mnmlist: reduce your footprint

In celebration of the Copenhagen conference on climate change, I thought I’d share some ideas in minimalism that can help you reduce your personal carbon footprint.

As I’ve said before, minimalism is a great way to step more lightly upon this earth. Consuming less is more important than buying green — though I’d encourage you to do both.

So let’s get straight to the tips:

1. Eat less. Wrote about this recently. Less food consumed means less resources used up and pollution used to create the food and get it to you.

2. Eat less meat. Worldwide, beef production contributes more to climate change than the entire transportation sector. Pork and chicken are also big contributors to pollution and carbon emissions, compared to plants.

3. Eat locally. Transporting food from where it’s grown or raised to where it’s processed and packaged, to your supermarket, has a high environmental cost. Eating locally not only greatly reduces that transportation cost but it supports local farmers instead of corporations. Look for local foods, in season, at farmer’s markets near you, or at your supermarket or local health food store, or get involved with a CSA.

4. Drive less. Work from home or telecommute as much as possible. Combine errands to make fewer trips. Move to a place near work and all the things you need. Walk or bike more, or use public transit. It takes time to reduce your driving, but if you’re conscious about it, you can make changes a little at a time. Also, you’ll get healthier by walking or biking instead of driving.

5. Travel less. Airplane flights are a huge contributor to climate change. Travel less by doing teleconferences, taking vacations close to home, and rethinking your travel needs. I’ve traveled a couple times in the last couple of years, but before that it had been about 7 years without a flight.

6. Buy less. Buying a lot of things is wasteful. Each item requires a lot of resources and contributes hugely to climate change (see the True Cost of Stuff). So cut back on how much you buy. See if you can borrow an item, check out a book from a library, make what you have last longer, find innovative ways to repurpose what you already have or make an item yourself, or just do without. Many times you’ll realize an item wasn’t a necessary purchase and you don’t miss it in your life.

7. Buy used. This avoids buying a new item and all the resources that go into creating and transporting it. It extends the life of something already bought. Look in thrift shops, consignment shops, used bookstores, eBay and Freecycle. Often you’ll find some really cool used stuff.

8. Have a smaller home. Obviously not a change you’re going to make this week, but something you can think about for the long term. A smaller home takes fewer resources to create, and requires less power, water, heat, and thus fewer emissions. If you get rid of a lot of your stuff, and rethink your needs, you’ll realize you need less space.

9. Use less power. Even without a smaller home, there are tons of ways to reduce power. Cool and heat your home less. Turn off lights, unplug appliances, hang dry clothes more often.

10. Use less water. Don’t take long showers – get wet, turn off water, soap up, turn on water and rinse. Don’t water your lawn, and wash your car less (or get rid of the car). Wash clothes less (wear them longer). Conserve water when you wash your hands or dishes.

11. Go paperless. Many offices and even homes use tons of paper, but most of it is unnecessary. Don’t print stuff out if you can read it on the computer. File things digitally rather than in folders. Get bills and other documents sent electronically or online rather than via mail. Stop catalogs from being mailed to you. Read newspapers and magazines online rather than buying them. Stop sending faxes for goodness sake.

12. Go vegan. Not a completely necessary step, but one I recommend. Vegan food, contrary to what most people think, can be delicious and satisfying, and it’s often healthier (less saturated fats, fewer calories, for example). Most especially, eating no meat or dairy or eggs means withdrawal from industries that are horrible for the environment, and horribly cruel to animals.