The global climate crisis has left many people feeling powerless.
Taking on such a big problem can feel overwhelming and impossible, partly because the mainstream narrative on the climate crisis makes it seem like there is only one solution. It’s like asking a doctor how to cure cancer—there are over 100 types, and curing one of them won’t necessarily cure the rest. Climate change is a complex issue impacted by a variety of factors, from ocean pollution to fossil fuels. Another important factor is something called a carbon footprint. If you’re looking to help prevent climate change but don’t know where to begin, learning about what a carbon footprint is might be a good place to start.
A carbon footprint is the “amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide.” There are an endless amount of human activities that result in CO2 emissions, from clothing production to running on a treadmill. One of the activities with the highest carbon footprints is food production. The food with the biggest (and therefore worst) carbon footprint is lamb: producing one kilo of lamb results in 39.2 kilos of CO2 emissions. On the other end of that list: lentils, as one kilo of them only results in a 0.9-kilo CO2 emission. In fact, many people choose to either become vegetarian or vegan in order to reduce their carbon footprint because the foods with the highest footprints are all animal products.
One of the best ways to lower your food-produced carbon footprint is home-cooking because pre-packaged foods produce more CO2. This can involve meal planning and prep, making shopping lists before heading to the grocery store, and transitioning to a more natural and plant-based diet. It can also help to your own packaging to the store with you, whether this means reusable shopping bags or food containers. However, it is important to note that not everyone has the same access to healthy and organic foods, especially because they tend to be more expensive.
CO2 is also produced by kitchen appliances. If possible, try to make foods that don’t require an oven to make, and instead use a stovetop or microwave. All of these appliances emit CO2, but the latter two emit significantly less.
You can also reduce your carbon footprint by saving water. This can mean taking shorter showers, handwashing your dishes and clothes, drinking tap water instead of bottled, or simply turning off the tap while brushing your teeth.
These are just a few of the many ways you can reduce your carbon footprint.
Tackling the climate crisis can feel daunting from an individual perspective. Sometimes, doing one thing doesn’t necessarily feel that impactful. However, doing one thing could result in ten of your friends doing the same. The beauty of the movement to prevent climate change is that it is grassroots, and its vast and global growth has resulted in governments around the world implementing policy in their countries to help the fight. Climate change will not be solved or prevented by the actions of one individual, but by the collective action of millions. Even if what you’re doing to reduce your carbon footprint feels like nothing in the grand scheme of things, consider how you would feel if 100 of your friends and acquaintances did the same? Climate change is scary, but it can be managed. However, this will only be possible if—as corny as it sounds—everyone bands together.
Rina Dale is a student at Skidmore College studying Political Science, Sociology, and Intergroup relations. Since high school, she has had a deep passion for social justice and hopes to use Step Up as a platform to continue speaking out for the betterment of our world. Originally from the Greater Boston Area, Rina loves to travel; she recently spent a year abroad in Israel working with refugee families to help them gain access to the rights and freedoms they deserve. When she's not studying, Rina can be found doing yoga, going on adventures with her friends, or reading.