a lot more.
Depending on your way of life, these easy tips will help you reduce your carbon footprint while allowing you to move with a clear conscience!
Living car-free could help you save 2.4 tonnes of CO² per year.
Moreover, carbon dioxide emissions from transportation surpassed those from electricity generation as the top source of greenhouse gases in November 2017! Electricity is finding clean and sustainable sources such as renewable energy or natural gas but transportation still hasn’t switched to greener alternatives.
How can you stop using your car? Use public transportation, carpool to work or bike whenever you can. You’ll see that these changes are really easy to implement and can have a great impact on our planet’s climate.
However, sometimes using your car will be necessary. Here are some tips to still tackle your ecological footprint:
- Practice eco-driving. Reduce rapid acceleration and braking and reduce top cruising highway speed from 70 to 65 mph
- Regularly service your car to make it more efficient. Change air filters regularly and make sure your tires are properly inflated.
- Cut air conditioning and intensive city driving.
- Avoid hauling cargo on your roof and remove excess weight to make your car more fuel-efficient.
Buy A New Car?
For people who drive long distances, or for urbanites who still need to use their car, switching to a more efficient and sustainable car may be the best way to curb your emissions. In order to halt global warming, we need vehicles that do not rely on fossil fuels and on emitting carbon dioxide as a way of operation. Of course, electric vehicles can be criticized as they still have a substantial carbon footprint: the extraction of lithium, cobalt and other metals for the cars’ batteries as well as the electricity these cars run on can rely on energy based on fossil fuels. However, creating clean power is becoming more and more easier and decarbonization of energy is greatly underway in many countries. In relation to these sustainable changes, EVs represent the greatest alternative to fossil fueled cars.
There are two main examples of energy-efficient cars:
- Battery electric vehicles that run exclusively on electricity
- Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that can run on electricity for a limited distance before switching to gas/electric hybrid mode.
The US Department of Energy will help choose and compare cars based on their efficiency.
The Carbon Counter app can also help you choose the most efficient car, based on your region, the size and the type of the car you’re searching for.
♥ Video: Electric Cars & Global Warming Emissions ♥
Consumerism is greatly linked to climate change. Reducing how much you buy and considering the origin and production of goods is an essential part of minimizing your carbon footprint.
It’s time to learn to consume a whole lot less!
Currently, 100 billion clothes are manufactured annually, which is 60% more than 15 years ago. The emergence of “fast fashion”, a method focused on the rapid and inexpensive production of high volumes of clothing, has greatly highlighted humanity’s impact on the environment. Textile industries use trend replication and low-quality materials in order to reduce costs, but at the expense of garment workers and our planet. The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions, that’s more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined!
Indeed, when someone in New York buys a t-shirt made from cotton grown in India, then manufactured in China using coal energy, packed up in another country in oil-based packaging, shipped across the ocean in fossil-fueled ships and delivered by diesel trucks, the environmental toll is a lot higher than what you would first imagine.
For more on this topic, read our issue brief on fast fashion.
The Tera Team has selected the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint in the field of fashion.
First, minimizing your wardrobe is an essential part of the process. Refuse to buy fast fashion and assess what you really need whenever you go shopping. Ask yourself important questions before buying anything: does it feel like I can wear this item for many years? Does it seem lasting and high quality? Can I match it with my other outfits? If you’re hesitating on any of these questions, then don’t buy it!
Reuse as much as you can. Fix up your clothes or donate items instead of putting them to waste. Buying second-hand clothes is also a great way to lower your carbon footprint, and to save money.
If you really need to purchase something new, buy from ethical and sustainable brands. To make it easier, look for a fairtrade or similar logo.
Don’t forget to remain sustainable while taking care of your clothes! This laundry stain remover will help you avoid waste in your laundry, reducing your impact on the planet.
Follow the 5 Rs principles: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot in order to ensure a sustainable consumption. Waste and carbon footprint are closely linked, follow our easy tips to lower the amount of waste you produce on a daily basis.
Some easy swaps are switching to reusable bags for grocery shopping, refusing plastic packaging, purchasing reusable items (water bottles, napkins, straws, etc.) or buying in bulk.
Do not hesitate to switch to zero waste items as reducing the amount of waste you produce will also help reduce your carbon footprint. These zero waste gift sets will be perfect to begin your journey. Read more on this subject in our Zero Waste Lifestyle Guide!
Support Climate Change NPOs
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Join Our Carbon Neutral Community
Joining a carbon neutral community is a great way to meet new people who are ready to achieve the same goals as you are. Changing your life habits with others is always easier!