Yes, you did read correctly – you can now eliminate your entire footprint. Want to know how?
An excessive amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere results in a rapid warming of the planet with devastating aftermaths. To stop the climate crisis, we must make sure the load of greenhouse gases in ambient air stops increasing and returns to normal levels. If using transport vehicles, consuming goods or heating the house, simply being alive produces greenhouse gases. The total of produced emissions you are responsible for is your carbon footprint. To eliminate your footprint there are two things you must do: decrease your footprint and compensate the remain. How to do so will be discussed in this article.
1. Fly and drive less (unless you drive electric)
Flying causes an enormous amount of emissions – taking a flight from London to Tokyo and back adds 3 tons of CO₂ equivalents 1 to your carbon footprint. To get an idea of how much that is, 8 tons is the yearly average of an European citizen 2! If people would have to pay not only for the ticket but also for the caused damage on our climate, nobody would continue to fly as it would be too expensive. Flying should be avoided where possible. If you must fly, consider compensating the caused emissions. Driving is responsible for a lot of emissions itself, especially as many people drive regularly. Your footprint will be much smaller if you use alternatives like walking, biking, using public transport or an electric car. The difference you can make here is quite big.
2. First eat less meat and don’t waste food, then buy local and seasonal
Looking at food, the biggest impact you can make is eating less meat and animal products. Many people are not aware of this but focusing on what you eat has a much bigger impact than focusing on whether your food is local. This is because the emissions caused during food production are much higher than the ones caused by transportation. Most non-local foods are transported by ship and not plane 3. The 2nd biggest contribution to our food footprints - after the consumption of animal products - is food that we don’t even eat: food waste. The wasted food has a footprint from its production and transportation yet is not used to feed anyone; it just adds extra emissions. Buying local will lower your footprint too but be aware that local but not seasonal might have a higher footprint than non-local. Producing non-seasonal foods requires a lot of energy, if this energy does not consist entirely of renewables, then it could well be the case that transporting it from a place where they are seasonal embodies a smaller footprint. For example, growing strawberries in the UK requires a lot of energy due to the warmth needed and creates a larger footprint than importing strawberries from Spain.
3. Buy less and keep it longer
Like food, all goods have an embodied footprint, which comes from their individual parts, production and transport. So, when you buy a good it will come with a footprint. The more goods you have acquired the bigger your overall goods footprint is. Try to buy less and keep what you have longer, reuse and repurpose your things. And think twice before buying – do I really need that? This will also help your wallet. To help this avoid cheap price and low-quality goods which must be replaced soon. Also keep an eye out for climate friendly and carbon neutral companies and try to support and buy from them.
4. Minimise your household energy consumption
There are huge differences in footprints caused by homes, they depend on heating method, insulation, electricity provider, size and the list goes on. Most people cannot just change to a more climate-friendly home in an instant. But what you can do immediately is to use less electricity – turn off unused devices and lights; don’t wash clothes if not needed; air dry your washed clothes; lower the heating in winter – put on warm cloths instead; avoid the air conditioner in summer – try to circulate air using windows - and use less and colder water.
5. Have an eye open for climate friendly service providers
What often gets forgotten is the footprint produced by taking services. Think about it: going to the hairdresser to get your hair done requires electricity, employees who might have to commute to the salon and so on. Also, online services like streaming videos produce their footprint. Even if you use 100% renewable electricity, most of your service providers won’t.
6. Compensate your remaining footprint by carbon removal
Living without producing emissions is not possible. But it is possible to remove the produced emissions and live without a carbon footprint – carbon neutral. Once in the air it is not easy to remove greenhouse gas emissions again, but there are ways. CarbonRemoved.com aims to facilitate carbon removal and helps individuals to become carbon neutral. You can choose a plan where you pay to get your carbon dioxide removed by planted trees or direct-air capture and storage or other carbon removal methods. Drastic reduction of our emissions as human species is of paramount importance and cannot be replaced with carbon removal. However, the CO₂ levels in the atmosphere are so high and increasing that we must start removing parts of it now.
Carbon dioxide equivalents are distinct measures for estimating how much global warming a given type and amount of greenhouse gas may cause, using the functionally equivalent amount of carbon dioxide. ↩︎