As New Yorkers, we are sometimes oblivious to the lifestyles we live. New York is a hub for consumerism; we are constantly bombarded by advertisements with underlying messages telling us the more we consume the happier we will be. New York City is the largest city in the United States with roughly 8 million people; although you would think with that many people we would be emitting massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, we have a relatively small carbon footprint compared to other major cities. A carbon footprint is defined as “the amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds emitted due to the consumption of fossil fuels by a particular person, group, etc.”. There are a variety of factors that contribute to an individual’s carbon footprint including: the products you purchase, method of transportation, where you live, etc. Climate change is a scary topic, but there are many simple things you can do every day to help reduce your footprint.
- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
The three R’s, we’ve all heard them before, but how many of us actively do them? You can reduce your amount of plastic waste by purchasing reusable containers. For example, I know many of us Pace students visit Starbucks on a daily basis; that’s a large amount of plastic cups being thrown out every day. A way to reduce this is to purchase a reusable cup from Starbucks and to reuse it every day instead of getting a disposable cup for every order. And lastly, recycle every chance you get; Pace has recycling bins for plastic and paper on every floor, let’s make use of them.
- Eat Less Animal Products
You might be thinking, what does this have to do with climate change? Quite a lot actually. Consuming animal products contributes to about 18% of greenhouse gas emissions. Livestock contributes to about 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide being released worldwide every year. A way to reduce this number is to reduce your consumption of animal products and to purchase your groceries locally.
- Change Your Method of Transportation
Transportation also plays a major role, being responsible for 13% of all greenhouse emissions. If possible, walk or bike to your destination, use public transportation, or carpool/share a cab when riding in cars. Almost every major black car service like Uber and Gett both offer car-sharing services that not only reduce your carbon footprint, but also significantly lower the cost of your ride.
- If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It
Living in a big city, we are constantly being told to buy, buy, buy. We see advertisements on subway cars, billboards, on the radio, and even by merchants yelling “Chanel, Gucci, Prada!” as we’re walking down Canal Street. Even if we pay no attention to them, subconsciously we are processing it all. Advertisements subliminally tell us that the more you buy the happier/more fulfilled you’ll be. Being from the South, I’ve heard the phrase “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” 100 times, but it’s stuck with me. Why purchase a new iPhone, for example, when the one you have is in perfect condition? You’re not only saving your own money, but saving the planet.
- Reduce Energy Use
Another simple way to reduce your carbon emissions is to reduce the amount of energy you use. You can do so by unplugging chargers and other electronics when they’re not being used, purchasing energy efficient appliances and turning off the lights when you’re not in the room. So simple yet so effective.
- Contact Your Representatives
Lastly, pay attention to what’s happening in your communities. Since Donald Trump has been president, he has been trying to move forward with plans to defund the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), go forward with the Dakota Pipeline, remove us from the Paris Climate Agreement and begin drilling for oil in the United States. Trump has made it clear that he doesn’t believe in climate change despite the almost unanimous agreement within the scientific community that human activity is the main factor contributing to climate change. A way to stop Trump and his cabinet from moving forward with damaging policy change is to get in contact with your representatives and voice your opinions. To find out who your representatives are and how to contact them, visit: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials
Find out what your carbon footprint is here: http://www.footprintnetwork.org/resources/footprint-calculator/