LOWER YOUR PERSONAL CARBON FOOTPRINT
Every day we see news reports or read about the devastating effects of climate change and frightening predictions of damage to our planet’s ecosystem. Most scientists agree that the earth’s climate is warming due to massive carbon dioxide emissions. Many of us feel powerless to affect changes, but each one of us, as individuals, can make choices to limit carbon dioxide emissions. We can do this by our own, in our day to day lives. I have put together a list of 10 things each of us can do to help limit increases in CO2 emissions and even help to capture emissions out of the atmosphere.
- Reduce your air travel. Airplanes produce a huge amount of carbon. Take the train, or a bus, or travel with others in an automobile. One air flight from Los Angeles to New York adds about 25% to the yearly total of the average person’s carbon emission footprint.
- Purchase meat produced locally from animals that have been grass-fed on pastures. Try to determine that the land has not been overgrazed. Healthy, well-managed grasslands actually capture a huge amount of carbon dioxide through the growth of grasses, which pull CO2 out of the atmosphere and store it in their leaves, stalks and roots. Locally purchased meat means it was not shipped over long distances using fossil fuels, so the total carbon emissions are much lower.
- Inspect your home heating system and your home’s insulation. Replace old heating units with new, energy-efficient models. Block drafts, install storm windows or double-pane windows, and add more insulation if needed, especially in attics and floors. Insulating curtains are helpful in winter to conserve heat.
- Replace any older, inefficient appliances and maintain those you have. Replace older incandescent light bulbs with new LEDs (light-emitting-diodes). Consider adding solar or wind-powered technologies to assist or even replace your power source.
- Maintain your automobile and farm equipment so that all machines run efficiently (thereby using less fuel). Make fewer, more efficient trips in your vehicle and try to car pool with others to save fuel. Having just one more person with you in the vehicle reduces your carbon footprint by half on that road trip.
- Use principles of conservation farming on your farm and in your garden. These techniques actually capture CO2 out of the atmosphere! Forests, hedgerows and grasslands are huge carbon sinks, because growing plants pull carbon from the air and store the excess in their stems, leaves and roots. Protect the carbon-holding ability of your soil by reducing tilling or not tilling at all. Rotate crops every year, use organic fertilizers, such as composts and manures, taking care to not over-apply nitrogenous fertilizers that may be washed into water systems. Do not leave soil to fallow (this causes degradation of soil animals which help plants capture carbon). Use cover crops as these build soil and capture carbon. Do not overwater as this smothers soil animals and washes CO2 out of your soil. Do not overgraze pastures as this reduces carbon capture significantly.
- Consume less by buying fewer, but better products that last longer. Making any one new product uses a lot of carbon. Avoid heavily packages foods and one-use (disposable) products. Try to purchase products in biodegradable plastic containers and recycle whenever possible.
- Buy locally-produced food. Much carbon is wasted shipping food thousands of miles from where it was grown. Avoid items that have been flown in by air as they have an enormous carbon footprint. If you garden, try preserving your own food by canning, pickling and drying. Dried foods are the most efficient and use the least carbon, especially if a solar food dryer is used. Vegetables and fruit can be stored and kept in a root cellar with a passive ventilation system, which uses no power.
- As much as you possibly can, buy any and all products from companies that support committing to a low-carbon future. Because our businesses in our economy are so sensitive to demand, carefully choosing low-carbon footprint products may affect change more quickly than anything else.
- Consider turning part of your lawn into a wildflower garden (make sure this uncut area is at least 12 feet away from the house for fire safety). This will gather more carbon than a regular, trimmed and cut lawn and will promote the growth and presence of native insect pollinators, and reptiles and birds. Plant hedgerows, trees and shelterbelts on your property using well-adapted and native species. Hedgerows and forests gather the most carbon of any ecosystem on our planet. Using organic gardening methods will protect and nurture your soil. It has been estimated that if the entire world switched to organic farming and gardening practices, enough CO2 in the atmosphere would be collected to lower CO2 to preindustrial levels in only three years!
Ingram, Dr. Julie, Best Practices for Soil Organic Carbon Management in Agricultural Systems, Countryside & Community Research Institute, UK , 2017
Goode, Cecile M., et. al. Understanding the Impacts of Soil, Climate & Farming Practices on Soil Organic Carbon Sequestration, Australia, 2016
Muchmuller, Megan B., et. al., Emerging Land Use Practices Rapidly Increase Soil Organic Matter, USA, 2015
Zhang, Limimg, et. al, “Toward Optimal Soil Organic Sequestration With Effects of Agriculture Management Practices & Climate Change in Tai-Lake Paddy Soils of China,” In Geoderma, 2016
Smallwood, Mark, Regenerative Organic Agriculture & Climate Change, Rodale Institute, 2013