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Five Ways To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Seth Wynes and Kimberly Nicholas
Enviromental Research Letters
A chart on how to reduce your contribution to climate change.

It takes more than just recycling to make a difference to the climate crisis. Small steps like eating less meat can reduce methane gases and make a positive impact on the environment.

Seth Wynes, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of British Columbia, studies climate change mitigation. He and his colleagues study what are the most significant changes individuals can make to reduce their carbon footprints. He joined host Lucy Nalpathanchil on Connecticut Public Radio’s Where We Live to talk about his research and to share some of the most impactful steps every person can take to reduce their carbon footprint. Here are five ways you can help the environment.

Avoid long flights

“It takes a lot of energy to fight against gravity and lift a giant piece of metal into the sky. So when you're thinking about, let's say, a round trip, transatlantic flight, that makes 1.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent getting you there and back. For a normal person, that's a significant part of your carbon footprint. It could be a tenth of that in a single year for the average American. So flying is a big deal and it's something that we need to consider more fully.”

If you can, go car-free

“Transportation contributes a large portion of our carbon footprint. People owning and moving with personal vehicles just requires a lot of energy and many greenhouse gases. Living car-free is easier said than done, depending on where you live. But adolescents growing up haven't made a lot of choices that have locked them into high-carbon lifestyles.”

“So if you're 50 years old and you've already chosen to live in the suburbs and you've picked your job and so on, you might have a difficult time making some of these choices. But if you're a young person who hasn't established these habits, you have a great opportunity to set a course for life and choose a low-carbon lifestyle that can be fun, good for your health, and easy to maintain for decades.”

Use more public transportation

“I've been lucky enough to live in areas where public transit is really easy and I've always enjoyed and benefited from [it]. A lot of people [may be] thinking 'I'm just a drop in the bucket.' But you can be many drops. If [public transportation] isn’t available, you can work with collective actions with organizations by contacting your congressperson and asking for changes to be made or your city councilor so that you do have public transit available.”

Consider eating less meat

“The livestock industry produces a lot of methane, which is a very strong greenhouse gas that contributes greater warming per particle than carbon dioxide does. Diet was one thing that I really had to stop and look in and examine how I eat. I used to eat a lot of meat. And so I have given that up for the most part. Now, if a friend of mine is about to throw out his last half of a hotdog, I'm not going to let that food go to waste because I still really enjoy that taste so I'll try it out. But for the most part, I've switched over and I've enjoyed it. I feel healthier, and I think a lot of these changes have so many cool benefits, so that you can enjoy making them without even thinking too much about the climate. If for you that means starting with greatly reducing your meat or even starting with a meatless Monday, take that first step. Learn a new recipe and see if you can enjoy it.”

If possible, plan out a small family

“When you have more people on the planet, they're going to be using more resources. Our society relies so much on fossil fuels, each additional person is going to be burning or creating more greenhouse gases. We tried to quantify what are the added emissions for each additional child so that people who really care about their carbon footprint and are looking at this question of--how big do I want my family to be? Now, that's a very personal decision. There are a lot of things that someone might take into account, but we wanted the numbers there so that they could also think about that if they chose to.”

For more about your carbon footprint, and how Connecticut has joined an agreement to reduce carbon emissions, listen to theentire episode of Where We Live with Seth Wynes, which originally aired on January 8, 2019.

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