Global warming is becoming a threat to life on Earth and an increasing concern for Canada.
According to Canada’s Changing Climate Report, commissioned by Environment and Climate Change Canada, Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. Scientists are in almost universal agreement that we need to change our carbon emissions significantly if we are to avoid a future where deadly heatwaves, rainstorms and forest fires become the norm.
To mark Earth Day, we look at 10 ways you can reduce your carbon emissions.
1. Drive less – walk or transit more
Getting rid of your car would cut carbon emissions by 2.4 tonnes per year. Not to mention, you’d also save a lot of money in car payments, gas, insurance and maintenance.
While this may be difficult for many people, cutting back on private car use can drastically reduce your carbon footprint. Try to walk or cycle more, car pool or use transit (most municipal transit systems offer considerable discounts to those aged 65+).
When replacing your car, buying either an electric, hybrid or fuel-efficient vehicle will drastically cut your emissions. B.C. and Quebec offer electric vehicle rebates.
2. Make your home more energy-efficient
There are plenty of ways to use less energy in your home, which will reduce your carbon footprint and lower your utility bills:
- LED light bulbs reduce power used by more than a third
- Insulating the attic and weather-stripping doors and windows
- Replacing old windows and doors with ultra-efficient ones
- Installing energy-efficient furnaces and water heaters
Check with your electricity and natural gas providers to see if they offer rebates on energy-efficient renovations, such as those offered by Enbridge and B.C. Hydro.
3. Buy energy-efficient appliances
Replacing old appliances with ENERGY STAR rated products will make a big difference to your home’s energy use. Energy-efficient dryers, washing machines, fridges and dishwashers can save hundreds of dollars a year on utility bills. They reduce energy consumption by between 10-50%.
4. Buy less and recycle more
New consumer products cause considerable carbon emissions. The clothing industry, for example, is responsible for 10% of all global carbon emissions and is the second largest polluter after oil.
By shopping at second-hand, vintage or consignment stores, you’ll save money and greatly reduce carbon emissions.
Did you know that all clothes can be recycled, even when they’re torn or stained? Most charities that accept clothing donations send unwearable clothes to textile recyclers where they are broken down and reused. The municipality of Markham in Ontario launched a textile recycling program that diverted 1.4 million kg of clothing from landfill in its first year.
5. Cut back on water use
Clean water processing uses large amounts of energy, as well as chemicals. By reducing our water usage, we can considerably lower our carbon footprint.
Installing low-flow shower and faucet heads can make a big difference, as well as water-efficient toilets, washing machines and dishwashers. Buying a rain barrel to collect rain water for watering gardens can save hundreds of litres of water every year.
6. Changing your food habits
With production of food causing around a third of global carbon emissions, there is a growing belief that what we eat has a significant impact on the environment.
The Environmental Working Group carried out research on the emissions required to produce a kilogram of food and compared it to the emissions created by driving a Honda Civic. It found that producing a kilo of beef created the same emissions as driving 176km. This is huge when compared to other proteins such as eggs (31mk), peanut butter (13km) and lentils (6km). Changing to a vegan or vegetarian diet would halve your food-related emissions.
If such a radical dietary change seems too much, reducing your meat intake considerably will have a big impact. Making more of your own meals will also reduce your carbon footprint. A home-made sandwich, for example, causes around half of the emissions of a store-bought one.
7. Fly less
Flying is believed to contribute a considerable amount of the human impact on climate change. With the airline industry growing at a phenomenal rate, this impact will only increase.
Flying less and taking more direct flights will immediately reduce your carbon footprint (planes use a disproportionate amount of emissions for taking off/landing).
If you must fly, offset programs can reduce your carbon footprint by paying for emission-reducing projects. For example. Air Canada’s Less program, endorsed by WWF International, funds projects that eliminate tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.
8. Switch to a renewable energy provider
Companies such as Bullfrog Power allow you to switch to renewable energy for your home, meaning no carbon footprint.
Natural gas comes from organic matter decomposition and electricity is from clean wind and water power. Renewable energy packages can save your carbon footprint by an average of 6.6 tonnes annually, which is the equivalent of not driving your car for a year.
9. Buy FSC-certified wood and paper products
The Forest Stewardship Council manages forests in a sustainable fashion, so that its wood and paper products don’t contribute to the destruction of rainforests.
Buying products that carry the FSC logo – such as furniture, books and paper – go a long way to reducing harmful emissions by ensuring the continued growth of healthy trees.
10. Carry a reusable coffee mug
Billions of cups of coffee are consumed every year in Canada and a huge proportion of those are single-use, throwaway cups. The plastic used to keep in the heat and liquid means they are rarely recycled.
By filling your own reusable mug whenever you buy or make a coffee, you’ll help reduce the huge number of cups that end up in landfill.
Making the small changes to have a big impact
Taking proactive steps to reduce your carbon footprint can help minimize your impact on global warming. Many of these steps take minimal effort but can add up over time.
Other, larger steps, such as retrofitting your home for energy efficiency or buying a hybrid or electric car have a bigger, more immediate impact, but can be costly.
If you’d like to take these steps but don’t have the necessary funds, a CHIP Reverse Mortgage® could be the answer. Home owners aged 55+ can cash in some of their home’s equity in tax-free cash. You won’t have to pay what you owe until decide to sell, so it won’t have a negative impact on your retirement income.