Getting Serious About Climate Change: Top 5 Ways to Reduce your Carbon Footprint

While negotiations are going on in Paris, this is also a time for every citizen to get serious about how to reduce his or her own carbon footprint.
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In the run up to the Paris Climate talks, the whole world is watching to see if governments will finally get serious about cutting global carbon emissions. If they fail, we will be on the road to a climate catastrophe. It's a risk we can't afford. As President Obama said recently, "There is no Planet B."

I'll be blogging for the Huffington Post from Paris during the talks, interviewing key players every day on different facets of these complex and vital negotiations -- and the consequences of their decisions for every living creature on earth. So please stay tuned as I interview the secretary- general of the Green Climate Fund, the executive director of the US Climate Action Network, the entrepreneur who created the concept "Clean Tech," and many other experts from around the world.

But while negotiations are going on in Paris, this is also a time for every citizen to get serious about how to reduce his or her own carbon footprint. There are many great carbon calculators on line that can help you do this. I recommend choosing one in order to get a benchmark of your current carbon consumption, and then challenge yourself to reduce your footprint every year.

I tried the calculator from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, which compared my annual carbon footprint with my zipcode average. When I ran the numbers, I found my wife and I scored just below average for our zip code, at 14,700 pounds of carbon emissions each! The high number was a shock, as we considered ourselves rather green to start with.

Here's five top ways to reduce your own carbon footprint:

1. Fly less. Over half my wife and my carbon emissions came from air travel. Our business demands we travel to where are clients are. So what we have begun to do is combine our business trips, which has cut our flights by roughly one third in the past few years. In 2016, we will also start buying carbon offsets for our flights.

2. Drive less. We put less than 7,000 miles per year on our car. A few years ago we got rid of our second car entirely. The next one will be electric.

3. Go vegetarian - even a few days per week. Producing meat is incredibly energy intensive. If the planet went meatless overnight, our climate problems would be solved. It really is that simple. But it's hard to change life-long habits, so start by seeking out great vegetarian recipes and restaurants a couple of nights per week. Not only will your footprint be smaller, your footsteps may get lighter!

4. Make your home a green house. Heating and air conditioning are huge energy suckers. Insulation pays for itself quickly and thereafter saves you money. Put solar panels on your roof and see if you can switch to a local provider of green energy. We live in a drafty poorly-insulated house that's too big for the two of us. Our solution: we are selling our home and moving to an apartment. This will shrink our footprint more than anything.

5. Power Down. It's not enough to replace incandescent lights with LEDs. We waste a lot of energy leaving on computers, TV flat-screens and a myriad other devices when they are not in use. Even surfing the net is energy intensive, as Internet servers that power all those pixels need both electricity and cooling to prevent overheating. So power down more often, and enjoy a dose of non-virtual reality.

Tim Ward is the author of the newly published book, The Master Communicator's Handbook.

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