10 Everyday Things We Can Do To Reduce Our Carbon Footprint

The battle against climate change was recently accelerated by President Obama’s new Clean Power Plan to cut emissions from power plants.

It’s a clear message that action needs to be taken to protect our environment. Luckily, it’s a message we can all heed.

Everyone has the responsibility to do whatever he or she can to reduce the damage done to the Earth, which sounds like a big task, but it can be surprisingly easy.

There are little things we can all incorporate into our everyday lives to be as green as beans:

1. Embrace eBooks and magazines.

While the print industry has been actively reducing its environmental impact by experimenting with recycled paper and vegetable-based ink, there’s no denying the fact that each book requires a ton of resources.

Paper, ink, plastic covers and the energy used during production and delivery add up. It is for these reasons that most books, magazines and even textbooks can be bought in an electronic format.

It may also be cheaper and more convenient, but the main perk is owning a Kindle or another form of electronic reading device can prevent an average of 168kg of greenhouse gas emissions per year.

2. Put a recycling bin next to each garbage bin.

Paper, plastic, glass and Styrofoam can all be recycled.

We all know the benefits of recycling, but it can be difficult to incorporate into your regular life.

Let’s face it: Most of us can’t be bothered trekking to the recycling bin each time we have a scrap of paper to throw out. An easy way to do this is to place a separate bin just for recycling next to your regular waste bins.

Soon enough, recycling will become second nature.

3. Use your own coffee cup.

Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee per day, which adds up to 147 billion cups of coffee per year.

The simple solution is to bring your own cup to cafés and get the barista to fill it with your coffee, hot chocolate or tea.

Many brands, like KeepCup, Ideal Cup or Eco Cup, produce cups in standard coffee sizes in a range of colors and materials (plastic or glass).

They also tend to keep your coffee warm for longer, prevent you from burning yourself when you hold it and make it less likely to spill.

4. Set your printer to double-sided printing.

Whether you print at home or at work, there’s no doubting we all need hard copies at times.

From 2008-2009, the Environmental Protection Agency found that 6,321,670 sheets of paper were printed on college campuses.

Printing double-sided would cut this number in half and also have other benefits for our environment.

It would save 295,000 gallons of water per year and prevent the cutting down of 286 trees, all from the simple move of clicking the box that says "duplex printing."

5. Buy the product with less packaging.

You’re standing at the biscuit aisle, and you have been for about a day; the struggle is very much real.

Which one to buy? To go chocolate chip or chocolate covered, or maybe you should try and get the healthy oats one?

Let me make your life a heap easier: Go for the one with the least amount of packaging.

Nix individual yogurt tubs for a large one, and spoon it into reusable Tupperware to take with you.

Those biscuits in a plastic holder with a plastic cover in a cardboard box? Just why?

6. Use canvas bags at supermarkets.

Who hasn’t seen those awful photos of marine life being strangled by plastic bags?

Islands of plastic rubbish piling up has become the poster of environmental degradation, and using canvas bags instead of plastic ones is a simple way we can stop this from happening.

Plus, they tend to hold more, look prettier and you’re less likely to have the bottom of the bag split. It's a win-win.

7. Stop buying bottled water.

This is a movement that has been gaining a lot of traction, with some entire towns banning bottle water.

No bottled water is sold in the town of Bundanoon in New South Wales, Australia, or in Concord, Massachusetts.

Many universities, such as Brown University and Vancouver University in Canada, have done the same thing.

Last year, Americans used 50 billion plastic bottles. Let’s reduce this number and save some money while we’re at it.

8. Go meat-free on Monday.

The production of meat puts quite the strain on water and natural resources.

In fact, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has named and shamed the livestock industry as one of the top contributors to environmental problems.

But going vegetarian is a daunting task and impossible for many people.

The alternative of cutting meat out of your diet once a week is far more achievable. Experimenting with vegetarian recipes and challenging your friends to join you is not only fun, but could also benefit your health.

9. Dim the light on your computer screen.

Probably the simplest thing you can do is dim your computer screen.

Backlighting uses surprisingly high levels of energy; the highest monitor setting consumes twice the power of the dimmest setting.

Dimming it even by a few bars can elongate the time between charges. It's convenient and energy efficient.

If you have a Mac, turning off the keyboard lighting can also do wonders in saving energy.

10. Rethink, reduce, reuse, repair, recycle.

Thinking like an eco warrior already? Embrace this little favorite as your new motto: rethink.

Do we really need eight pairs of boots? A new phone every two years?

Reduce what you buy and reuse what you already have. Aim to repair whatever breaks, and if all that fails, look to recycle.

Let’s change the way we think about where our things and food come from because it’s not going to last forever.