NASA

Last year was one of the hottest years ever recorded. NASA’s findings had the past year as the second warmest since recording began in 1880, just a few decimals of a degree away from 2016’s all-time high. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) counted 2017 as the third hottest in history.

Considering that temperatures seen in the past few years are substantially above 20th century averages, the 2017 figures show that the new normal is hot year after year. Therefore it’s more important than ever to do what we can to reduce our carbon footprint.

Here are some ways you can do your part.

Watch your air miles.

A round-trip flight between New York and California emits about 20 percent of the greenhouse gases that your car does over a whole year. And during that same flight you’ve already used up one-eighteenth of your total emissions for the year. Solution? Fly less if possible, or take the train or drive if the distance is shorter (flying is more carbon efficient for long distances). And if you have to fly, consider buying carbon offsets. For a few bucks you can plant some trees to offset your air travel.

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Eat less meat.

This one is much bigger than most people realize. One report shows that if we reduced our meat consumption down to the levels of government health guidelines, it could cut food-related emissions by almost a third. And widespread adoption of a vegetarian diet would bring down agricultural emissions by over 60%. The current model and quantity of meat production is an unsustainable burden on the environment, cutting down (or cutting out) your burgers could be a big help. 

Drive less.

Reducing how much distance you drive each year from 15,000 to 10,000 miles can save more than a ton of CO2, about 15% of the average person’s footprint. Simply adding some public transit to your commute, or considering the walkability of the city when deciding where to live, can have dramatic effect on environmental footprint.

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Buy Less.

The latest iPhone catching your eye? Perhaps consider stretching it out a bit longer and getting a new phone cover instead. 80% of an Apple phone’s lifecycle emissions come during its production, not its electricity use. Also, fun fact, more than 6% of New York’s garbage is clothing. So think twice about buying that next fast-fashion, emission-rich top. Trade clothes with friends, check out the thrift shop, and patch up those jeans.

Focus on Food Miles.

There’s a big difference in the CO2 impact of the goods and services we purchase. As this Huffington Post piece reports “one pack of two avocados has an emissions footprint of 846.37g CO2. That’s twice the size of one kilo of bananas (480g CO2e) or 10 times larger than one banana (80g CO2e).” Keep your eyes open for locally grown products and try learning when produce is in season. Tip: If blueberries cost $5.99 in the middle of winter it’s because they’ve been flown in halfway across the globe. 

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Avoid Plastic.

Shop in bulk. Say no thanks to plastic bags. Buy products that do not come in unnecessary plastic packaging or Styrofoam. Or shop at stores like these that have committed to zero-waste from packaging. And try carrying around a reusable water bottle instead buying new plastic each time (picture every one of the plastic water bottles you’ve ever used filled one-quarter with oil, because that’s how much sludge it took to make it).

Divest from Carbon.

Companies like Facebook, Google, Walmart and Bank of America, have publicly promised to power their operations fully with renewable energy. Volvo recently announced that all its cars would be electric or hybrid starting in 2019. And multinational behemoth Unilever pledged to make its operations carbon-neutral by 2030.

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You can also vote by withholding your dollars. This piece gives a nice introduction to fossil fuel “divestment”, removing your financial support from companies that are not committed to reducing their carbon. 

Every bit helps.