20 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint At Home, from Lawn to Laundry
Around 60% of global emissions come from household consumption. While we can't control that so much of our society (including our home energy) runs on fossil fuels, we can have the collective power to take climate action right at home. And you don't need to invest in fancy gadgets or big renovations to get started.
First, it's important to understand where the carbon footprint of your home is coming from. Almost everything we consume takes energy to produce, transport, and get rid of. For most of us, a lot of our home emissions come from power(electricity or gas), waste, and the products we purchase for our home (like furniture).
The best way to track the progress of your sustainable home is to find out your current household emissions as a baseline. To do that, you'd add up the emissions of everything from your electricity and gas usage to the emissions of the food you buy and your home purchases (everything from Netflix to furniture). Commons can help with that. You can use Commons' footprint calculator to find out the emissions of your entire household or you as an individual.
As you use these tips to start creating a more sustainable home, you'll reduce your carbon footprint over time, build your carbon intuition, and get a better sense of the types of climate actions that make a measurable difference in your emissions.
1. Fix Leaky Faucets, Windows, and Doors
Leaky faucets, poorly insulated windows, and clogged furnaces and air conditioners waste energy and money. Find the drafts and drips in your home and fix them one by one. This is especially important in the hottest and coldest months.
2. Update Lighting and Appliances
From low-flow showerheads, faucets, and toilets to energy-efficient washing machines, lighting, and refrigerators, there’s a greener option for nearly every item in your home. As you consider replacing old appliances, phase in Energy Star-certified alternatives whenever you can.
3. Update Your Power Strips
An average American could improve their carbon footprint by 2% annually (an impact equal to 18 trees) and save $165 per household just by unplugging devices that are not in use. A good power strip can help with this.
Read More: 4 of the Best Smart Plugs and Power Strips->
4. Switch to Renewable Energy
Whether you live in a house, apartment, or condo, whether you rent or own, you can opt for green electricity no matter where you live in the U.S.
If you own your home, installing solar panels is an investment that can save you money and emissions in the long run. Tax credits and incentives can reduce their cost substantially, so research what’s available where you live.
If you rent or can’t afford solar or geothermal, there are still ways to power your home with renewables. Check to see if consumer choice programs are available in your state and opt-in to green utilities through your current provider.
5. Install a Heat Pump
A heat pump replaces your A/C and heater — two major energy-sucking appliances. By installing a heat pump, you can save 1-7 metric tons of carbon emissions annually. For reference, a US to Europe international flight adds 1 metric ton to your carbon footprint, and going vegan reduces your carbon footprint by 1 metric ton.
6. Use Less Gas
Recent studies show that gas stoves can release emissions into your home, even when they're off. It's ideal to switch to an electric stove, but even if you can't, there are steps you can take: ventilate your kitchen when cooking, use air fryers, switch to smaller electric appliances like electric kettles and toaster ovens.
7. Reduce Indoor Pollution
Gas stoves aren't the only sources of indoor pollution. Find other common sources and take action to reduce them for the health of you, your family, and the Earth.
8. Reduce Food Waste
Nearly half of the U.S. annual food waste happens right in our own kitchens. When we waste food, the resources (and emissions) used to create it also go to waste, not to mention the hard work of the farmers and food producers.
To stop food waste before it starts, try to plan your weekly meals before heading to the store and only buy what you’ll use. Use perishable products the first few days after purchase since you’ll be less likely to eat them when they’re limp or browning. Finally, whatever food you can't eat, compost! It's easier than you think.
Read more: 6 Zero-waste Cookbooks -->
9. Eat More Plants
Farm processes and land use factors account for 80% of most food emissions. Animal products–particularly beef, lamb, and dairy–amass much higher footprints than plant products. Swap out more meat meals (especially red meat) for plants.
Read more: Where Do You Get Your Protein? -->
10. Avoid Single-Use Plastics
Up to 50% of the plastic we produce worldwide each year is single-use. Used just a few minutes for a take-out order or beachside drink, these items can persist in our environment for generations. There are a few ways to avoid shopping for single-use plastics.
If you can, shop at farmers' markets where there's much less plastic around each item of food. When you eat out, bring a sustainable alternative for your leftovers. When you're shopping for items for your kitchen or bathroom, look for refill shops or brands that sell refillable options so you can cut down on overall plastic use.
11. Borrow Before You Buy
One of the most important ways to reduce your home footprint is to buy less stuff. Before you invest in tools, decor, or even appliances, borrowing may be a better bet. Borrowing is more sustainable because it reduces demand for new production, conserving materials and energy.
12. Plant Shade Trees
As summers get hotter and hotter, it's becoming harder and more energy-intensive to cool our homes. Shade trees can cool our homes by several degrees and contribute to the overall cooling and ecosystems in our neighborhoods.
13. Plant Native Plants
Native plants are equipped to handle our local habitats. They require less care, attract a diverse community of wildlife, and boost the climate resilience and health of our soil. Planting native will not only lower your water bill, but it has the power to regenerate your soil.
14. Capture Rain Water
Rainwater is a valuable resource, especially amidst recurring droughts in drier parts of the world. You can start capturing and reusing rain from storms and showers with rain barrels, rain gardens, or even green roofs.
15. Shop Secondhand
From furniture to home appliances, choosing secondhand is a great way to support the circular economy and lower the emissions of your home. If you find secondhand shopping a bit daunting, don't worry. We have a great guide to get you started.
Read more: Commons' Guide to Secondhand Shopping ->
16. Choose Sustainable Seasonal Decor
Seasonal decor can be a lot of fun! But because it's temporary, it's often made from cheap materials like plastic, which is largely not recyclable. So, how can you indulge in the season without going overboard on wasteful decor? Try natural decor that can be composted, shopping secondhand, or even doing seasonal decor swaps with friends.
17. Audit Your Subscriptions
The average American spends around $200 monthly on 12 subscriptions. For Commons users, digital memberships like Spotify, Apple, Netflix, and Hulu are our top recurring purchases. Whether it's Netflix, grocery delivery, or monthly lifestyle boxes, it's a good idea to do a couple of subscription audits per year and make sure you're still using the ones you're purchasing.
18. Drive Less
Your driveway might be home to one of your biggest household sources of emissions: your car. Whenever possible, opt to take public transit instead. When you have to take the car, try some fuel-efficient driving habits to cut down on gas. Or, if you can, invest in an electric car.
Read more: Should I Buy an Electric Car? ->
19. Eco-Friendly Laundry
The average American family does 300 loads of laundry each year, consuming 12,000 gallons of water and emitting (750 kg of CO2e). Eco-friendly laundry habits are easy, cheap, and can go a long way to lowering your carbon footprint.
Read More: Commons' Guide to Eco-Friendly Laundry ->
Track Your Progress
As you make your way through this checklist, you'll likely lower your energy bill, cut down on waste, and reduce the amount you spend on random odds and ends. As you spend more sustainably, Commons can help you track your progress! Join tens of thousands of people taking action to spend sustainably and make measurable progress on climate change.