There's nothing particularly menacing about a burger. An all-beef patty surrounded by a fluffy white bun and topped with a slice of cheese is an American icon, after all.
But as far as the earth is concerned, that sandwich is a direct threat. Just one cheeseburger is the equivalent of 3 kilograms of carbon emissions. And the problem goes way, way beyond your lunch choices—most of us are contributing to global warming a lot more than we may realize.
Even if you drive a Prius and buy the recycled paper towels, you likely still have a Godzilla-sized carbon footprint. The United States alone is responsible for a whopping 17 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per capita each year. (You can find out exactly how much energy you're using up with the Environmental Protection Agency's carbon footprint calculator.)
The good news is, even little changes can have a big impact. Try these seven unusual ways to help reduce and offset your carbon footprint.
1. Keep your tires properly inflated.
A flat tire—or even a slightly flat tire—isn't perfectly round. For those of you who don't remember high school physics, that means your car has to work much harder, and uses much more gas. That translates to anywhere from 400 to 700 pounds of extra greenhouse gas emissions each year.
2. Stop your junk mail.
Junk mail isn't just annoying—it's also really, really bad for the environment. Think about it: Catalogs you'll never order from and credit card offers you have no intention of taking just end up in the trash, after all. Keep your mailbox clear of all that trash by opting out of direct mailers.
3. Wash your clothes in cold water—or wash them less.
Contrary to popular belief, you don't need to wash your bras or jeans after every wear. Some people never wash their jeans (really!)—they just stick them in the freezer every so often to kill the bacteria.
When you really need to do laundry, skip the warm and hot water cycles. Washing your clothes in cold water only can save up to 1,600 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, per household, per year.
4. Clean the condenser coil of your fridge.
It's no surprise that the fridge consumes the most energy of any appliance. There's not much you can do about it, though, unless you want to stop eating fresh food. One thing you can do is to clean the condenser coil—it's fairly simple to do, and cleaning it about once a year can keep the fridge running at maximum efficiency.
5. Buy local and seasonal as often as possible.
The shorter the distance your food has to travel, the fewer resources (fossil fuels, electricity, water) those avocados or strawberries use up. Many grocery chains ship in fresh fruits and veggies from other climates to keep up with out-of-season demand. For truly local fruits and veggies, find a good farmers market near you.
6. Eat less meat.
You obviously don't have to go full-on vegan, but swapping in some tofu for beef once in awhile could help the planet save some energy. Since it takes approximately 11 times more energy to produce livestock for meat than it does to produce grain, even going meatless one day each week could make a big difference.
7. Use power strips for your appliances.
Even when you're not using them, your appliances could be sucking power right out of the walls. When your computer and TV are plugged in, they're draining electricity from the outlet—even if they're not on. That's how your laptop can charge when it's completely shut down.
To get rid of this steady drain on your electricity, switch these appliances onto power strips. When you aren't using these appliances, just switch off the whole strip.
Photo credit: ac.Zadam via Flickr