Driving to work, preparing dinner, taking a shower, using the computer - these activities are all part of an average day for most people. There’s something else they have in common, too: they all contribute to your carbon footprint. But why does your carbon footprint matter?
The term refers to the amount of greenhouse gases that any given individual is responsible for putting into the atmosphere. Those gases trap heat in the atmosphere, contributing to climate change and global warming. You increase your carbon footprint directly by using fuel, and indirectly by buying food and other products that are made in ways that create greenhouse gases.
Simple Steps to Reduce Your Impact
Doing your part to reduce your carbon footprint is as simple as making a few tweaks to the way you eat, shop and maintain your home. These changes are easy enough for every member of your family to adopt, even kids. We at Nature’s Path are always trying to increase our sustainability efforts as well – and reducing our carbon footprint plays a big part in that.
1. Cut Out Meat and Dairy
Adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet is one of the most effective ways to reduce your impact on climate change. Cows and other farmed animals generate tremendous amounts of methane. Producing their feed and maintaining their land also creates greenhouse gases. Of all greenhouse gases generated by human activity worldwide, an estimated 14.5 percent can be attributed to livestock, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Comparing meat sources, beef is the second-highest producer of greenhouse gases, after lamb. Beef creates twice the emissions of pork, four times the emissions of chicken and 13 times the emissions of vegetable proteins such as beans, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Dairy from cows is also responsible for a great deal of emissions; according to the EWG, cheese is the third-highest producer, behind lamb and beef.
2. Eat and Shop Locally
It takes a great deal of fuel to transport foods and other products to your grocery store or home. Buy directly from local farmers and merchants when you can, and try to eat only seasonal and organic food.
3. Minimize Plastics and Packaging
Plastics are made from petroleum, and lots of plastic and other packaging materials end up in landfills. Look for items that are wrapped in minimal packaging, and buy in bulk when possible.
At Nature’s Path…
We want our packaging to be as environmentally friendly as the delicious products within, so we only use Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, 100% recyclable cardboard and paperboard printed with vegetable based inks. In addition, all of our plastic is BPA free, and we steer clear of corn-based plastics that are made with genetically modified corn and are almost impossible for our consumers to compost.
4. Avoid Fast Fashion
"Fast fashion" refers to designs that are quickly produced to reflect current trends. To keep costs down, manufacturers use cheap, petroleum-based fibers such as polyester. Producing these fabrics creates greenhouse gases. And because these cheap fabrics tend to wear down quickly, many pieces end up in landfills, where they produce methane as they degrade. Look for sustainable fashions and choose timeless items you'll keep and wear for years instead.
5. Minimize Electricity Use
Electricity is the largest source of greenhouse gas, accounting for 30 percent of all U.S. emissions in 2014. Be mindful of how you use electricity at home and work. Turn off and unplug devices that aren't in use, and teach kids to do the same. Adjust your thermostat to keep your space just warm or cool enough to be comfortable, and take short showers to use minimal hot water. Use energy-efficient appliances and check that your home is properly insulated so your heated or cooled air doesn't escape.
Remember to also turn off all lights when you're not using them, and change all incandescent light bulbs to LED bulbs. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that switching all lights in the U.S. to LED could prevent 1,800 million metric tons of carbon emissions.
At Nature’s Path…
We’ve got a big goal – to be climate neutral by 2020 – which means we’ve been busy reducing our carbon footprint. That means setting yearly targets and working hard to meet them. We’re members of the Climate Smart program, which means we can get a clear picture of our energy use and then take the necessary steps to reduce our usage and costs.
6. Travel More Efficiently
Transportation is the second-largest source of emissions in the U.S., so use a personal car as little as possible. Walk, bike, use public transportation, or carpool instead of driving alone. Keep your tires properly inflated to maximize gas mileage.
At Nature’s Path…
We've implemented the Green My Ride program, which encourages our team members to use more sustainable forms of transportation. People can walk, bike, carpool, or take public transportation to earn points. These points are then converted to a dollar amount and donated to the local food bank.
Buying recycled products and recycling your own used products keeps waste out of landfills and reduces the number of new things that need to be produced using fuel. Whenever you can, reuse something before recycling it. Turn old clothes into rags, save jars and cans for storage, and repair furniture rather throwing it away.
At Nature’s Path…
All of our cardboard and paperboard is 100% recyclable. Our ECO PACs and box liners are a #2 film and are recyclable where film recycling exists. We are constantly working with our suppliers to improve our packaging.
We conduct independent, third party waste audits of our plants and home office every two years in order to confirm changes in our waste diversion. During a waste audit, we separate and weigh everything that is composted, recycled, or sent to landfills so we can see exactly how much waste we are producing – and where we have room for improvement. In 2014 and 2015, we diverted 92% of our waste from the landfills, that’s over 3,800 tons diverted from landfills per year.
Do you already practice any of these tips in your home?