Climate change is an enormous issue that no single person can solve, but that doesn’t mean individuals should feel hopeless about how they can support the earth’s future.
In fact, through the collective action of concerned citizens committed to environmental sustainability and conservation efforts, it’s possible to dramatically reduce our country’s existing carbon footprint. And a recent report from the Center for Behavior and the Environment identified several behavioral changes that can help the United States dramatically reduce its CO2 emissions.
If you are one to make resolutions this time of year, consider adding a sustainability goal to your list.
Below, we’ve suggested five small-scale steps with big impacts that don’t require any upfront investment of time or money.
1. Choose clean energy
Making the case for energy alternatives, like wind and solar, does not have to be a difficult household conversation. Choosing renewable energy is as easy as connecting your utility bill to a clean energy platform such as Arcadia. Depending on where you live, you can be connected to wind or solar energy in a matter of minutes. And if you are fortunate enough to live in a state where Community Solar is available, joining a solar garden in your area provides a hassle-free way to reap the environmental and economic benefits of renewables.
2. Eat more veggies
As it turns out, Mom was right, you should be eating your broccoli and brussels sprouts. That’s because a diet that focuses on plants and veggies is not only highly nutritious, it’s also better for the environment. Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to swear off your love for juicy burgers altogether — just eat them less frequently or consider beef alternatives. There are also a few weekly practices, like Meatless Monday or fish Fridays, that reinforce dietary habits that are lower in meat consumption.
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3. Skip one flight per year
The ease and cheapness of airline travel is something that most of us take for granted, which may be why we fly more than our parents’ or grandparents’ generation ever did. But did you know? If you put your wanderlust self in check and skip just one trip next year, you’ll be helping Mother Earth. There are several ways to skip a trip or consider alternatives like passenger rail and carpooling to limit CO2 emissions.
4. Purchase carbon credits
Consciousness around CO2 emission is growing and many companies, including airline, logistics, energy, and transportation companies now offer consumers the choice to purchase carbon credits that offset the emissions that result from purchases. Estimates from the Union of Concerned Scientists, the average carbon emissions per person in the United States is 17.62 metric tons per person and our dirty behaviors typically stem from driving, waste disposal, home energy use, and flying.
5. Reduce food waste and compost
Americans tend to have a toss it mentality when it comes to leftover food. But did you know, a lot of the food can be put to good reuse? Here are a few examples: Broccoli stems, which you might separate from florets, can go into one of several tasty recipes, and that head of romaine lettuce, it can actually be regenerated into, you guessed it, more lettuce. Before throwing food away, consider the possibilities of that item. A large quantity of excess food, say from a family event or business meeting, can be donated to a local shelter or soup kitchen helping feed those most in need.
Even those coffee grinds and banana peels should not end up in the trash. Instead, they belong in the composting bin. Finally, study up on those “sell-by,” “use-by,” and “best-by” labels that grocery stores use. As the Institute of Food Technologists explains, there are subtle differences in what those terms mean, and you might be throwing out perfectly edible food, wasteful for both the environment and your wallet.