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After using the Environmental Protection Agency’s Carbon Footprint Calculator, I found that my family of 5 people uses 68,050 lbs of CO2 emissions per year compared to the 78,085 lbs of CO2 emissions that an average family of 5 in my zip code area uses per year. Though the impact my family makes on the environment is below average compared to our counterparts, there are an abundance of ways we can reduce our carbon footprint.
One way is to use less artificial methods of heating and cooling in our household.
For example, we can turn down or lower the intensity of the heating thermostat in cold seasons, and instead of using the air conditioning during the spring or summertime, we can open the windows for a cool breeze. In terms of lighting, we can open the blinds and utilize the natural sunlight during the day time, and after the sun sets, we can use Energy Star light bulbs, which are designed to utilize energy more efficiently than their counterparts and operate in line with the standards of the US Environmental Protection Agency.
For laundry, we can hand wash our clothes in cold water instead of using the washing machine, and for drying, we can hang our clothes outside on a rack instead of using the energy-inefficient dryer. Whenever we need to get our cars washed, we can hose the cars down ourselves instead of getting them serviced at a car wash business. Moreover, we can use public transportation; in Portland, Oregon where my family lives, there are TriMet bus lines and train lines that run throughout the city.
Coupled with the free neighborhood shuttle, my family and I can surely reduce our carbon footprint by taking advantage of the public transportation in the city. In addition, my family can make a concerted effort to carpool more, as well as unplug our devices when they’re at full battery so that we do not needlessly waste electricity that others can put to better use.
Eating less meat, and perhaps transitioning to a vegetarian or vegan diet, would greatly help the environment as well. Though this may be a hard change to make, my family can start by simply reducing the amount of meat we buy and utilize in our dishes. From there, we can lessen more and more meat consumption until it is minimal. Eating locally grown foods will also reduce the need for trucks and other large vehicles to transport produce from other regions and states, thus overall lessening our carbon footprint. There are weekly “Farmers’ Markets” scattered around Portland every Saturday, and I plan to encourage my mother to get her groceries from there regularly from now on. Whenever we go grocery shopping, we could use a reusable bag so that we lessen the demand for plastic ones; even if we forget to bring the reusable bag, we could request that the cashier put the items directly back in our cart. Further, the leftover food items we do not consume can go into the compost instead of the trash. Lessening the use of plastic also extends to plastic straws, plastic plates, and plastic cups. There are lots of convenient alternatives such as paper plates and cups that are environmentally friendly, as well as metal straws that you can reuse again and again. Finally, we could lessen the carbon footprint of other families by getting politically active and advocating for the environment. This can make a significant difference in communities, and perhaps even statewide and nationwide.
In 2006, China emitted 6017.69 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide, while the United States emitted 5902.75 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide. These two were the highest emitters worldwide that year, and part of the reason for this may be because of industrialization and technology. Both China and the United States depend on factories to produce steel, clothing, and other vital products, which in turn creates carbon dioxide as a byproduct. Heavy reliance on such factories contributes significantly to the carbon footprint they create year to year. In addition, another factor could be the size of the populations in both countries. Deforestation is a common practice in order to make more space for rapidly growing communities, which also creates carbon dioxide as a byproduct because of the heavy decomposition and burning involved in the process of deforestation. Furthermore, simply housing more people in both China and the United States would create larger carbon footprints for the countries overall. As of right now, both countries are in the Paris Agreement. Though President Trump announced in 2017 that he intended to remove and withdraw the United States from the Agreement, the withdrawal process cannot commence until November 4, 2020. While China’s and the United States’ current participation in the Paris Agreement may be good for public perception and good in name, both countries should make more concerted efforts to practice what they preach. China and the United States should also note that reducing carbon emissions not only helps the global environment, but also the environment of their local communities. Urban cities in both countries such as Beijing, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Bakersfield, and Houston experience an unhealthy amount of smog, lowering the health outcomes of the communities residing there overall. If either country feels the slightest duty to care for its own citizens, it should start by its lowering carbon emissions.
In contrast to China and the United States, the two countries with the lowest carbon emissions are Haiti (1.79 million metric tonnes) and Guam (1.89 million metric tonnes). The two countries with the highest carbon emissions per capita are Gibraltar (160.22 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide) and Qatar (61.19 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide); the two countries with the least carbon emissions per capita are Democratic Republic of the Congo (0.04 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide) and Ethiopia (0.07 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide). I think that the United States should use the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia as the standard; we should look to them to see what they are doing in leaving as little of a carbon footprint as possible nationwide. For example, Ethiopia made a pledge to lower its carbon emissions from 150 megatonnes to 145 megatonnes by the year 2030, and thus far they have been seeing the fruits of their efforts. This is especially commendable considering the fact that Ethiopia is still a growing country, and could have easily brushed off the notion of environmentally friendly policies for the sake of developing its infrastructure and technology at the fastest rate possible.
Perhaps countries with such large carbon footprints should make serious and bold efforts to focus on renewable energy. Though the United States does this in name, global warming is not taken seriously by all lawmakers around the nation as it should be. Completing this activity has given me a quantitative idea of how much impact other countries, my country, and I have on the environment. While this information was overwhelming at first, I also learned the little ways I myself can cut back on carbon emissions; if everyone makes an effort to lessen their carbon footprint everyday – no matter how little – we can truly make a difference for our future generations.
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