The first thing you should be aware of is that just about everything that you buy, consume, or do has some amount of what’s called a “carbon footprint.” So there’s really no such thing as “zero carbon” just as there’s no truly “zero waste” lifestyle – every action has consequences to some degree. So instead of obsessing over getting to a point zero carbon footprint, if you can try to generally reduce your overall carbon footprint in multiple areas of your life, you’re on the right track!
How to Live A Low Carbon Life
Here are some of the things that you can do to live a low carbon lifestyle.
1. Reduce or Eliminate Your Consumption of Animal Products
There’s a ton of science showing the disparities between farmed animal meats and plant based foods when it comes to carbon emissions. Just take a look at this chart from Our World In Data, showing a comparison of protein rich foods.
I have fully eliminated meat and dairy from my diet personally. My main tip on going vegan is: change slowly. If you have lived your entire life one way, it takes time to ditch the old habits and to become accustomed to new ones. I went from being an omnivore in 2018 to being a vegetarian in 2019, and since January 2020 I have been living on a vegan diet. Before I even decided to become a vegetarian, I started by having “Meatless Monday” – just one night a week with a meat-free dinner. It takes time for your body, particularly your digestive tract, to get used to digesting more plant-derived foods. I created a vegan recipe blog called InstantVeg to provide resources for those switching to a vegan diet, please check it out!
2. Reduce or Eliminate Your Travel By Air
Air travel is one of the biggest carbon emitters that individuals can have an impact on directly. By choosing to travel less frequently by air, we can make a big difference. If you do fly by air, at least fly coach on a commercial flight to have a lower carbon impact than flying first class or private.
3. Don’t Buy Air-freighted Foods
What exactly are air-freighted foods? As the name suggests, they are foods which have been transported via airplane. Just as you don’t want to be spending too much time in airplanes, you don’t want your food spending too much time up in the air, either. Air freighted foods differ from country to country or region to region. Basically foods that tend to spoil quickly and that are out of season (to your locale), such as fruits and vegetables with a thin skin, those are the ones that are often air-freighted. Always check the labels on product packages before you buy. I am learning to do better at this myself!!
4. Walk, Cycle, or Use Public Transport
I want to emphasize that I know that in some places it’s simply not possible to walk, cycle, or use public transport. If you live in the city, sure it’s easy to do any of those things, but if you live in the country, not so much! One thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint if you do live in an area where a car is a necessity is to plan your trips so that you don’t need to take so many. Instead of going out every day, plan your errands so that you can get it all done for the week in one day. If something comes up, delay going out for it until your “errands day” if possible. Write it on a shopping list so you don’t forget.
5. Buy Less Stuff
It seems simple, but for some people buying less stuff is a hard adjustment. I’m afraid to admit it, but I have also struggle controlling my shopping urge. I once heard someone say that it comes from the “hunter gatherer” times when much of the time would be spent wandering outdoors trying to find necessary foods or items vital to survival. I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s certainly no excuse for buying too much stuff nowadays. One thing that I find helpful is giving myself a short-term no spend challenge, for example “no buying anything for the month.” Of course, you will still buy food as needed, but no other items. It’s fun to see what you can come up with when you aren’t allowed to buy anything!
I hope you enjoyed these tips on some of the things you can do to live a lower carbon life. These things certainly aren’t ALL the things that we can do, nor are they even the things that have the biggest impact globally, but hopefully they offer you a place to start living the kind of life you want to live, in your own day-to-day.