During the summer, we all like to spend time with friends and family and take a break from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives. Unfortunately, the summer months are also when our CO2 emissions are the highest. From long road trips, to the extreme use of air conditioning, we are all contributing to the billions of tons of greenhouse gasses (GHGs) Americans emit each year. While the problem is big, we can make small changes to our everyday lives and contribute to a cleaner environment. Here are 5 ways to reduce your carbon footprint this summer:
1. Drive less and carpool or bike whenever possible.
Summer is a busy time with vacations, road trips, visiting family, going to the beach, or even getting to an internship. All these trips probably mean many of us are frequently using our cars. Cars are generally a large contributor to an individual’s carbon footprint, as burning gasoline and diesel fuel creates harmful byproducts like nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide. Highway vehicles alone release around 1.4 billion tons of greenhouse gasses each year.
In order to reduce these harmful GHGS, try walking, running, or biking to your desired destination whenever possible. This is a great way to enjoy the warm weather, stay healthy, and reduce your carbon footprint. If you work in the city, using public transport like trains or buses can be another great way to not use a car and be more eco-friendly. If the distance is too far to walk or bike, carpooling is another great way to minimize your environmental impact. If you’re going to the same place as a friend or a colleague, make sure to ask for a ride before driving yourself.
2. Choose a smart thermostat for your home
As technology becomes more advanced, it is easier than ever before for households to live more sustainable lifestyles. Smart thermostats can help homeowners reduce their energy consumption and can be especially helpful during the hot and humid Massachusetts summers. According to the US Department of Energy, the use of smart thermostats can reduce immediate energy consumption by up to 10 percent!
Smart thermostats monitor your energy usage and help you identify when you can save energy. They optimize energy consumption by sensing usage patterns and can keep the temperature more consistent, eliminating the need for air conditioning systems to run continuously throughout the day. If you haven’t already purchased a smart thermostat, consider investing in one.
3. Use reusables instead of disposables
Summertime means it’s barbecue season! Everyone enjoys eating burgers and hot dogs at a family barbecue, but barbecues can be harmful to the environment. In particular, charcoal grills can result in high amounts of CO2 emissions. People also tend to use disposable plates and silverware at barbecues, using plastics or paper that can not easily be recycled. Additionally, food waste is more common at barbecues and can have a harmful impact on the environment. When waste rots in landfills, it releases methane – a greenhouse gas far more detrimental than CO2.
To get you grilling greener, try investing in an electric or solar grill, or simply just grill less frequently. In addition, make sure to use reusable cups, containers, plates, etc., and avoid any disposables.
4. Turn off lights and appliances when not in use
Those warm, long days mean spending a lot of time outdoors. The good thing about enjoying the summer weather is that while you are out of the house there is no need for the use of lights or air conditioning. Turning off the lights, AC, and unplugging devices from their outlets can help lessen energy consumption, lower costs, and reduce carbon emissions.
So, don’t forget to turn off the lights and unplug your devices when you leave home. Even better, whenever possible, invest in eco-friendly LED lights, low electricity consumption appliances, and motion sensors that can turn off lights automatically after a few minutes of no activity.
5. Find and work with local climate action groups like Mass Energize
If you are still not sure how best to reduce your energy consumption, join local community groups that are actively addressing climate change or attend local community meetings, lectures, or conferences that help with developing sustainable solutions for your home. Check out your local MassEnergize community for more information, including upcoming events.