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25+ Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Offsetting your unavoidable CO2 emissions is a practical and immediate way to take ownership of your personal contribution to climate change. With COTAP, you’re addressing global economic inequality too. Offsetting also reveals both the need for cleaner energy sources and opportunities for reducing your carbon footprint.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint From Driving

  • Alternatives to driving. When possible, walk or ride your bike in order to avoid carbon emissions completely. Carpooling and public transportation drastically reduce CO2 emissions by spreading them out over many riders.
  • Drive a low carbon vehicle. High mileage doesn’t always mean low CO2 emissions. All vehicles have an estimated miles-per-gallon rating. Electric cars emit no CO2 if they’re charged with clean electricity. If you don’t charge it with your home’s solar panels AND live somewhere like WY, MO, MO, WV, or KY you’re BETTER OFF with a hybrid or high-mileage gas/diesel car. Here’s why. After incentives and gas savings, it essentially costs nothing to switch to an electric car like the the Nissan Leaf.
  • Get a hitch-mounted cargo rack. Don’t buy a minivan or SUV if you don’t need 4WD and/or will only occasionally need the extra space. A receiver hitch and a rack like this one only cost a few hundred bucks. Avoid roof-top boxes, which cost much more, increase aerodynamic drag, and decrease fuel economy.
  • Driving style. Speeding and unnecessary acceleration reduce mileage by up to 33%, waste gas and money, and increase your carbon footprint.
  • Tire inflation and other tuning. Properly inflated tires improve your gas mileage by up to 3%. It also helps to use the correct grade of motor oil, and to keep your engine tuned, because some maintenance fixes, like fixing faulty oxygen sensors, can increase fuel efficiency by up to 40%.
  • Avoid traffic. Being stuck in traffic wastes gas and unneccessarily creates CO2. Use traffic websites and apps and go a different way or wait.
  • Misc. Combine errands to make fewer trips. Remove excess weight from your car. Use cruise control.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint From Air Travel

  • General. Until petroleum-based aviation fuel is replaced, you should avoid flying when possible, fly less frequently, fly shorter distances, and fly economy class.
  • Leisure Air Travel. Take fewer and longer vacations that are far away, and more frequent and driveable “staycations” closer to home.
  • Work Air Travel. Increase your use of video-conferencing tools like Skype and Facetime.
  • What class? Economy class is best, for the same reasons as carpooling and public transportation. Each flyer’s share of a flight’s carbon emissions is relatively less because it’s spread out over more people.
  • That’s Economy class. When Prince William flies economy class, he’s leading by example. Then there’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal al-Saud, or the Sultan of Brunei, who buy entire economy-size planes and convert them into flying palaces.
  • Don’t fly on private jets. Fly first or business class if you must, because at least those seats always fill up anyway, and avoid private jets, including services like NetJets and XOJET.
  • Don’t buy a Honda. HondaJet, that is. Their cars are fine, though.
  • Don’t be a space tourist. Watch NOVΛ on PBS instead. Richard Branson’s “spaceline” Virgin Galactic seeks to right the injustice that “most of our planet’s seven billion people have had no opportunity to experience space” and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin promises “life-changing views” of what’s left of our planet.

Reduce Your Home Energy Carbon Footprint

  • Insulate and seal your home. Reduce drafts and air leaks with caulk, insulation, and weather stripping. Many states offer programs and incentives to facilitate this, and a great example is Energy Upgrade California.
  • Appliances. Make energy efficiency a primary consideration when choosing a new furnace, air conditioning unit, dishwasher, or refrigerator. Products bearing the ENERGY STAR label are recognized for having superior efficiency.
  • Lighting. Turn off lights you’re not using and when you leave the room. Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact flourescent or LED ones.
  • Thermostat. Don’t set it too high or low. Install a programmable model to turn off the heat/air conditioning when you’re not home.
  • Solar. Add solar panels to the roof of your home. This costs a little more than the above options, but many providers offer financing options which minimize upfront costs. Two examples are SolarCity and SunRun. If you live in a state with a Net Metering law, you could eliminate your electricity bill or even earn money by selling electricity back to the grid.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint From Food

  • Eat locally-produced and organic food. It has been estimated that 13% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions result from the production and transport of food. Transporting food requires petroleum-based fuels, and many fertilizers are also fossil fuel-based.
  • Cut the beef and dairy. It takes a lot of resources to raise cows, and it’s especially bad if you buy beef from somewhere like Brazil, where it was grazed on land that used to be tropical forest but was cleared for agricultural use. Deforestation is a top contributor to carbon emissions and thus climate change.
  • Avoid Robert Mugabe’s Birthday Party. This year attendees will be feasting on two elephants, two buffalo, two sables, five impalas and a lion. What a sad day in Zimbabwe for both food sustainability and economic inequality.

Other Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

  • Water usage. Lower the amount of energy used to pump, treat, and heat water by washing your car less often, using climate-appropriate plants in your garden, installing drip irrigation so that plants receive only what they need, and making water-efficient choices when purchasing shower heads, faucet heads, toilets, dishwashers and washing machines.
  • Reuse and recycle.  It has been estimated that 29% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions result from the “provision of goods,” which means the extraction of resources, manufacturing, transport, and final disposal of “goods” which include consumer products and packaging, building components, and passenger vehicles, but excluding food. By buying used products and reselling or recyling items you no longer use, you dramatically reduce your carbon footprint from the “provision of goods.”
  • Support clean energy sources.  Whenever you can, advocate for clean alternatives to fossil fuels, such as wind, solar, geothermal, and appropriately designed hydroelectric and biomass energy projects.

Offsetting Your Carbon Footprint


Carbon offsetting should not be done in place of taking steps to reduce one’s carbon footprint. Carbon offsetting and carbon footprint reduction should be done in tandem. Measuring your carbon footprint not only reveals where you’re currently at, but also helps to identify areas for improvement and track your progress.

Offsetting the amount which you are not able to avoid empowers you to take full responsibility for your carbon pollution, which is your contribution to climate change. In this context, COTAP offers a unique and meaningful solution in that we focus on certified forestry projects in least-developed regions that create life-changing income for the world’s poorest people.

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