When most people think of downsizing to reduce their carbon footprint, the immediate thought that comes to mind is tiny houses, where four people try to squeeze themselves and their most prized worldly possessions into a home that’s smaller than the average RV to live. While that’s certainly one way to do it, it isn’t the only way, and it isn’t even a necessary way to reduce your carbon footprint.
In fact, it’s the little steps you take towards downsizing your mindset, lifestyle, spending habits, energy consumption, and consumer nature that make the biggest differences. You can even downsize your monthly bills. The greater the effort you make to downsize your life, the better the results for your carbon footprint and for the planet will be.
Think about what a difference it would make to consistently choose products with the least packaging over the course of a year. Even for those who recycle, it can go a long way towards reducing carbon footprints.
Consider the energy involved in recycling. There is fuel required to make the deliveries to recycling facilities. Energy used in the recycling process. That doesn’t even consider the energy used to create the original packaging. Eliminating as much packaging as possible over the course of a year reduces the planetary price that even recycling provides and, in some cases, eliminates packaging items that cannot be recycled from landing in landfills.
Reduce Waste from Lunch
Bringing lunch to work or sending lunch to school with your children is a noble and money-saving venture. However, it often creates a great deal of wasted sandwich bags, plastic water bottles or drink pouches, and other wrappers and paper goods to throw away or recycle.
Just imagine if you made the switch to reusable lunch bags and reusable wrappers or containers for sandwiches, chips, and other lunchtime treats instead. Think of all the days you work each year or your children are in school. Imagine the reduction in your carbon footprint from this small, simply, money-saving change.
Nix the Plastic Shopping Bags
Another important area for downsizing waste and packaging is to eliminate those pesky plastic shopping bags. Invest in a few quality canvas shopping totes, and you’ll never need to bother with plastic again. It may take a few attempts to get in the habit of keeping totes available at all times. Once the habit is established though, you’ll find that you don’t miss those plastic bags at all. And the planet wins in many ways.
The latest mobile device
The best example by far of consumer waste is the iPhone craze. People wait in line year after year to get the newest, latest, iPhone – even though their current iPhones work just fine. It’s become an act of trendiness rather than necessity, and it’s one that’s shockingly wasteful. One of the most shocking things about it is the number of people lining up for these new phones at every release who claim to want to do what’s best for the planet. It’s not just the iPhone. The same thing could be said about any favorite brand of mobile phone or tablet devices that offers a new release yearly (or more often).
Nip the New Car Bug in the Bud
Phones aren’t the only devices to keep in mind, though. The same can be said of cars. Some people purchase or lease a new car every three years. Not only is this a huge expense, but it is also such a waste of resources and materials. Unless you’re downsizing from a giant gas-guzzling SUV to a hybrid or electric car, there are very few occasions in which buying a new car after only three years could potentially benefit the planet.
Even then, it’s no guarantee that the benefits outweigh the problem. In fact, the better choice for most families would be to downsize from two cars per household to one, and to rely on bicycles or public transportation for moments when two vehicles may be desired. Additional considerations would be to shorten commutes by choosing jobs closer to home, or consider working from home to reduce the need for an additional vehicle further.
Rent, Borrow, or Go Digital
Another area to downsize consumerism is when it comes to things like books, DVDs, CDs, and videos. Rather than going out and purchasing physical copies of these items, consider purchasing digital copies or borrowing them from the local library. These digital copies lead to no additional waste, and items borrowed from the library are used again and again producing less waste and delivering the same pleasure.
Even better? It doesn’t cost anything to borrow from the library allowing you to save money as well. If the library doesn’t have what you want or you can’t wait for the latest hit movie that’s on a gigantic waitlist, consider renting DVDs rather than buying them.
Homeowners throughout the U.S. use a lot of energy. Whether it’s heating the home, cooling the home, or lighting the home. But, there are steps you can take today to downsize your energy bills month after month while keeping your home comfortable throughout the year.
Invest in a Programmable Thermostat
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “you can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting.” Programmable thermostats allow you to program the thermostat for lower energy use when you’re at work during the day. During the winter months, you can program it to keep the home cooler by about five degrees while you’re out of the home during the day, and keep it warmer during workdays during the summer. This will help you save money on utility bills while also doing great things for the planet.
Install a Whole House Fan
A whole house fan can reduce your reliance on air conditioning, which consumes much more energy, during the summer by keeping your home cooler longer into the day. In spring and fall months, it can negate the need for air conditioning at all on many days and during the summer as well in some areas of the country.
Use Tankless Hot Water Heaters
Because tankless water heaters produce hot water on demand, less energy is wasted in the operation of these water heaters. You also eliminate worries over running out of hot water on days when everyone is clamoring for shower time.
Consider Solar Hot Water Heating
While solar hot water heating will not substitute completely for a hot water system, it can help to reduce the costs of operating one while also reducing the energy consumption of the system.
Install Solar Panels
Solar technology is evolving. Solar power allows you the opportunity to not only power your home, but also to sell excess power to the energy company. This means you may be able to offset energy costs you can’t cover for the home, or eliminate them completely.
Install Motion Activated Lighting
Motion activated lights will turn off after a certain amount of time if movement in the room isn’t detected. This helps to save money on electric bills without worrying about children or other family members remembering to turn off lights that aren’t in use.
Of course, the ultimate challenge is to be mindful of the energy you consume in the course of a regular day. Keep doors closed. Turn off lights as you leave the room. Stop sleeping with televisions on. Turn down the heat at night while you sleep. We make choices daily that can downsize our dependence on utilities.
There is some truth to the saying that “less is more.” When you have fewer items cluttering your home, you tend to appreciate the items you do have. Downsizing clutter may sound more like an impossible mission, but it is possible. Here are a few things you can do to make it happen.
Purge Your Home of Unnecessary and Unused Items
Go through closets, drawers, pantries, and cabinets. Get rid of everything you haven’t used in the last year. Eliminate food items that are out of date. Get rid of all clothes that do not fit now (the one exception would be kids clothes that you’re waiting for kids to grow into or your wedding dress).
Eliminate Unnecessary Paper
First, call all utility and credit card companies and request electronic billing. Then, place a shredder right next to your mail station for convenient shredding of junk mail, which is nearly all that remains once you’ve eliminated recurring bills. Also use the shredder to get rid of packaging, invoices, and other documentation that comes along with packages you receive in the mail.
Digitize Photo Collections
Get rid of the loose photographs around your home and switch to digital albums instead. This allows you to backup the photos in cloud storage, and allows you to pick and choose great photos to display in digital photo albums that flip through images of family and friends – old and new.
Small changes to downsize your mindset can net massive results for the sake of the planet and your family budget. Stop waiting to make the big switch, and adopt small changes to downsize your life you can put into play today.
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