How to reduce your carbon footprint? One step at a time.

Margaux Masson-Forsythe
8 min readMay 17, 2021


Climate change isn’t a fight we can win by only changing our daily habits. Big fossil fuel corporations and systemic issues are the main problem — but why not all try to do some small changes in our everyday life? Maybe it won’t make life that much harder and might actually improve it! Spoiler alert, it might also make you save a lot of money!


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  • Use Ecosia as a search engine: “Your searches plant trees in some of the harshest places on Earth. […] We plant trees where they’re needed most. Our trees benefit people, the environment, and local economies.”
  • Turn on Dark Reader mode. Using Dark mode can save your device’s battery life but, unfortunately, this is not always the case.
  • Adjust power settings on your devices (e.g brightness, sleep mode).
  • Store your data on an external drive instead of the Cloud.
  • Delete old emails, messages — close some tabs.
  • Turn AutoPlay off.
  • Watch videos in low resolution: “In 2018 alone, video streaming has amounted to the equivalent of 300 million tons of carbon emissions. This amount is equal to the total yearly carbon emissions of the country of Spain. […] Online streaming is responsible for one percent of global CO2 emissions. This is equal to 20 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions caused by digital technologies.” (source).

You can take a look at Greenpeace’s Clicking Green report about the energy use statistics of data centers if you want to learn more about the ecological impact of music/audio/video streaming, social media, messaging, search, blogs, e-commerce, and more. In this report, they graded a lot of companies on their sustainable commitment — for example, YouTube got a final grade A while Netflix , HBO and Spotify only got a D, and Hulu got an F.

Greenpeace’s Clicking Green report


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  • If you are in the US, you can switch your bank to Aspiration: “There's a good chance your bank is using your money to fund oil projects that destroy the climate. Put your money where your values are.” “Deposits won’t fund fossil fuel exploration or production”.

At Home

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  • Replace bulbs with LED bulbs and use Connected Outlets Switches and Plugs (the ones I use) to be sure to turn off chargers, monitors, TVs, etc when they are not being used. You can schedule all outlets to turn off at 1 AM every night in case you forget to do it (I do).
  • Turn the heater down by 1 degree or get a smart thermostat.
  • Clean your AC/heater filter regularly.
  • When possible, cool off your room/house/apartment with natural airflow (leave windows open when it’s cooler outside) instead of using the AC.
  • Recycle! ♻️ If possible, start your own compost. You don’t need to live in a house or have a backyard.
  • Wash your clothes less often and use cold water.
  • When buying new appliances, choose an energy-efficient one — Energy Star appliances for example.
  • Use natural cleaning products like white vinegar, baking soda, tea tree mixed with water (some examples for bathroom — there are a lot more articles/blogs you can find about this topic and so just pick the ones you prefer!) and use a re-usable cloth to clean instead of single-use wipes. With this, you will reduce chemicals and plastic use, and will reduce waste as well.


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What to use in an eco-friendly bathroom:

  • Soaps/shampoo bars
  • Menstrual cup
  • Bamboo toothbrush
  • Reusable pieces of cotton or towel for makeup removal
  • Bio-degradable floss
  • Take shorter showers
  • Safety razor

All these products last longer and will make you save money while reducing plastic use.

Switch to Renewable Energy

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There are several options (for renters and homeowners!) to switch to solar energy:

  • Community solar: Community solar projects are large solar systems and can be located on buildings or in an undeveloped area. This solution makes solar energy available to renters, homeowners whose house is not suitable for solar panels, people living in apartments, etc.

For example, Arcadia partners with wind and solar farms around the US to make it easy and affordable to switch to renewable energy.

  • Residential Solar: Install Solar panels on the roof of your house (I want to emphasize that this option is not available for most people) through local solar panel companies or others. If installing solar panels on your roof is too expensive and you can’t spend ~$25K, the solution that Blue Raven is offering is very interesting for example, where there is no up-front cost for the installation of the solar panels and the solar loan is at a fixed rate (unlike power bills).

Let’s talk about the US federal solar tax credit for the case of residential solar. The Federal solar energy tax credit is a tax credit of 26% that is available if you decide to install a solar system. Knowing that Congress has extended the tax credit of 26% for two years (it was about to expire at the end of 2020). So for example, if you install solar panels on your roof for a total of $24,000, you will get $6,240 off your income taxes for the year when you install the solar panels.

  • Low-income residential solar: Some local non-profit offers to low-income households, zero-interest loans (like SeedsForSol in Oregon).
  • Charge your phone with solar energy: This startup called GroupHug Solar makes beautiful window solar chargers!

Calculate and offset your carbon footprint

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There are several tools online that help you calculate your carbon footprint according to your electricity consumption, car usage, diet, etc. Here are some examples:,,

Once you know your carbon footprint, you can “offset” it by donating to renewable energy non-profits (local is better), but most importantly you need to try to reduce your carbon footprint one step at a time :)

Another interesting approach, called “Share of wealth”, encourages people with more income to share their money with low-income households. A great example of this is the SeedsForTheSol’s program “Sun Buddy”: “Sun Buddies provide local interest-free loans to community members to cover much of the upfront cost of installing PV solar systems on their homes.”

“You can help others put up solar panels — at no cost to you”

Food / Beverages

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  • Try Vegan/Vegetarian diets, it is delicious and so much better for your health too! There are many recipes online and it’s pretty easy to make the change, and will also make you save a lot of money. It does not have to be a strict diet, but reducing the consumption of meat is good for the planet and good for you, so give it a try!

Even reducing the amount of meat you eat is a huge step, and according to this episode of How to Save a Planet, not eating beef is the most important thing to start with 🐮

  • Buy a beautiful reusable water bottle and reusable coffee cup! ☕️ ⛲️
  • Do your groceries locally as much as possible (farmers market!)
  • Plan your meals for the week (avoid waste).


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  • Instead of buying new clothes, check out the thrift stores around you, they are much cheaper and more sustainable.
  • Give things you don’t use anymore to thrift stores.
  • Keep your devices longer: Manufacturing one smartphone sends 125 lbs of CO2 into the atmosphere. According to the study from researchers at McMaster University published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, ICT carbon footprint should exceed 14% of the total carbon footprint by 2040, which is half as large as the carbon impact of the entire transportation industry. 85% of a smartphone’s emissions impact comes from production: “building a new smartphone represents 85% to 95% of the device’s total CO2 emissions for two years. That means buying one new phone takes as much energy as recharging and operating a smartphone for an entire decade.” — source
  • Buy fewer things 💸 Treat yourself with a good meal at a local restaurant instead 🥘 🍝🌮


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  • When traveling by plane, consider buying a direct flight (way less CO2 emissions).
  • Prioritize using public transportation when possible. For example, France banned domestic flights when the trip can be done by train (article). 🚂
  • Bike more 🚲 walk more 🚶‍♀️
  • Use an electric car if it is an option.
  • When buying a new car, consider buying an electric car (there are a lot of used electric cars) and/or favor a smaller car than a truck, it consumes less energy.

Sustainable presents

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You can choose to give sustainable presents (some of those are post-covid) to your friends and family like a plant, a gift card for a local restaurant, an e-book, cooking spices, a concert ticket, a solar charger, a bike or bike’s accessories, an online class, a membership to a gym, a spa/massage coupon, a photoshoot session, or you can even use your skills to make something (like a portfolio website if you like coding)!

Educate Yourself

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Must read:


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Want to do more?

  • Get involved in a local group, for example, find the local Sunrise hub
  • Donate to sustainable projects
  • Grow your own food either at a community garden or at home
  • Educate people around you
  • Comment with links to your favorite books, articles, movies, podcasts, etc!