Everything you do and every purchase you make has a carbon footprint. What does that mean?
Look around you right now. You probably see dozens of "things". But let's explore the footprint of a book for example.
The life cycle of a book starts in the forest. A timber company owns some land and sends someone out to determine what trees to extract. Diesel-powered equipment fell the trees and then transports them to the mill.
Fossil-fueled equipment chips the wood and turns it into pulp. The pulp is then turned into paper. The paper is put onto large rolls and sent to the printers, where it is processed into a book using inks and glues. When the books are printed, they are shipped off to a distributor and eventually end up in a store or your mailbox.
Every step in the process uses energy in the form of electricity, fuel for transportation, and water. That is an abbreviated carbon footprint of a book.
Suppose you think of the carbon footprint of items before you buy. In that case, it just might change your purchasing habits, which really puts the consumer in a position to significantly reduce emissions that are causing the climate crisis.
Reduce Home Energy Use
You can do three simple things at home to reduce your carbon-based energy usage significantly while also reducing the amount of CO2 entering the atmosphere.
- Turn the lights out
Did your parents ever tell you to "turn those lights out?" They knew how it added to the electric bill every month. You can find out exactly how much energy each bulb in your home consumes by using this calculation:
# of bulbs X watts of bulbs x hours of use per day.
5 bulbs X 60 watts each X 12 hours per day = 3600-watt hours.
To get the kilowatt-hours, you divide by 1,000. = 3.6-kilowatt-hours each day.
LED bulbs use much less electricity and result in reducing the CO2 that enters the atmosphere.
Did you know that appliances that are turned off still pull electricity? Look around you. How many things are plugged in all the time? Some of them use as much power when they are turned off as when they are on.
About a quarter of all residential energy consumption is used on devices in idle power mode, according to a study of Northern California by the Natural Resources Defense Council. That means that devices that are "off" or in standby or sleep mode can use up to the equivalent of 50 large power plants' worth of electricity and cost more than $19 billion in electricity bills every year.
- Close the Drapes
Covering your windows with solid coverings will conserve energy consumption in cold or hot climates.
Glass is a conductor, so heat from inside the house will move to the colder air outside. The colder air left next to the glass becomes dense and falls to the floor, which draws in new warm air from above. This cycle continues causing your heater to work harder to keep it warm.
Playing the curtain game can reduce heat loss through windows by 60%.
If you live in warmer places, those window coverings can also reduce your cool air loss by closing them when the sun is coming through during the hotter parts of the day.
To Do: Take an inventory of lighting, windows, and everything plugged in—plan to reduce your energy consumption in all three areas.
Reduce Transportation Energy Use
Our vehicles are a significant source of CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions. While electric vehicle technologies are becoming more mainstream, not everyone is ready to make the switch. Here are a few tips to reduce your transportation energy use.
- Just Park Already
Entering a busy parking lot can be pretty stressful. It is also an opportunity to waste fuel and put more CO2 into the air. You see people driving in circles looking for that perfect spot or idling in place for several minutes waiting for someone to pull out.
The US Department of Energy suggests that idling for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel and produces more emissions than restarting your engine. Think of other instances where you may be idling for long periods.
A less stressful plan is to park out in the open spaces every time. It is easier to pull in and park and also leave without dodging the people at the door. This is also helpful if you drive an electric vehicle because every foot counts!
To Do: Identify the perfect space that seems to be empty most of the time and steer your vehicle there instead of the front door.
- Get Better Gas Mileage
You know that vehicles that use gasoline or diesel add CO2 to the atmosphere every time you turn it on. But did you know that the better you maintain your vehicle, the less fuel you need to use? Here are some simple tips that can save big.
Make sure your gas cap is tight - It is estimated that 147 million gallons of gas are lost to evaporation per year.
Avoid idling – when you idle, you are getting zero miles per gallon. The EPA estimates that idling for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel than restarting. Better yet, if you are driving through, try parking and going inside (if available).
Clean out your car – added weight reduces fuel efficiency so take out those bags of dog food when you get home. Carpooling, however, will save more than driving individual vehicles.
Improve aerodynamics – Roof racks or anything on the top of your vehicle will reduce your fuel economy. And if you drive over 35 MPH, close your windows.
Clean Dirty Air Filters – This can be done during routine oil changes. Sometimes the dirt can be knocked out, but you will need to replace them every few oil changes. And don't forget to check the air filters inside the vehicle too.
Keep Proper Tire Air Pressure – If tires are not correctly inflated, you can reduce fuel economy by 5%. Check monthly and at every oil change.
When You are Out and About
It is easier to form habits around saving energy at home, but you can still do some things when out around town to reduce your carbon footprint.
- Grab your reusable mug – plastic accounts for a high percentage of our fossil fuel usage. Opt-out of disposable plastic bottles and containers and always have a reusable at the ready.
- Visit the local brewery – the beer is made in a room nearby, wheeled into the bar, and poured into a reusable pint glass—no fuel needed for transportation.
- Go on a picnic – fill a basket or bag with reusable plates, utensils, and whatever you may need. Have it ready to go so you can spend some quality time with loved ones out in nature.
When you head out on your picnic, remember to grab your Radiate Portable Campfire. S'mores anyone?
Radiate campfires are made with recycled paper briquettes and a Kosher soy wax blend. They are made in the USA, which helps to reduce our carbon footprint. When you're done burning your portable campfire, don't forget to recycle the tin!