Celebrate Zero Emissions Day by cutting your carbon footprint with small changes that can last a lifetime!

smoke.jpg It’s September 21, and you know what that means. No, not that it’s almost the official start of fall or new fall TV shows have started. It’s Zero Emissions Day. The day comes from a website launched by Sealevel in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which it gave the sexy name of “A Global Moratorium on Fossil Fuel Combustion on September 21.” The message from the website was, “Giving our planet one day off a year.” Granted, the planet will need more help than on one day of the year, but it’s a good time to remember all the ways to reduce emissions. You can start by calculating your carbon footprint here as a reference point. Your carbon footprint includes everything from how much heat you use in your home to your driving habits. Whenever you live wastefully, that’s more resources needed and fossil fuels burned in the manufacturing process. But then when you implement sustainable practices into your life, you can watch that carbon footprint shrink. Think of it like a game. Below are ways you can reduce that carbon footprint and be more earth-friendly all around. Make the following tips fun by creating a checklist and posting it around the home or office. Add incentives if the family or workplace manages to lower their carbon footprint by a certain amount. Without further ado, here are the tips:

Keep your home’s temperature regulated

The easiest place to start conserving is right in your own home. Remember the insulation basics like using double glazing on windows to reduce heat escape, caulk any draft-causing gaps around windows, turn down the thermostat in your home when you are away for the day and close your curtains at night to prevent heat from escaping. Energy.gov has a good guide for protecting your home’s heat consumption with fall and winter here or on the way.

Go fair trade

Look for products that are labeled with the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal. The Rainforest Alliance states clearing tropical rainforests accounts for 20 percent of carbon emissions worldwide. Plus, when trees are cut, they stop taking up carbon, but yet they release carbon as they burn or decompose, all adding to greenhouse gases. So make sure the product you buy also protects the rainforest.

Remember the three Rs

When you reduce, reuse and recycle, you’re lowering carbon emissions, which allows less fuel to be burned during the manufacturing and shipping process. Take the cloth shopping bag to the store, find some fun upcycling projects and make sure to keep a recycling bin accessible.

Drive wisely

It’s not just myth: The way you drive does impact the amount of fuel your car needs to run. Avoid sharp accelerations and lots of breaking. Your fuel receipt will thank you. Also, plan your errands in one trip; don’t make unnecessary, multiple trips to the same area. Obey the speed limit, as driving faster will mean more gas spent. The common speed listed for best fuel efficiency is about 50 miles per hour and drops the faster you go. Keep your tires inflated to keep fuel consumption down, use air conditioning only when needed (that also spikes fuel consumption) and walk or bike when you can.

Travel smart

When traveling, keep in mind what makes the most sense. Fly with airlines that try to make sure a flight is full before it takes off, or take road trips in fuel-efficient vehicles. Consider low-fuel “staycations” or room with the locals to reduce the resources consumed by ostentatious resorts.

Conserve water

Remember to conserve water as well. Fix any leaky faucets, turn off the water while you’re not using it, invest in low-flush toilets and irrigate the garden conservatively and wisely (no all day sprinkler systems).

Opt for green power

If you’re really motivated to reduce your carbon footprint, the best course of action is to invest in green power, such as wind or solar energy. You can actually easily buy green power. The EPA has a green power locator listed by state. You can also install solar panels and/or invest in an electric car.

Go for electricity savings

You can also conserve electricity by buying energy efficient appliances, turning off the light when you are not in the room, turn off items completely instead of leaving them on standby mode, washing with full loads on low temperatures, using outdoor solar powered lights and using long-lasting LED light bulbs. Make sure light fixtures and light bulbs are ENERGY STAR rated. The EPA stated Energy Star lighting “generates 75 percent less heat, uses about 75 percent less energy than standard lighting and lasts from 10 to 50 times longer.”

Be efficient in the office or classroom

When at the office or in school, remember efficiency. Turn off lights in unused conference rooms, or see if you can install occupancy sensors. Turn off computers and other unused electrical equipment when you leave the office. Remember to recycle used paper, keep records digital when possible, use both sides of paper where possible and try to buy recycled paper. Donate used office/classroom furniture to charities or start an office carpool.

Have a green yard (metaphorically)

You can be green in the backyard, too: set up a compost heap, collect water in a rain barrel for later use, make sure your garden is watered through a drip irrigation system that maximizes water efficiency and waters on an adjustable schedule when needed. Remember, less waste in general means less fuel burned during shipping new products.

Buy local

Remember to try to hit up the local farmer’s market if you don’t already. When you buy local, that’s less energy it takes to ship the products. Carbonfund.org states that, “A five-pound package shipped by air across the country creates 12 pounds of CO2 (three-and-a-half pounds if shipped by truck).”

Reduce plastics in your life

It’s hard to completely get rid of plastics in your life, but if you can cut back on them it will help. While recyclable, the structure of plastic tends to degrade with reuse and plastic is a key material in the disposable economy. Plastic containers are usually flimsy and made to be tossed. More reusable options are hemp, fast-growing bamboo and natural cotton.