The 5 “Toes” of Your Carbon Footprint

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While there are many small lifestyle factors that influence the size of your carbon footprint, there are 5 major things that make up the majority of your carbon emissions. Here they are – and what you can do about them.

We all have a “carbon footprint” in the world – that is, the amount of carbon emissions that you and I – individually – generate each year through our lifestyle choices. There are dozens of tiny factors that contribute to the size of this footprint, and determine whether it is larger, or smaller, than the majority of others like you. Things like recycling, buying efficient light bulbs, or choosing non-toxic cleaning products are all awesome, but they’re not what makes your lifestyle ultimately “green” or not.

When it comes down to sustainability and carbon emissions, there are 5 main factors (or “toes,” if you will) that have the most influence on the size of your carbon footprint. This article explores these 5 factors, and explains how you can make choices to create a better, more sustainable lifestyle, and protect our planet for future generations:

1. Where You Live

Where you lay your head can have a huge effect on how much carbon you spew into the atmosphere. In general, living in the U.S. isn’t great for the planet, but some places in America are more climate-friendly than others.

Cities suck up a lot of energy and resources and are responsible for 75 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions. Densely populated cities, however, tend to have smaller carbon footprints than outlying suburbs. Urban areas that aren’t very dense or that have a lot of suburban sprawl are actually worse for the planet.

The kind of house or apartment you live in also matters, according to John Rogers, a senior energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists and co-author of Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living.
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2. What You Eat

The average American’s diet is responsible for almost nine tons of carbon emissions every year. Eating red meat is particularly carbon-intensive….

Simply abandoning beef, or merely eating less of it, could be more effective at curbing emissions than driving less often.
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This doesn’t mean you necessarily have to give up steaks and cheeseburgers altogether. Even small changes in diet can have a big effect on emissions.

“Eating a vegetarian meal one day a week could save the equivalent of driving 1,160 miles,” according to the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan.

3. How You Commute

Driving to and from work, especially if you live in the suburbs, can add many pounds of carbon to your output. Cars and light trucks were responsible for around 1.2 billion tons of CO2 emissions in 2013 — a full 16 percent of U.S. emissions.
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Not everyone has access to mass transit, however….

So those thinking about buying a car should try to get something fuel-efficient, Rogers said.

4. How You Invest

Half of Americans own stocks, and Americans’ retirement accounts collectively held almost $21 trillion in 2013. Where that money is invested can determine which industries grow and which don’t.

Activists and nonprofit organizations have recognized this power and are encouraging investors big and small to divert money away from the fossil fuel industry….
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5. Who You Vote For

In the long run, government policies can do more to limit global carbon emissions than what consumers eat or buy. The stakes for the climate are high this presidential election cycle: The most popular Republican candidates — Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio — deny that climate change is caused by humans, according to a report from NPR.

Winston and Rogers both see political action and personal consumption as pieces of the same puzzle.

“It’s about being a low-carbon leader — taking it to work and to school, taking it to your community, going to your elected leaders and saying this is something I care about,” Rogers said.

Not everyone has the power to radically change their lifestyle….

What’s important, Winston said, is that people think about climate change and do what they can.

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For more information, check out the full article at HuffingtonPost.com

 

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