Do you like challenges?
I’m quite goal-oriented, so whenever I want to achieve something or make lifestyle changes, I like to challenge myself to get out of my cozy comfort zone. So about a year ago, I challenged myself to reduce my carbon footprint as much as possible, and because this blog is about my attempts at becoming a little bit greener, I wanted to tell you everything about what I tried, what worked, what didn’t work, what I enjoyed, what sucked,…ya know.
I found out that the hardest part about this challenge was finding realistic targets.
For example, I live on rent, so I cannot install solar panels on my roof just like that. And I can’t walk 10 km to school in the snow during the winter, I need to take the metro, or sometimes even a taxi.
And I’m a student, so spending too much money isn’t really an option.
So yeah, finding that sweet spot between my needs and the greenest lifestyle was tricky. But then? Sticking to my goals was easy peasy.
The first thing I did – and what I really recommend you do – was calculating my carbon footprint using this online calculator. Last year my personal Earth Overshoot Day was July 6th (we would need 2 Earths if everyone had my lifestyle, oopsie). This year, my EOD is October 9th and we would “””only””” need 1.3 Earths. I know it’s not perfect yet, but a little progress is better than nothing, isn’t it?
⚠️ Disclaimer: topics related to individual carbon footprints are controversial because it gives big polluters an excuse to keep polluting while you and I try to clean up their mess. I think it’s important to know how much our lifestyles contribute to global warming (especially in wealthier countries) so that we can make informed decisions about what we consume, how we consume, and how we interact with our policymakers. That being said, don’t forget that 100 companies are responsible for more than 70% of global GHG emissions, so our main task as consumers is to hold them accountable.
You can find more tea on the idea of carbon footprints in these posts:
- The Controversy About Your Carbon Footprint Explained
- Carbon Offsets: the Solution for Climate Change?
How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
1. Go easy on the thermostat
National Geographic and NASA recognize my apartment as the 3rd coldest place on Earth.
In case you don’t know, I live in Bulgaria, where winters are HARD for a Mediterranean soul like mine.
But whoever built my apartment didn’t quite understand what insulation is. So I don’t live in the most eco-friendly building, but I’ve found ways to save energy by taking advantage of the sunny hours of the day and not going crazy with heating during the winter. I also don’t have control over my energy supplier – all I know is that half of the city is powered by coal, which I’m obviously not a fan of – so I try to use as little as I possibly can.
Because turning your heating down by 1°C can reduce your energy consumption by 8%, reduce your CO2 emissions by 148 kg and your bill by 55 $.
My habits include closing all the doors in the house, using draft stoppers to keep cold from sneaking in and heat from sneaking out, and making the most of the sunlight. Oh, and dressing for the weather even when I’m home.
2. Take colder and shorter showers
I’ve been doing it for the past year – and still, I don’t know how I feel about it, it’s some sort of love-hate relationship.
We cannot deny that colder showers do wonders:
- Speeding up your circulation YEY
- Improving your immune system YEY
- Making your skin and hair look healthier YEY
- Energizing you YEY
About 40% of the energy used during a shower is to heat the water. In a year, you can save up to 86$ showering with cold water.
If you want to give this a try but you hate cold showers – I feel your pain –, try spending less time in the shower than you usually would. Which is another eco-friendly move. Spending 1 minute less in the shower can save 23kg CO2 and 10$ a year per person.
What I usually do is I brush my hair and use all my hair oils and masks before I hop in the shower, and this saves me a lot of time.
3. Pay attention to the stand by light in your electronics
This one is the easiest tip that I can give you. Don’t let your electronic stuff on stand by, turn it off completely.
Fully turning off just one TV for 18 hours a day – let’s say, overnight and when you’re at work – will save about 5kg CO2 a year – saving 2.50$ a year for each device.
4. Become a flexitarian
I come from a culture very fond of animal products.
But once I made some research and saw the statistics about health and environmental issues…there was no way I was gonna sit here doing nothing.
I am not fully a vegetarian, although I’m not closed to that option in the future. I still consume dairy and eggs from time to time.
Completely cutting off from everything is not an option for every person in this planet, but what if we all did as much as we could?
It’s true that a vegan diet is the one that creates less carbon emissions(29 kg of carbon dioxide per day) ), while a diet based on large amounts of meat is the one that creates the most (71 kg per day).
Just find the perfect balance between a sustainable diet, and a diet that we will be happy and healthy having.
A nice place to start is with a nice vegan cookbook. I can’t recommend Forks Over Knives enough. Have you watched the documentary with the same title? If not, you totally should.
5. Buy local and seasonal
I’m a farmers market junkie, and proud of it.
I LOVE walking around. Ah, the people, the smell of fresh produce, the colors.
But for real, eating locally sourced foods and in season can reduce your carbon footprint to some extent. Some reasons are:
- No need for transportation
- No need to store food
- No need of hothouses to grow the food
- No need to use extra fertilizer when cultivating food in a non-native climate
So buy as much fresh produce as possible – that means no processed food! Your health will also thank you.
Do you know anything about fast fashion? Long story short, it’s a bad, bad thing for the planet.
And having so many alternatives to fast fashion available at the reach of your hand, why would you settle with something you know is bad?
I have an entire post on this telling you my experience detoxing from fast fashion – spoiler alert, I get dramatic.
One of the best pieces of advice I can give you is: before running to your go-to fast fashion shop, think twice, and then think again.
Do I really need this? Is there a more sustainable way to get it?
Most times you’ll realize that you just want something on a whim and that you really don’t need it.
And if you feel like going on a shopping spree, consider sustainable fashion instead.
You can learn more about sustainable fashion on this page.
7. Wash your clothes in cold water
We’re only two people at home, but at the end of the week, we have to put more loads of laundry that I’d like to admit.
Then one day I found out you can generally wash your clothes with cold water without messing them up. And it was a game-changer.
That simple change can reduce your washer’s carbon emissions by 75% and save you 60 $ for every 300 loads of laundry you clean. Also, cold water works as a sanitizer, equal to warm water.
And it’s supposed to be better to keep the quality of your clothes.
8. Take flights less often and, when you do, offset them.
Look, we live in the 21st century and thank god we can travel anywhere anytime. But air travel is an environmental problemo.
But I live abroad and have to visit mom and dad from time to time, so…
Sometimes taking a plane is necessary, so when I really REALLY have to, I buy carbon credits with my flight.
9. Vote for someone who believes in climate change
As if our future depended on it. Because it does.
And doing our best as individuals is AMAZING, but we need someone up there, in the political sphere defending what we stand for.
So inform yourself and go vote for people who believe in science.
These are the easiest tips I can give you. What about you? Do you have more ideas? Have you already tried any of these? Let me know!