It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the onslaught of alarming climate news. The polar ice caps are melting. Hurricanes and rising oceans are swallowing islands. Wildfires in California are getting bigger and badder. Oh, and what the heck is happening to all the bees? It’s enough to make you grab a tub of ice cream and hide under the bed.
Before you give up all hope, remember the power of human ingenuity. Small actions from a lot of people can add up. Earth Day is almost here, and with it comes a reminder that you can fight the effects of climate change by making smarter environmental decisions in your life. That might mean something as big as investing in California solar systems, or something as small as using fewer water bottles this year. Every action matters.
In honor of Earth Day on Sunday, April 22nd, here are five things you can do to lower your carbon footprint and fight for our beautiful planet and home.
Install California Solar Systems
Of course we would start with this one! Here at Semper Solaris, we help homeowners lower their carbon footprint every day by installing solar power systems on their homes and businesses. San Diego is one of the best cities in the country to go solar, thanks to our abundant sunshine and progressive utility companies that offer net metering.
The average family used 10,766 kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 2016. According to the Carbon Fund, one kWh equals roughly 1.22 pounds of CO2. Families that invest in California solar systems that cover their entire energy usage could save over 13,000 pounds of CO2 from hitting the atmosphere each year. That’s a big deal!
Buy an Electric Vehicle
Unless you live in downtown San Diego or a beach community like Pacific Beach or Solana Beach, chances are that you need a car to get around. Each commute to work, grocery store run, or doctor’s appointment emits CO2. In fact, the typical passenger car spews out 4.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year! If you have a long commute and/or drive a vehicle with poor gas mileage, your carbon bill will be even higher.
Don’t want to feel guilty for that midnight In-N-Out Burger run? Ease your conscience with your next car purchase and consider an electric car. These days, there are plenty of models on the market, from the sleek Tesla Model S to the mid-range Chevy Bolt and Ford Focus Electric. The Mitsubishi i-MiEV or the Smart Fortwo are perfect options for the driver on a budget.
While electric cars tend to be more expensive than their gas-guzzling peers, you can nab federal tax credits for purchasing one of these cars. Additionally, with a little planning, your solar power system can cover the extra electricity your new set of wheels needs!
Plan a Staycation
You and your family deserve an awesome vacation each year, but flying is one of the most carbon-expensive actions you can take. A trip from San Francisco to New York will produce almost a metric of CO2 per passenger, which represents roughly 20% of all the greenhouse gases your car produces in a year.
Does that mean vacation is canceled this year? No way! Instead, consider keeping your vacation a little closer to home. After all, you already live in one of the best vacation destinations in the world. In California, you can create almost any type of vacation you want. Walk down Hollywood Boulevard, take the kiddos to Disneyland, visit Alcatraz, lounge on a pristine beach, or shred it on the slopes.
Here’s another staycation idea: while you’re doing your part to save the planet, why not remind yourself of what you’re protecting? California is home to 28 National Parks, including:
- Yosemite National Park
- Redwood National Park
- Joshua Tree National Park
- Death Valley National Park
- Sequoia National Park
- and a whole lot more!
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Maybe you’re not ready to invest in solar panels in San Diego or pick out a new car just yet. Lowering your carbon footprint doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavor or even that lifechanging. It can be as simple as reworking your current habits just a little here and there.
What are some of the things you can reduce in your life? How about plastic water bottles and paper towels? Think about whether you can save water and electricity by waiting until the washer or dishwasher is full before running a cycle.
It’s difficult to determine the environmental impact of every single product, but the Carbon Fund estimates that every pound of manufactured product costs 4 – 8 pounds of CO2. Think about that the next time you stop into your local big box retailer. Before each purchase, ask yourself, “Will this make my life better?” If not, then maybe you don’t really need a 50th pair of shoes or another magazine.
When it comes to recycling, it really doesn’t take a lot of effort to toss your paper, glass, aluminum and recyclable plastics into the recycling bin. If you really want to step up your game, see if any local farmers in your area are accepting organic waste for composting. There are other ways to recycle. Give old clothes and things you don’t use anymore to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. Someone else can use it, which means they won’t have to buy something new!
Living a more environmentally focused life doesn’t mean you have to give up every pleasure. Most human activity generates carbon in some form. It can be easy to start feeling guilty about every trip to the grocery store, every pack of new socks, or the flight you had to take for a business trip.
Guilt and fear lead to resentment and feelings of depravation. That’s not what Earth Day is about, and it’s not a great way to live your life. Instead, give yourself permission to find a balance between eco-consciousness and fulfillment. One way to do this is to purchase carbon offsets to help balance out the ways you add carbon to the environment. You’d be surprised at how affordable offsets can be. A flight from San Francisco to New York will cost less than $11 in offsets through United’s offset program.
Be careful when choosing a carbon offset company. Make sure your company is verified by an independent third party to ensure that it’s using your money in a way that really takes carbon out of the atmosphere (like planting trees) or prevents carbon pollution (like donating to a wind farm). Not sure which carbon offset company to choose? The Sierra Club recommends NativeEnergy.
Carbon Reduction Lighting Round
Thought we were done with the carbon reduction recommendations? Not so fast! A lot of the suggestions we’ve made require big changes to your life, but even small changes can have a big impact if you keep at them over the years and convince your friends and family to join you.
Here are 10 quick, easy, and cheap ways to reduce your carbon footprint that you can easily turn into automatic habits:
- Unplug chargers and switch off power strips when they aren’t in use
- Lower your thermostat one degree in the winter and increase your thermostat by one degree in the summer
- Keep your tires inflated
- Make one day “meatless” per week
- Order chicken instead of steak
- Group errands together so you don’t take as many solo car trips
- Carpool to work
- Make a commitment to walk if your destination is less than a mile away
- Don’t speed
- Use a traffic app to avoid congested roads
Celebrate Earth Day
Earth Day is a chance to celebrate our potential. We’ve gotten ourselves into this climate change problem, and we can get ourselves out as well. This will require human ingenuity, passionate advocacy, and changes in how we live on a global and personal scale.
At Semper Solaris, we are a veteran-owned solar installation company proud to be fighting this new battle. Solar panels help our customers save money and reduce their carbon footprint. If you live in San Diego, we hope you’ll celebrate Earth Day with us and consider scheduling a free energy analysis.