Each one of us has the ability to contribute our fair share in reducing carbon emissions. Helping lessen the greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere doesn’t only mean purchasing carbon credits and participating in carbon trading. As primary consumers, we are responsible for choosing the companies we do business with. Shopping must not only mean shopping for the products and services we like the most. It must also involve doing business only with companies that help us reduce carbon emissions.
The following are helpful tips and ways to reduce carbon footprints as a consumer. These are several ideas for best shopping practices for carbon accounting.
Eat less red meat.
Cutting off or at least reducing red meat in your diet isn’t only good for your health. It’s also good for the environment. The production of red meat, such as beef, pork and sheep, releases a large amount of methane into the atmosphere. Methane is also a greenhouse gas like carbon dioxide, but an ozone saturated with methane is even more harmful than one with too much carbon dioxide.
Buy from local farmers.
Ever heard of the term “embodied energy”? This refers to all the water and carbon used up in the production and delivery of a food item. This includes the carbon emissions released while your food was in transit. And the farther an item has traveled to reach your table, the more fossil fuels it has burned up. Most of the things you can buy locally usually have lower carbon emissions than anything flown from several miles away. Not only that, you’re also boosting the economy by buying from local producers.
Use green electricity.
There is a limit to how much fossil fuels we can dig up. Even without the risk of climate change, we will eventually run out of coal, gas and oil. Clearly, renewable sources of energy such as wind, solar and hydro-power are the future of home electricity. In fact, a lot of energy providers now offer the option of purchasing electricity generated by renewable energy plants. The cost of green electricity is slightly higher – as in a few cents per kilowatt hour higher – than what you pay for electricity from non-renewable sources. I think that’s a decent price to pay for reducing carbon emissions as a consumer.
Purchase energy-efficient appliances.
Old models of home appliances such as refrigerators, air conditioners and washing machines chug up a load of energy, increasing your carbon emissions as well as your energy costs. Once the old machines die away, it’s time for you to look for better, more environment-friendly technologies that will help you save money and the ozone layer. Most of these appliances are more expensive upfront, but the payback period typically lasts only several months. After that, your savings start dripping in and you’re helping the environment as well.
Pay for public transport, not for a brand new car.
Cars are costly, in all senses of the word. Driving cars takes a lot of time before you get to your destination. They also cost a lot of taxpayers’ money building and maintaining roads for private vehicles. Most of all, though, cars use a huge amount of fuel, which we’re quickly running out of. There are better, cheaper alternatives to driving your own car. You can take the bus or the train. You can bike to work. Or, if your destination is near enough, you can even walk. A lot of cities all over the world are starting to recognize the importance of a fast, efficient and safe public transport system not just in the conduct of their daily businesses but also promoting sustainable living. If public transport is lacking in your area, it may now be the time to round up your colleagues and start rallying for a better train transit or a bike lane.
Avoid the temptation to buy what you don’t need.
We live in a culture of consumerism. Every day, we are prodded on and on by countless advertisements to buy things we don’t really need just so we can keep up with the Jones-es. This isn’t healthy for our own peace of mind and for the entire Earth. When companies manufacture goods, they use up huge reserves of water and energy into making things we end up throwing away after a few months. Instead of replacing your belongings, see if you can fix, re-use or recycle them.
Buy carbon credits.
Offsetting your carbon emissions by buying carbon credits isn’t only for businesses. If you have a bit of money to spare, why not spare it for the environment? You may ask, “What are carbon credits?” That’s not an uncommon question. When you buy carbon credits, the company you buy from will invest your money in green energy projects, such as building renewable energy plants or planting a thousand trees. Of course, buying carbon credits should not be the first solution to reduce greenhouse gases. There isn’t much carbon offsetting happening to reduce all carbon emissions. However, it’s still a great way to achieve carbon neutrality in conjunction with other methods.