The Truth About Carbon Footprints and You

      For the vast majority of people in the world, we go about our daily lives without thinking about our individual impact on the earth. We don’t necessarily think about how the steak dinner we are eating or the trash we are throwing out can have a big impact over time especially when billions of people are doing the same thing. This impact that we don’t think about is called a carbon footprint. According to https://www.dictionary.com a carbon footprint is defined as, ‘the amount of carbon dioxide or other carbon compounds emitted into the atmosphere by the activities of an individual, company, country, etc’. A question one may ask them selves is, “How am I personally Effected” and/or “What can I do about this”? Well, throughout his blog, those questions will be answered.

     Your carbon foot print shows up in a number of ways. In practically everything you do, you are somehow effecting the climate with your carbon footprint. In the areas of environment, wildlife, human health and the economy there have been detrimental losses. Our environment is affected by rising temperatures and shifting precipitation patterns that are changing the growing patterns of plants and result in indigenous vegetation moving to increasingly cooler climates as well as rising sea levels that erode shorelines and destroy ecosystems which can cause coastal cities and towns to be displaced. This in turn affects our wildlife that may find that their food sources are inedible or all together disappeared which drives them to extinction. The lack of food sources and changing precipitation patterns affects human health as well. Due to these changes droughts occur, causing lack of food which contributes to malnutrition and the rising temperatures cause disease infected insects such as malaria carrying mosquitos to migrate into other countries that were once too cool for them. The climate changes also affect the economy with significant losses. Farms are not able to yield crops, the fishing industry is not making the same catches and the rising temperature is killing off the coral reef which is a $375 billion per year industry (https://www.livestrong.com/article/183436-the-importance-of-reducing-a-carbon-footprint/). Your individual carbon footprints is connected to many different aspects of life and without realizing it, you could be hurting millions of peoples and animals quality of life.

     So, how can one reduce their carbon footprint? There are several ways to achieve this. According to https://cotap.org/reduce-carbon-footprint/ there are many ways you can reduce your carbon footprint in different areas of your life. You can start with your driving habits by:

·         Driving a low carbon vehicle – High mileage doesn’t always mean low CO2 emissions. All vehicles have an estimated miles-per-gallon rating. Electric cars emit no CO2 if they’re charged with clean electricity. If you don’t charge it with your home’s solar panels AND live somewhere like WY, MO, MO, WV, or KY you’re BETTER OFF with a hybrid or high-mileage gas/diesel car. Here’s why. After incentives and gas savings, it essentially costs nothing to switch to an electric car like the the Nissan Leaf.

·         Reduce speeding – Speeding and unnecessary acceleration reduce mileage by up to 33%, waste gas and money, and increase your carbon footprint.

·         Finding alternatives to driving – When possible, walk or ride your bike in order to avoid carbon emissions completely. Carpooling and public transportation drastically reduce CO2 emissions by spreading them out over many riders

Next you can think about your air travel by:

·         General – Until petroleum-based aviation fuel is replaced, you should avoid flying when possible, fly less frequently, fly shorter distances, and fly economy class.

·         Leisure air travel – Take fewer and longer vacations that are far away, and more frequent and drivable “staycations” closer to home

·         What class? – Economy class is best, for the same reasons as carpooling and public transportation. Each flyer’s share of a flight’s carbon emissions is relatively less because it’s spread out over more people.

In your home there are various ways to reduce your carbon footprint such as:

·         Insulate and seal your home – Reduce drafts and air leaks with caulk, insulation, and weather stripping. Many states offer programs and incentives to facilitate this, and a great example is Energy Upgrade California.

·         Solar – Add solar panels to the roof of your home. This costs a little more than the above options, but many providers offer financing options which minimize upfront costs. Two examples are SolarCity and SunRun. If you live in a state with a Net Metering law, you could eliminate your electricity bill or even earn money by selling electricity back to the grid.

·         Lighting – Turn off lights you’re not using and when you leave the room. Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent or LED ones.

With food you can:

·         Eat locally-produced and organic food – It has been estimated that 13% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions result from the production and transport of food. Transporting food requires petroleum-based fuels, and many fertilizers are also fossil fuel-based.

·         Cut the beef and dairy – It takes a lot of resources to raise cows, and it’s especially bad if you buy beef from somewhere like Brazil, where it was grazed on land that used to be tropical forest but was cleared for agricultural use. Deforestation is a top contributor to carbon emissions and thus climate change.

And lastly, in your everyday lives you can:

·         Water usage – Lower the amount of energy used to pump, treat, and heat water by washing your car less often, using climate-appropriate plants in your garden, installing drip irrigation so that plants receive only what they need, and making water-efficient choices when purchasing shower heads, faucet heads, toilets, dishwashers and washing machines.

·         Reuse and recycle – It has been estimated that 29% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions result from the “provision of goods,” which means the extraction of resources, manufacturing, transport, and final disposal of “goods” which include consumer products and packaging, building components, and passenger vehicles, but excluding food. By buying used products and reselling or recycling items you no longer use, you dramatically reduce your carbon footprint from the “provision of goods.”

·         Support clean energy sources – Whenever you can, advocate for clean alternatives to fossil fuels, such as wind, solar, geothermal, and appropriately designed hydroelectric and biomass energy projects.

For a comprehensive list of ways you can reduce your carbon footprint, please visit, https://cotap.org/reduce-carbon-footprint/.

     Reducing your carbon footprint is not only about the physical impact it has on our world, but your individual mental health as well. Knowing that you are contributing to a happier, healthier planet will increase your sense of self and strengthen your purpose in this world. We are all in this together and while the next person may not see the value in all life and hold it sacred, you can rest better knowing that you are doing your part to make this life and life for generations ahead that much better!

By Garcsa Brooks

Intern, Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc.

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