Our day-to-day activities create pollution. That pollution is often greenhouse gas (GHG) or a by-product of burning carbon-based materials. Common carbon-based (CO2) materials include fossil fuels: coal, oil, and natural gas. Here are 10 human activities that emit excess greenhouse gases, a huge factor in climate change.
1) Transportation (Cars & Planes)
Most transportation around the world uses gasoline. According to the EPA.gov, transportation causes about 27% of global emissions. Planes, trains, and cars emit fumes from gasoline usage that negatively impact our air quality, atmosphere, and overall health. If you are interested in reducing your carbon footprint, changing your transportation habits are on way to start.
2) Heating & Air Conditioning
Fossil fuels power 60% of the U.S.’s electricity. Mostly natural gas & coal.
- COAL: mined from the earth, burned in a boiler, creates steam, steam flows into a turbine and generates electricity
- NATURAL GAS: fracking to get gas, burn the gas to create heat, heat expands and spins a turbine generating electricity
Find more info at the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
What industries, you ask?
The worst greenhouse gas emitting industries are …
PETROLEUM, CHEMICAL, METAL, CEMENT, PAPER
The factories burn tons of carbon-emitting materials to create these products for you. Plastic is just one example of a chemical industry that makes massive carbon waste.
How does this impact me? If you use plastic water bottles instead of reusable containers, the need for chemical plants to keep cranking out single-use plastic continues. If you don’t print using double-sided paper, you will consume 2x as much paper as you need, thus the need for the paper factor to keep manufacturing in overdrive.
Let me count the ways agriculture contributes to climate change.
- Food production & transportation release CO2
- Clearing land of trees reduces carbon absorption
- Manure from farmed animals emits LOTS of Methane gas
- Fertilizers are made of nitrogen and emit Nitrous Oxide
What can we do? Decrease food waste, eat less meat, and shop locally – all ways to decrease our carbon footprint created by agriculture. For example, how can consuming tomatoes from Spain in the U.S. not negatively impact our environment?
“In any given week, around 840 million washing machines soak, tumble, and spin billions of garments and textiles in homes and businesses around the world.” from Nat Geo’s article Laundry: lightening the load.
The heat from the drier comes from electricity which likely comes from fossil fuel. Electricity is needed to heat the water, increasing kilowatts per hour used. Lastly, tons of chemicals in detergents/softeners contaminate the water on the way out. The most significant way to help? Wash your clothes in cold water.
6) Online Shopping
When you buy something online, you are increasing your carbon footprint. Here’s how – transportation to deliver the package, pollution from the paper and plastic packaging (i.e., cardboard boxes and plastic bubble wrap), and the footprint to manufacture the item you buy.
Try your best not to buy just 1 item when shopping online. Try to condense your purchases and opt for “later” arrival dates to ship all items together when you can. Don’t get me started on the returns.
7) Big Houses
Smaller houses use less energy. Household energy consumption for those who own homes is more than that of apartment dwellers. Does this mean you should move? No. However, it does mean you’re using more energy than your neighbors living in smaller spaces. It might be a good idea to brainstorm ways to reduce your impact by using more reusables, getting an energy audit for your home, and becoming educated about your overall energy consumption and waste output.
The more you send to a landfill, the more emissions you will produce (both methane gas and carbon dioxide). Recycling properly, buying products with less packaging, and composting are all ways to reduce what you send to the landfill. From the EPA.gov, “Municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States.” How many landfills are in the U.S.? 2,000. Plus, the average American throws away 4.4 lbs of trash PER DAY. According to this article about Landfills in the U.S., California, and Texas have the most landfills.
9) Fast Fashion
Fast fashion is cheap clothing of poor quality that is mass-produced via unethical practices. It’s so cheap that most people do not mind if it fades, tears, or rips after a few wears. Fast fashion promotes quantity over quality of clothing. These clothes are MADE FROM PLASTIC fibers such as nylon, polyester, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and rayon. All of these fabrics come from fossil fuels. Also, plastic fabric fibers leech toxic chemicals into landfills, take forever and ever to biodegrade, and encourage the violation of human rights (poor working conditions and low wages). Stay away of these brands: Zara, Old Navy, Shein, H&M, Forever 21, Victoria’s Secret, Abercrombie & Fitch, Top Shop, and more. Investing in sustainable clothing has undeniable benefits. Info gathered from this EcoWatch.com article.
10) Land Use & Forestry
Forests naturally sequester (absorb) CO2. We cut down forests for carbon-producing activities. Not a good combo. We should plant two trees for every tree we cut down, IMO. Deforestation is not something we think about daily, but quite frankly, we should be. The good news? Forestry is a renewable energy source due to trees’ ability to regenerate within a “reasonable” amount of time. It’s a matter of just doing it.
Hopefully, this blog article posts give you a little more insight into how you may be contributing to the climate crisis via greenhouse gas emissions. Stay tuned for our next article, which will give you more ideas on How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint.