How to Spring Clean Your Carbon Footprint

Does spring make you want to tidy up? Alongside your closets and kitchens, don’t forget about your carbon footprint.

As Justin Gillis and Nadja Popovich note in The New York Times, the United States is the world’s biggest carbon polluter. While the Trump administration has backed out of the Paris climate talks, you don’t have to give up too.

Here are some effective strategies for monitoring – and reducing – your carbon footprint.

1. Check Your Impact

A quick Google search can land you on a carbon footprint calculator. But is it accurate?

Probably not, says Jacqueline Ronson at Inverse Science. It’s hard to factor in everything, though having a ballpark is helpful to start targeting wasteful behaviors.

The Environmental Protection Agency offers a good calculator based on where you live, and Carbon Footprint Ltd. shows how you can offset your footprint with carbon credits.

You can also download apps like the GoGreen: Carbon Tracker, which turns cutting down on your impact into a game. Your score depends on your emissions.

2. Rethink How You Travel

Air travel is the main way many individuals contribute to climate change. Think about traveling closer to home for summer vacations, or taking a little longer to travel by more sustainable transportation methods, like trains.

As the weather heats up, it’s also a perfect time to ditch your car. Do what you can, whether you’re biking everywhere, or just making a point to park in a central place while you walk to do errands.

Don’t forget that you can empower other people with your choices, too. Support public transit initiatives and bike-friendly infrastructure, as well as affordable housing campaigns that encourage people to work close to where they live.

3. Consider Your Family Size

Some people don’t have the ability or desire to cut down on their carbon footprints in this way — and that’s OK.

However, according to a 2017 study in “Environmental Science Letters,” having fewer kids is vital in keeping your carbon footprint low.

In a developed country, having one fewer child saves 58.6 tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions. And that’s the same as “having nearly 700 teenagers recycle as much as possible for the rest of their lives,” Science says.

It turns out that the environment is yet another reason to support access to affordable reproductive health care and sex education.

4. Go Vegetarian

According to the same study, going vegetarian for a year has a big impact too. As Science Daily notes, it’s four times as effective as recycling.

If slashing meat completely from your diet feels too daunting, do what you can to cut down on animal products. If you’re stuck eating meat for health reasons, for instance, there’s still hope.

Disabled vegan activist Michele Kaplan writes:

Consider eating less meat. Not an option? Consider drinking a non-dairy “milk” (soy, rice, almond, oats, coconut etc.) instead of buying dairy milk. Or if changing one’s diet is not an option, then consider purchasing products for your home and body that are not tested on animals, if not totally vegan…It’s better to do some good and less harm than nothing at all.

5. Encourage Cities to Act

Even the most conscientious people can only reduce their impact so much. Ultimately, the entire system needs to change.

While the federal government seems to be abandoning conservation efforts left and right, cities can lead the way in cutting down their emissions.

“Cities have a very large role to play,” social scientist Benjamin Barber told Quartz. “Most greenhouse gas emissions come from cities and cities also control about 80% of GDP. They can do a lot to combat climate change, whether or not Trump undermines the COP21 agreement.”

Participate in your local government to hold your city accountable.

Photo Credit: yashmori/Flickr


Sue H
Sue H3 months ago

Helpful reminders, thanks.

Marie W
Marie W10 months ago

thanks for sharing

Chad A
Chad Aabout a year ago

Thank you.

David C
David Cabout a year ago

thank you

David C
David Cabout a year ago

do anything....the little things add up.....and please remember to use your butterfly points for good....for climate or something else

Alexis S
Past Member about a year ago

Pick up recyclable litter while outdoors

Angela K
Angela Kabout a year ago


Amanda M
Amanda Mabout a year ago

I haven't flown in 22 years, and I definitely prefer driving to flying for vacations anyway because you can pack what you want, EAT what you want, use a real bathroom, and you have transportation when you get to your destination that is far cheaper than a rental car! We stopped at two kids partly for environmental reasons (financial reasons were also a biggie), and I got "spayed" to make sure things stayed that way. And since we have two daughters, I am fighting the Rethuglican Religious Reich tooth and nail to ensure that my daughters have the same range of full reproductive freedom that I have (even abortion if they need one). I'm not going vegetarian/vegan, but I do follow the EIM Plan (Everything In Moderation) and steer clear of processed "food" as much as I can. And for the record, eating meat is NOT something to be negative about-we are not "stuck" with it, we EVOLVED that way! What would work is getting away from feedlot and factory farming and going back to the way farms were originally run, with cage-free chickens and grass-fed cows (after all, grass is their NATURAL diet!). I wish we HAD public transportation in our town-the county seat does, but they DON'T have a line to our town, which means we HAVE to drive. (Cabs cost too much, especially for a blue-collar budget). We're doing the best we can, but living in a "red" county doesn't help much. Too many climate change deniers running around loose here.

Misss D
Shari Fabout a year ago

It appears to me that the most effective ways of cutting emissions is to not have children, not fly anywhere, not run a car and stop consuming beef or milk. That will slash anyone's carbon footprint!

Anne F
Anne Fabout a year ago

Here's what I think is most important: Support public transit initiatives and bike-friendly infrastructure, as well as affordable housing campaigns that encourage people to work close to where they live.