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Climate change: 7 things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint

It’s the season for resolutions and for finding ways to reduce your carbon footprint and help the planet.

In an interview with Yahoo Finance Live, Kathryn Kellogg, founder of Going Zero Waste, a lifestyle website that provides information on living a more sustainable life, outlined the top seven things individuals can do now to mitigate climate change.

For starters Kellogg advocates reducing consumption of animal products, which in addition to meat, includes cheese and butter. According to a New York Times report, meat and dairy account for approximately 14.5% of the world’s greenhouse gas every year — the same amount as the combined emissions from all the cars, trucks, airplanes and ships in the world today.

“By cutting out a few of those products, adding in a little, a few more fresher products, we'll be able to have a more positive impact on the planet and hopefully maybe even meet some other of your New Year's resolutions like eating a little healthier,” said Kellogg.

This ties into her second tip — eating locally and seasonally. The less food has to travel to the consumer, the lower the carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere and less pollution created.

Directly above shot of various grilled vegetables served in plate on table at home during Christmas
Directly above shot of various grilled vegetables served in plate on table at home during Christmas

The third way to be greener this year, said Kellogg, is to take a hard look at how you’re using energy. Be mindful of how much energy you’re consuming, unplug and shut off devices when not in use and use energy efficient appliances when possible.

“On average, 10% to 15% of the home's electric bill comes from something called a phantom electricity. This is when you have something plugged in and charging, but it's not actually charging. So for instance, you have your laptop charger plugged in, but it's not hooked up to your laptop. You have your phone charger plugged in but it's not hooked up to your phone. These things are still drawing power and it's wasting energy and of course it's costing you a lot of money,” she said.

Fourth on Kellogg’s list of climate resolutions: Reduce flying and driving, consider alternatives like mass transit and electric vehicles, but she cautions, that doesn’t mean rushing out to buy a new car.

“When it comes to looking at electric and hybrid vehicles, unless you have a very, very high emitting vehicle, one of the best things you can do is keep what you already have, because of course, a lot of emissions are made in the creation of an item,” she said, noting that driving less and carpooling are best ways to reduce emissions.

Fifth on the list is “stop before you shop.” That means buying less. According to Going Zero Waste, the average American throws out 4.4 lbs. of trash a day and Kellogg councils those looking to reduce consumption to ask themselves the following questions:

  • Do you really need it?

  • Is it really necessary?

  • Can something else make do?

  • Do you need to own it?

If the answer to these questions is still yes then at least “buy well,” which means thinking about where it came from and where it’s going after you’re through with it, Kellogg said.

This connects to the sixth step in reducing your carbon footprint this year: consider buying secondhand. The U.S. secondhand apparel market is currently valued at $379 billion according to Greenbiz. In 2019 the secondhand clothing market grew 21 times faster than traditional apparel markets and projects that the domestic secondhand clothing market will more than triple in value in the next 10 years going from $28 billion in 2019 to $80 billion in 2029, the company said.

“One of the most eco-friendly things you can buy is something that has already been bought, no new resources are needed and the creation of that item. So by buying something that's already in the waste stream, you're going to be able to prevent something from going to the landfill,” said Kellogg.

A worker walking between the heaps of garbage
A worker walking between the heaps of garbage

The final thing is composting. According to Kellogg, half of household waste can be composted which leads to a reduction in methane and greenhouse gas emissions.

“I think that the main issue is everyone views it as very all or nothing. So it's really intimidating to start. And a lot of people think, oh, if I want to help the planet that I have to go vegan, and I can't do that, and it's all about just taking those first initial steps,” said Kellogg, adding that it’s easy to make small lifestyle changes. “If you don't want to go vegan tomorrow, fine. What if you can just start participating in meatless Mondays, and just try an experiment with a few new dishes. You don't have to be all or nothing, you just have to get started.”

Yvette Killian is a producer/booker for Yahoo Finance Live. Follow her on Twitter at @yvette_killian


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