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How Anyone Can Reduce Their Carbon Footprint In 2022

You don’t need a PhD or political clout to make a difference for the planet.

How much do our everyday actions impact the environment? One measure is the carbon footprint, the total amount of harmful greenhouse gases — including carbon dioxide and methane — generated by our actions.

According to the Nature Conservancy, the average global carbon footprint per person is about 4 tons, or 16 tons per person in the United States.

Experts believe we all must reduce that footprint to less than 2 tons by 2050 for the best chance of heading off global warming.

Fortunately, we can each make a big difference with small steps and shifts in thinking in our everyday lives.

With the Israeli holiday of Tu B’shvat — the New Year for trees — around the corner, this is a perfect time for a New Year’s resolution to consider the suggestions below from Maya Jacobs, CEO of Israeli environmental organization Zalul (Hebrew for “clear”) and Carmel Horowitz, head of the Israeli grassroots advocacy campaign Climate-Ecological Emergency Headquarters.

Maya Jacobs, CEO of Zalul. (Dor Malka)

Jacobs says if we all view our actions through “50 shades of green” glasses, and aim to be as “dark green” as possible in everything we do, we can make a huge impact.

“As with sports and eating a healthy diet, even if we don’t like taking care of our bodies, we know we must in order to stay healthy. Same goes for protecting Planet Earth. Therefore new habits should become part of our lives,” she says.

  1. Put more plant-based foods on your plate

According to the latest research, the five foods whose production causes the highest greenhouse gas emissions are beef, mutton, cheese, pork and poultry.

Researchers at the University of Oxford say that cutting meat and dairy products from your diet could reduce your carbon footprint from food up to 73 percent. But even a “meatless Monday” diet makes a big difference.

Horowitz recommends the Blue Zones diet for sustainability: avoid processed food and eat more legumes, plant-based protein and organic foods. “Eat slower, eat less and enjoy more!”

  1. Choose food that traveled shorter distances

The more “food miles” traveled, the bigger the carbon footprint. Before putting items in your grocery cart, take a minute to check the label to see where they began their journey.

  1. Choose products with less plastic packaging

According to the “Plastics & Climate” report from the Center for International Environmental Law, nearly every plastic begins as a fossil fuel, and greenhouse gases are emitted at each stage of its lifecycle, from the extraction and transport of the fuel to the time it reaches waterways and landfills as trash. In 2019, the production and incineration of plastic produced more than 850 million metric tons of greenhouse gases.

  1. Stop using, or at least cut down on, disposable items

“Our consumption is creating unbelievable amounts of trash, which is mostly shipped away to weaker countries where it harms vulnerable people, or is burned,” says Jacobs.

“Our massive consumption exploits natural resources and creates heavy pollution during production and shipping.”

Graphic by Carmel Horowitz
  1. Change your celebration decorations

 “Although they are very colorful and happy-looking, balloons, confetti, glitter, party decorations and props are mostly made of plastic and rubber,” says Jacobs. “Make environmental friendly decorations instead and reuse them again and again.”

  1. Ditch your car for public transportation at least once a week

All the better if you can get around by public transport (or biking or walking) exclusively, but just like with eating fewer animal products, you can reduce your carbon footprint significantly by leaving your car at home once a week.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates the average passenger car generates 77 pounds of hydrocarbons, 575 pounds of carbon monoxide and 11,450 pounds of carbon dioxide annually. The Environmental Literacy Council estimates that public transportation keeps 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions out of the air every year.

  1. Treat electricity as a tangible resource

“Electricity production demands a lot of energy, so until we reach a miraculous utopia, we’ll need to consume it with care,” says Horowitz.

“Favor reasonable room temperatures both in winter and summer, the fan over the AC, and of course good house insulation. Try to cook in bigger quantities, which will also save you time.

Think twice if you really need that third TV in your bedroom. And of course, take shorter and colder showers to reduce water heating. Wim Hof will be proud of you.”

  1. Practice the 5 Rs

Reuse, reduce, recycle, repair and regift as much as possible. Today’s sharing economy makes it easier than ever to buy less and instead share items with friends and neighbors — everything from baby furniture to vehicles. This tip also applies to apparel; consider secondhand and consignment shops for your purchases. 

  1. Invest green and vote green

Use the power of your money and your vote, says Jacobs. “Invest your savings only in companies that divest from fossil fuels and make real environmental efforts. Elect politicians who promote environmental policy change. Only public pressure will make governments change their ways.”

  1. Work together

“When individuals make efforts to reduce their own carbon footprint, it must always be connected to the bigger picture,” says Horowitz. “Talk about the change, educate, inspire, and most importantly — join others to demand these changes to come from policymakers. Carbon footprint reduction must come from everyone, according to their share and responsibility.”

Produced in association with ISRAEL21c.

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