Reducing your carbon footprint can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Understanding the carbon reduction impact of your personal actions – in real numbers – helps. There are some things you can do that make a sizable dent, and some things that matter way less. We’re here to help you sort it out!
The average U.S. household’s carbon footprint is 48 metric tons CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalents) per year. To mitigate this much carbon, you’d need to plant 800 trees and let them grow for 10 years!
As one of the wealthiest and highest-emissions countries in the world, we have a big opportunity to lessen our impact on the planet. Everyday decisions like powering homes and driving cards represent almost 40% of our country’s annual carbon emissions.
Here are the top ten changes you can make to reduce your personal impact on the climate.
1. Install rooftop solar panels
Estimated annual household carbon reduction: 5.3 metric tons for the average five kilowatt residential system [Source]
Rooftop solar produces zero carbon emissions and can save you hundreds annually once it’s installed and paid for. That’s because the electricity your panels provide is completely free. Even on cloudy days, solar panels generate clean, renewable energy to power your home — and all the electric appliances within it. However, even though solar panels have a large impact on reducing carbon emissions, we strongly recommend installing a heat pump first. Here’s our philosophy on why.
2. Buy an electric vehicle (EV)
Estimated annual household carbon reduction: 3.4 metric tons [Source]
An electric vehicle might be a great investment, especially if you live in an area with limited public transportation options. On average, switching to an EV can reduce your carbon footprint from driving by nearly 80%. Installing an EV charger at home makes upkeep easy. It allows you to wake up with a full tank of “gas” every morning. And, at-home charging is usually only about a third of the cost of charging at commercial EV stations. Intrigued? Find a full rundown on at-home EV charging in our guide, EV Charging 101.
3. Upgrade to a heat pump
Estimated annual household carbon reduction: 3 metric tons [Source]
Replacing your furnace and central air conditioning with a heat pump is the most energy-efficient method of keeping your home cozy in the winter and cool in the summer. Heat pumps – also referred to as mini-split heat pumps – are 300% more efficient than furnaces and AC, and improve indoor air quality. They can save you thousands on your energy bills, too. Want to learn more? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Cold Climate Heat Pumps.
4. Purchase renewable energy
Estimated annual household carbon reduction: 1.4 metric tons [Source]
Switching to a renewable power plan is as easy as logging on or calling your power utility to make the switch (if available in your area). If it’s not a current option, consider joining a community solar or wind project.
5. Switch to a heat pump water heater
Estimated annual household carbon reduction: 1 metric ton [Source]
On average, heat pump water heaters can reduce carbon emissions by up to 50% compared to traditional electric resistance water heaters. Additionally, because they are two to three times more efficient, they can also help slash your utility bills by half or more. Learn more about heat pump water heaters in our Ultimate Heat Pump Water Heater Guide.
6. Weatherize your home
Estimated annual household carbon reduction: 1 metric ton [Source]
Nearly all home electrification upgrades can be made more effective by improving your home’s weatherization and existing insulation. If you haven’t explored energy efficiency upgrades yet, this is a great place to start on your path to full home electrification. Specifically, insulation slows heat loss from your home, and air sealing closes up holes and cracks, allowing for better regulation of your home’s temperatures. Homes with improved insulation and weatherization require 15% less cooling and heating – that’s a win!
7. Choose thrifted clothing instead of new
Estimated annual household carbon reduction: 0.7 metric tons [Source]
If you’re looking to benefit the planet while also boosting your wallet, consider adopting the “buy nothing new” mantra when it comes to your closet. Buying used or thrifted clothing reduces carbon emissions by decreasing demand for new production, reducing landfill waste and transportation, and promoting sustainable fashion.
8. Compost food waste
Estimated annual household carbon reduction: 0.4 metric tons [Source]
If you like saving money, preventing air pollution, keeping food waste out of landfills, and getting your hands dirty, learning how to compost is a good option. Aside from being a great way to enrich the soil your plants occupy, composting prevents your organic waste from going to the landfill where it releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
9. Partake in Meatless Mondays
Estimated annual household carbon reduction: 0.3 metric tons [Source]
Meatless Monday is a campaign to encourage people globally to reduce meat in their diet for their personal health and the health of the planet. By eating plant-based even for just one day a week, you reduce your carbon footprint and risk of heart disease, stroke, colorectal cancer, and diabetes.
10. Replace your gas stove with an induction range
Estimated annual household carbon reduction: 0.2 metric tons, when powered with renewable energy [Source]
An induction range is an energy-efficient kitchen appliance used daily, providing up to 125% energy efficiency when upgraded. Induction stoves are also healthier and safer for your family. A study published by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that an estimated 13% of current childhood asthma is caused by gas-burning stoves. Read more about induction stoves in our article, Now We’re Cooking!
By making small changes in our daily lives, we can each contribute to building a more sustainable future while relieving some of our personal climate anxiety. And, the best part is that the annual carbon savings generated by electric appliances will only be amplified as we continue to bring more renewable energy onto the electric grid. There’s never been a better time than now to take a step toward reducing your household’s carbon footprint.
Want to make a plan to get your home off of fossil fuels? Check out our free tool, Your Electrification Roadmap. It allows you to share your priorities and preferences and then uses that information to build a personalized home electrification roadmap that’s clear, intuitive, and easy to follow.
*All figures are annual carbon reduction estimates for the average U.S. household based on cited sources.