How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Five Parts:Energy Efficient Home ImprovementsEnergy Efficient Eating HabitsEnergy Efficient TravelReusing and RecyclingReducing Your Water Use

Every time you drive your car, buy food that is not grown locally, or leave your lights on when you're not home, you're increasing your carbon footprint. This footprint refers to the activities you do that add gasses like carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere. These gases, also known as greenhouse gases, are affecting life as we know it by creating climate change.

Reducing your carbon footprint can feel like a daunting task, but it is important to remember that it is really worth the effort. Luckily, wikiHow is here to help make reducing your footprint easier. Scroll down to Step 1 to begin doing your part.

Part 1
Energy Efficient Home Improvements

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    Replace your standard light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. Compact fluorescents save more than 2/3rds the amount of energy as regular light bulbs do. You can reduce the carbon footprint of your home by switching to these energy saving bulbs. However, it is important to remember that some fluorescent bulbs contain mercury—when you are buying your bulbs, look for ones with a label that says low-mercury.[1]
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    Weatherproof your home. Another great way to save energy is to minimize the amount of air leaking out of your home. Make sure that your walls are insulated. You could also consider double paneling your windows—this can be rather costly, but it will save you money in the long run when you do end up heating or cooling your home.
    • You should also add some caulking or weather strips around windows and doors. This will help you to eliminate drafts, thus making your heating and cooling systems more energy efficient.
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    Be mindful of your electronics. This means both buying electronics with a good energy rating, and making sure that you unplug your electronics when you are not using them. Look for an Energy Star label on any appliance you consider buying. Energy Star is a certification given to appliance companies by the United States government. It signifies that the appliance is highly energy efficient. Regardless of how energy efficient your appliance might be however, it is always good to unplug your appliances when you are not using them.[2]
    • If you have a hard time remembering to unplug your electronics, consider buying a powerstrip. You can plug your electronics into it, and shut them all off just by hitting the ‘off’ button on the powerstrip.
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    Consider alternative forms of energy. Solar, hydro, and wind power are all excellent forms of alternative energy. Some utilities companies will give you the option of choosing green energy through the use of solar or wind power. If your utilities company doesn’t offer a green option, don’t give up! You can set up your own solar panels, and even build your own turbines.
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    Dry your clothes outside. Instead of running the dryer every time you do a load of laundry, consider hanging your clothes to dry in the sun instead. Learn how to setup your own clothesline here.

Part 2
Energy Efficient Eating Habits

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    Buy local products. One of the biggest CO2 emissions contributor is the food industry. If you really want to lower your carbon footprint, make sure you buy products that don’t have to be transported very far. Shop at farmer’s markets and natural food stores that carry products by local growers.
    • You should also make a point of only buying products that are in season. If you find that you are craving blueberries in the middle of winter, think about the fact that the only blueberries available to you will have been shipped from Chile. Instead, try to purchase seasonal items.
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    Start a garden of your own. Its hard to get more local than your own backyard. If you have the time and space to do so, you should really consider planting a garden. Think about planting things you know you will eat. If you use basil a lot, why not grow it? Any extra food that you grow but can’t eat can be donated to a local food charity.
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    Don’t eat as much red meat. You should particularly avoid beef that has been shipped from far away. As crazy as this may sound, the livestock industry is actually accountable for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions. In particular, methane is a big problem when it comes to cattle raising. This doesn’t mean that you have to stop eating beef entirely, but consider saving it for special occasions. When you do eat beef, make sure that it is free-range and grass-fed, as this has both lower emissions and is better for the animal.[3]
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    Purchase food that has less packaging. Doing this will help you to reduce the amount of waste you are left with after your meal. If you have an option between several apples on a tray, wrapped in plastic wrap, and simply selecting unwrapped apples that you can put in your reusable bag--choose the unwrapped apples.[4]

Part 3
Energy Efficient Travel

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    Find greener means of transportation. When you can, consider riding public transit or carpooling with your co-workers. If you are traveling close enough to home, think about riding your bike (you’ll get in shape too!) or even walking if you have enough time to do so.
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    Reduce your carbon footprint when you do drive your car. You may not know this, but some of your driving habits actually affect how much CO2 your car emits. Accelerating smoothly and slowly, maintaining a steady speed while you drive, and anticipating your stops and starts will actually help you to save one ton of CO2 in a year.[5]
    • If you know you are going to be driving a lot, and have the funds to do so, you should consider purchasing a green car. Cars like the Prius C, Chevrolet Spark, and the Buick Encore have all received excellent green ratings.
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    Get your car serviced regularly. This means making sure your fuel, air, and oil filters are replaced when they need to be. When your car is running efficiently, your emission control systems should be working at the top of their game.[6]
    • To maximize your gas mileage, make sure that your tires are properly inflated.
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    Choose a train or bus when you can. If you are traveling a relatively long distance, and have the time to do so, hop on a train or bus, rather than an airplane. Airplanes pump out a lot of CO2 emissions. You can reduce your carbon footprint by trying other means of long distance transportation.
    • If you do have to take a plane, try finding one that is non-stop, rather than having to switch planes during a layover. This will not only reduce your air travel’s footprint, it will also be much more convenient for you.

Part 4
Reusing and Recycling

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    Buy new items only when you really need to. This goes for clothing, food products, household items--anything. Only buy new things when you really need to. Energy is consumed every time a new cotton shirt is made, or a bundle of bananas gets shipped. When you do have to buy new items, try to buy locally. Shipping products increases your carbon footprint--a five pound package shipped via air across the United States will produce 12 pounds of CO2 emissions. Consider trying to find that item locally next time you hover your mouse over purchase while online shopping.
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    Re-purpose old materials and furniture. Instead of throwing things out that could end up in a landfill creating methane gas, reuse everything you can. Reupholster old chairs, rather than sending them to the dump. You can also reuse old clothes or sell them.
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    Understand your recycling system for your area. It’s important to know what can and cannot be recycled. This varies from county to county, so run an online search to find out what rules govern your individual recycling system. Always remember to wash recyclables before putting them in the recycling bin. Remember to recycle your glass, aluminium, and paper.
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    Start a compost pile. Food waste can be used to feed your garden. Compost enriches soil and cleans up contaminated soil. It also reduces the need for fertilizers, pesticides, and even water.[7]
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    Know how to dispose of items like batteries. Your town or county should have a hazardous waste facility located near you. Run an online search to find out where yours is located. These facilities will have drop off days for single-use batteries. Rechargeable batteries can be dropped off at many different locations, including Staples and Radioshack, which will properly dispose of them for you.[8]
    • You can also drop your old cell phones off along with your rechargeable batteries. Many electronics stores have partnered with Call2Recycle, a rechargeable battery and cell phone collection organization that recycles your old cells and batteries for you.
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    Know where to dispose of other electronics. Sadly, old electronics can’t just be placed in the recycle bin with your other recyclables. You can, however, take your electronics to a recycling center near you. Run an online search for recycling centers in your area.[9]

Part 5
Reducing Your Water Use

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    Take shorter showers. Not only do short showers save water, they also save the energy that it takes to heat that water up. You should also keep in mind that baths consume a lot more water than short showers do.
    • You can even purchase water-conserving showerheads that will help you to only run the water when you really need to. According to National Geographic, if you use a low-flow showerhead, you can actually save 15 gallons (56.8 L) of water if you take a ten minute shower.[10]
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    Only run your washing machine and dishwasher when they are full. Roughly 22% of home water consumption comes from running the laundry. Only run both of these machines when you really have to (ie. when they are very full). Always make sure to put them on the right setting too--if you do have to run the laundry before its completely full, make sure to activate the ‘small’ or ‘medium’ load setting.
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    Check for leaks regularly. A lot of the water we consume is actually wasted because of leaks we may have in our systems. Do regular maintenance on your pipes, checking to make sure that you don’t have any leaks. If you do--repair them immediately so that less water gets wasted.
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    Take your climate into consideration when landscaping. It’s important to remember that not all climates are meant to have green grass in them. To really conserve water, fill your yard with plants that are actually meant to live in your climate. You will find that you have relatively little landscaping work to do, which means you will be saving both water and energy.[11]
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    Don’t wash your car that often. Washing a standard-sized vehicle generally takes about 150 gallons (567.8 L) of water. That is a lot of water. Try to reduce the number of times you wash your car. Consider bringing your car to a professional car wash--they generally use less water than a person washing their car at home. Commercial car washes are also required to drain their used water into the sewage system (rather than storm drains) so they have less of an impact on the marine environment.[12]


  • Calculate your carbon footprint level. To do this, visit and fill in the form. Note down the result.
  • There are many other smaller things you can do as well, such as using recyclable shopping bags, rather than plastic bags. Be aware, however, that while not using plastic bags is very good for the environment, it actually only makes up a small part of your carbon footprint.

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