Learning Center
How Can I Reduce My Carbon Footprint at Home?

If you’ve ever had a messy room, you know that being disorganized can make it difficult to do things in a quick and easy – or efficient – way. The extra time you have to take to find the things you need can make you late for school or other activities, which means that you might not be at your best when you try to do your schoolwork or other tasks. Also – being in a messy room just doesn’t feel very good. (It sometimes doesn’t smell very good, either!) Cluttered rooms feel hotter and less comfortable, which can make it difficult to sleep very well. In a way, the environment is similar. When we release pollutants by burning fossil fuels for electricity or transportation and create trash that ends up in the ocean and landfills, the environment becomes messy, and nature stops functioning as well as it would if the air was cleaner and if there wasn’t trash everywhere.

When fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, and natural gas) are burned, greenhouse gasses are released into the atmosphere. The most common greenhouse gasses are carbon dioxide (CO2), chlorofluorocarbons, methane, and nitrous oxide. Greenhouse gasses trap the heat of the sun and cause the climate to rise, which causes the weather throughout the world to change. This means that, in some places, hurricanes become bigger and more dangerous. Some regions get hotter and less habitable for the native plants and animals (and humans, too). Trash that is left in the oceans and landfills harms animals that get caught in plastic containers and bags, and some animals are even killed when they accidentally eat bits of debris. So, it is incredibly important to keep our environment clean. And even though it might seem like a small contribution, cleaning up your own room can help reduce your carbon footprint!

But… what’s a carbon footprint, anyway? Everyone has a carbon footprint. It’s the volume of greenhouse gas emissions we are individually responsible for releasing when we do everyday things. For example, a person who walks to work, who uses a ceiling fan instead of air conditioning, and who doesn’t eat meat has a smaller carbon footprint than a person who drives to work, who keeps the air conditioning on all the time, and who eats meat every day. This is because driving releases CO2 (a greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere, air conditioning uses a lot more electricity than a ceiling fan, and producing meat causes a lot of environmental pollution. There are lots of things you can do to keep your carbon footprint small, and you can start by tidying up and organizing your room. However, it’s important to do it the right way.

How You Can Reduce Your Carbon Footprint and Help Keep the Environment Clean

It’s true – if you have a messy room, you can help reduce your carbon footprint by cleaning it up. But not by simply throwing things away. This doesn’t mean that you have to keep a bunch of stuff you don’t want or need, but you have to manage your things in an environmentally responsible way. When you try to get your room clean fast, you might be tempted to get a garbage bag and just start stuffing your old and unwanted things into the trash. This only contributes to the junk in landfills and oceans. Instead, sort through your things so you can see exactly what you have – some things might be useful! However, if you decide to get rid of certain things, you can do it in a way that you don’t pollute the environment in the process. Here’s how to start.

First, go through your possessions and start organizing. You might find items that you thought you lost or threw away. (It’s almost like shopping!) Create spaces for different items based upon category – when you’re sorting through your clothes, make separate sections for shirts, pants, jackets, et cetera. Find things that you can reuse or donate. Sort through your clothes and separate the ones that are in good enough condition to sell to a consignment shop, or give to clothing programs like Goodwill, the Salvation Army, Rescue Mission Thrift Stores, and the American Red Cross. If some of your clothes are torn or worn out and you’re interested in crafts or sewing, you might transform them into something else, like a headband, scarf, or wristband. (If you’re more ambitious, try a backpack, pillow, or quilt!) If you have old digital items – like hard copies of video games or electronics – that you don’t want and can’t sell, find out how you can recycle electronic waste safely. Make sure you don’t throw away old batteries, particularly rechargeable ones from smartphones or laptops. Contact your local hazardous waste facility to find out how to dispose of batteries in your state.

Can staying neat and organized help the environment?

It sure can! Keeping your things organized helps you make sure your possessions are properly cared for, so you don’t need to replace them as often. Also, staying tidy helps you with the three main principles of reducing your carbon footprint: Reduce, reuse, recycle.

Reduce. It’s important to keep your possessions in good condition. Make sure your clothes are cleaned properly and put away, either folded or hung in your closet. This makes them less likely to get ripped and need replacement. This helps reduce your carbon footprint because manufacturing clothing is highly damaging to the environment. The dyes that are used to color clothes pollute waterways, and manufacturing man-made textiles like polyester releases three times the amount of CO2 into the environment as processing cotton. If you aren’t buying new clothes often, you aren’t contributing to the garment manufacturing industry’s environmental damage. You are therefore reducing your consumption.

Reuse. Reusing items – like converting old packaging or clothes into useful items like storage containers and DIY crafts – also helps you reduce your carbon footprint. This is because you aren’t simply throwing things into the garbage where it will end up in a landfill. You’re creating something new that has value. Even if you reuse something once or twice, it can still make a big difference to the environment. Every time you reuse a bottle, bag, or container, you’re reducing the amount that is being manufactured, and you’re contributing less waste.

Recycle. When you can’t find a use for something anymore and want to get it out of your house, you can recycle it. Recycling is turning something that you don’t want into something else. The following items can be recycled: Metals (steel and aluminum), Paper, Glass, Plastics, Rubber, Textiles.

You can find specific recycling centers in your region that handle different materials, some of which pay for higher-value materials like glass and metals. If your municipality has curbside recycling, you can put recyclable materials into the provided bin, and it will be picked up.

Image for How Can I Reduce My Carbon Footprint at Home?

What else can I do to reduce my carbon footprint?

If your room is already neat and clean, you can still lower your carbon footprint! Make sure you keep your room tidy by reducing, reusing, and recycling your things, but here are a few other things you can do:

  • Always turn off lights, electronics, and other electrical appliances when they aren’t being used. Certain devices – like video game consoles – still use electricity even when they aren’t turned on, so you might want to unplug them.
  • Try to walk or ride a bike, rather than drive. Check out the public transportation options, too.
  • Turn off the water while you brush your teeth. In the shower, turn off the water while you lather up, and turn it on again to rinse.
  • Buy most of your clothes at thrift stores. When you shop at thrift stores, you’re reusing clothes rather than encouraging the manufacturing of new ones, which can harm the environment.
  • Try not to buy items that have a lot of packaging. In the grocery store, buy the fruits and vegetables that aren’t pre-packaged, and bring your own grocery bags. This reduces waste.

If you want to help the Earth filter out harmful greenhouse gasses, think about planting trees! Forests are nature’s best cleaners – they filter pollution from the air, soil, and water. They also provide the materials we need for medicines and other important products.

Forest Founders helps different organizations protect global forests by preventing the removal of trees and planting new ones. Rescuing the world’s forests can help you reduce your carbon footprint – visit Forest Founders’ information page to learn more about how you can participate.