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25+ Ways To Reduce Your Carbon Emissions

Calculating and offsetting your CO2 emissions counteracts your contribution to climate change, shows why we need cleaner fuel sources, and reveals opportunities for reducing your carbon emissions from driving, flying, and home energy use.

Reduce Your Carbon Emissions 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 fuel efficient vehicle. All vehicles have an estimated miles-per-gallon rating. Electric cars still have carbon emissions because they’re usually charged with electricity created by the burning of fossil fuels; however, their MPG equivalents (MPGe’s) are typically much higher than conventional and hybrid cars. In some situations, electric cars like the Nissan Leaf are essentially free.
  • 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 emissions.
  • 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%.
  • Misc. Combine errands to make fewer trips. Remove excess weight from your car. Use cruise control.

Reduce Your Carbon Emissions 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 Price 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.

Reduce Your Home Energy Carbon Emissions

  • 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 new appliances like furnaces, air conditioning units, dishwashers, and refrigerators. ENERGY STAR labeled products are recognized as having superior energy 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.

Other Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Emissions

  • 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 emissions from the “provision of goods.”
  • Food. It has been estimated that 13% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions result from the production and transport of food. Buy local and eat a more diversified diet including less meat and dairy to reduce your carbon emissions resulting from the use of fossil fuel-based fertilizers, pesticides, and gas required to produce and transport of the food you eat.
  • 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 Emissions


Carbon offsetting should not be done in place of taking steps to reduce one’s carbon emissions. Carbon offsetting and carbon emissions reduction should be done in tandem. Measuring your carbon emissions 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.

Learn More About COTAP


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