There’s an overwhelming amount of environmental content available online, especially regarding one’s home. From self-sufficient tiny houses to completely minimalist abodes, these ideal home-types can make it seem near-impossible to reduce your carbon footprint in your current set-up.
If you’re an aspiring environmentalist who lives in a typical two-bed terraced house or an average bungalow in the UK — don’t worry — you can still dramatically reduce your carbon footprint without having to relocate or completely transform your living quarters.
Read on to find out how you can go greener and make a difference in less than a week.
How to Reduce My Carbon Footprint (at Home)
If you’re trying to minimise your carbon footprint — period — then tackling your home is a good place to start.
You’re likely to spend the most time in your home. Plus, it’s where you’ll no doubt have picked up any “not-so-green” habits. So, if you manage to change your attitude and routine at home, all of the other areas of your life should automatically follow.
Focusing on your home and getting your family and friends involved will give you a much greater chance of sustaining your green endeavour. If you have a family or young children, collective habits — such as healthy eating habits amongst family units — are highly influential. If you wish you’d started your life with a smaller carbon footprint, the best thing you can do is teach the next generation by example. That’s why this guide starts with simple steps towards environmentalism that even children and young adults can pick up.
Reducing your carbon footprint at home will be the hardest space to tackle and change because of the disruption it poses in your comfort zone. Yet, it’s often the most rewarding.
How NOT to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Before we get into the details of how to reduce your carbon footprint, let’s talk about how not to reduce your carbon footprint at home.
Lots of people make the same mistake when they first try to reduce their carbon footprint. This mistake is committing to drastic changes that aren’t easy to maintain in the long-term. For example, quickly transitioning to plastic-free might be a shock to the system. While you might have the best of intentions, this drastic measure could prove too much to handle at the start. A better route could be to focus on the recycling motto: “Reduce, reuse recycle.” Before you vow to eliminate plastic from your life altogether, focus on reducing the amount of plastic that you buy. Reuse the plastic items already in your home and implement a recycling system that works for you. This doesn’t mean you’ll never go plastic-free. Instead, it should give you a greater chance of reaching that goal.
Building green behaviours is akin to flying before you’ve learnt how to walk or beginning a strict diet with no wiggle room for cheat days. You’re going to cave in and eat a pizza if you don’t allow yourself any slack. So, if you’re thinking of completely altering your everyday routine or immediately remodelling your property to accommodate your lifestyle change, you’re setting yourself up to fail.
Seven Small Ways to Reduce My Carbon Footprint in a Week
However, you can make a difference in just one week by taking small steps. These seven steps don’t require you to downsize, throw out all of your furniture or completely change your identity. Plus, they’re family-friendly, meaning you can pass down your environmental wisdom to the younger generations of your family.
- Eat Locally
Our first tip is to eat locally. This might mean moving away from shopping at commercial supermarkets like Asda or Tesco and taking a more traditional approach to groceries. If you have a local farmers market nearby, you should aim to shop there.
Eating locally has plenty of benefits — some that aren’t environmental, like boosting your town or city’s local economy. However, one of the greatest benefits is environmental, specifically the vast reduction of fuel and chemicals involved in food production. You might save fuel by visiting a local store, but the main consideration is the reduction in fuel used to distribute goods. What’s more, local stores are often more mindful of excess packaging, allowing you to avoid food wrapped in harmful plastics.
You might find your diet feels a little more restricted when you shop locally as luxury products such as condiments, sweets and alcohol are often imported from other countries or factories. A staple diet of fruit, fibre and vegetables will be the only thing available from farm shops. However, you will benefit from having a healthier diet and from eating fresh foods free from chemical contaminants.
The Long Term Plan — In the long run, you might find yourself ditching meat and dairy products. Many environmental studies indicate veganism is one of the most impactful ways to reduce your carbon footprint. As well as the ethical reasons related to veganism, eliminating meat consumption can greatly benefit farmland, agriculture and reduce the number of greenhouse gases emitted each year.
- Switch to Energy Saving Light Bulbs
If your light bulb doesn’t blow in the first week of practising environmentalism, don’t sweat it. So long as you stock up on energy-saving light bulbs, you’ll ultimately be doing the world a favour.
There are two types of environmental light bulbs on offer:
- CFL — Also known as Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs.
- LED — Light-Emitting Diodes.
Each of these types of light bulb lasts six times longer than an average light bulb. This saves you some money, but it also protects the environment by having fewer landfills full to the brim with discarded technology. It’s estimated that by switching to environmentally-friendly light bulbs, the number of lightbulbs you throw out will significantly reduce from 120 to 20.
The Long-Term Plan — Once you’ve tweaked a few energy-zapping aspects of your home, you should conduct a full audit of all of your appliances and energy providers. Buying energy-efficient appliances and switching to green-certified providers will dramatically reduce your monthly bills and your home’s need for electrical energy. If you’re completely pro at this, it might be time to look into solar panel installation. A nifty addition 800,000 British homes have already benefit from this.
- Make an Effort to Recycle
It’s fine to still buy the occasional plastic-packaged item at the beginning of your journey, as long as you make an effort to recycle it.
Depending on where you live in the UK, you will have a council-run recycling system in place with different coloured bins, boxes and bags to separate your household trash into. You can find out more about your district’s recycling policy by entering your home’s postcode into the government’s recycling collections webpage. Since recycling in the UK is made particularly easy with colour-coded containers and regular pick-ups, this could be a chore the entire family can share.
If you’re in an unfortunate area where plastic recycling isn’t as advanced, you should recycle with local charities and groups that accept plastic waste or pick up plastic waste for free.
The Long-Term Plan — In the long-term, you might decide to go plastic-free and challenge yourself to stop using certain recycling bins altogether. If you want to encourage others to do the same, you might get involved in a charity event like an ocean clear up that builds awareness about the environmental impact of plastic consumption on marine life.
- Focus on What You’re Bringing in, Not Throwing out
As we said earlier, it’s natural to feel like you might have to transform your existing reality to reduce your carbon footprint. But this isn’t true. Rather than focusing on what you already own and how to change it, you should instead keep a smaller goal — to be concerned with new things that you’re bringing in.
So what if you have a few plastic items lying around from before your efforts to go green? The important thing is to make sure you’re not continually buying harmful items. In other words, you won’t need to switch to a bamboo toothbrush before your plastic equivalent has had its day. However, the next time you’re in the market for a new toothbrush, make sure it’s an environmental upgrade. When you’re new to environmental purchasing, it might be a good idea to sign up to an environmental subscription box. In these boxes, you’ll receive testers of different environmentally-approved products each month.
The Long-Term Plan — For those who have been practising minimalist spending for a sustained amount of time, the next step might be to work towards self-sufficiency. This is where a homeowner will have little need to buy from outside sources. Think using solar power, having an allotment and creating natural products to avoid the need for constant supermarket shopping.
- Sign up for Digital Invoices and Bills
The next step is as easy as clicking a button and you’ll have made an instant difference to your carbon footprint. If you usually receive banking statements or marketing materials through your postbox, you should visit your online account and update to digital notifications.
Most banks rolled out digital billing in the last few years to reduce the amount of wasted paper and fuel used in delivering invoices and bills to your door. Digital bills are also a more secure way to view your sensitive information as there is no risk of your details and transactions getting lost in the post. If you haven’t already signed up to a digital bank like Monzo, you should. These banks are entirely digital, making them a greener choice all-round. They are effectively branch-less and work through a digital application. Instead of a monthly invoice, a constant reminder of your spending updates daily. This type of banking will also make you more mindful of your overall transactions by making it easier to keep tabs on your consumption levels and fast-fashion shopping habits.
The Long-Term Plan — Over time, you might find more digital applications and technological ways to reduce your carbon footprint. There are plenty of mobile applications that provide environmental assistance. Amongst these is Oroeco – an app that tracks your activity and crunches data to figure out your carbon footprint “score”. Via the application, you can compete for rewards depending on your progress.
- Drink Tap Water and Avoid Bottled
There are plenty of reasons to step away from drinking bottled water — for the planet’s health and your own. If you don’t fancy drinking unfiltered tap water, you should switch to a filtering system that either sits in or is inbuilt into your fridge. Ultimately, this will save money and thousands of water bottles from ending up in a landfill, where they will most likely take around 450 years to biodegrade.
The majority of disposable water bottles are made from a particular type of plastic called Polyethylene Terephthalate (otherwise known as PET). To find out more about PET, read our article: Is All Plastic Bad? The Surprising Truth about Biodegradable Plastic, which breaks down different plastic types.
The Long-Term Plan — If you’ve been without plastic water bottles for a while, you might want to show your support by getting involved in a social challenge. Take to social media to get involved with one of the various water filter awareness tags. Recently, the popular filter brand, Brita launched a social campaign using the hashtag #NoFilterNoFuture.
- Take Time out for Education
If you want to reduce your carbon footprint — either at home or in any other area of your life — sometimes it’s important NOT to take action too soon. Start with small, achievable steps and follow-up with regular sessions dedicated to further education. You should always read trustworthy sources on the environment, such as The Guardian’s column.
If you’re ever in doubt about whether a suggested practice is environmental or even ethical, it’s best to do your research first. For example, plenty of people switched to cotton tote bags following the plastic bag charge in the UK. Since then, plenty of online sources have scrutinised the life cycle of cotton bags. There are now claims they might have a more serious environmental impact than plastic, depending on how many times you use them.
The Long-Term Plan — Once you feel clued up on a wide variety of environmental issues, it could be time to start an online blog to help spread the word. Plenty of people make a living from sharing their environmental advice and personal experiences on the internet and this is a great way to connect with others on the same journey.
Once you’ve tackled your home, it’s time to start reducing your business’s carbon footprint. Browse our range of commercial food packaging products for some seriously sustainable inspiration.