Everyone knows some ways to reduce our impact on the planet. We can make little everyday choices like separating our recyclables from the garbage, or big investments like installing rooftop solar and buying an electric car. But what actions make the most difference? How much do we need to change? How much will it cost?
The authors of Drawdown.org reviewed all the scientific literature on climate solutions, and ranked them by potential global impact. If all of these solutions were implemented on a global scale, we could actually reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. The top solutions relating to personal lifestyle in the first world are:
- # 3 reduce food waste
- # 4 eat a plant-rich diet
Combined, these food choices could potentially reduce the global atmospheric load of CO2 by over 130 gigatons. For comparison, rooftop solar (#10) can reduce the global CO2 load by only 25 gigatons.
Easy ways to improve your food lifestyle
- Beef’s carbon footprint is twice that of pork and four times that of chicken. Choose wisely
- Use meat for flavor rather than making it the whole meal
- Consider observing “meatless Monday”
- Reduce food waste by planning ahead and storing food correctly
- Use smaller plates – you will probably eat less and be healthier too
- Eat ugly food – lumpy and weird shaped can be delicious, too
- Donate leftover food – food banks can’t take cooked food, but many shelters can
- Eat what’s in season – it tastes better and needs less energy
As of early 2018, the EPA is still collecting data on greenhouse gas emissions. Nationwide, transportation produces over ¼ of our CO2. Of the CO2 produced by transportation, 60% is tailpipe emissions from light duty vehicles, such as cars, and 9% is produced by airplanes.
Clearly, you can reduce your carbon footprint by telecommuting, riding a bike, using mass transit or carpooling. Supporting transit bond issues and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure helps as well. But never forget the impact of summer vacation. Your carbon footprint as an airline passenger is equivalent to the amount of carbon you would produce driving alone to your destination, in a gasoline-powered car. If your whole family is coming along, an old fashioned road trip is a better environmental choice.
A personal anecdote. The first time I calculated my carbon footprint, I was feeling pretty good, until I added in air travel. It blew my carbon budget and made me rethink my travel plans. A friend of mine is a climate scientist, and she used to fly all over for conferences. Then she changed careers, because she could not justify the carbon cost flying to the conferences.
Want to do more? Use the Cool California Climate Calculator to find more ways to reduce your household carbon footprint.
When in doubt, buy less stuff.