Bay-Friendly Tip: Reduce Your Carbon Footprint!

Bay-Friendly Tip: Reduce your carbon footprint!

By Alyssa Pietraszek, communications intern

What is a “carbon footprint”?

Wave erosion in Westerly, R.I. which will increase with intensified storms.

Many of the activities that we participate in each day require the consumption of fossil fuels, resulting in the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. These activities—such as driving to work in gasoline or diesel-fueled vehicles, cooking on stoves that burn natural gas, or using electricity originating from coal-powered power plants—add up into what is referred to as a “carbon footprint.” A carbon footprint is equal to the total amount of greenhouse gases that are both directly or indirectly emitted as a result of our actions. This footprint can be used to refer to the total emissions of an individual, a household, or even a larger company or organization.

Why does your carbon footprint matter?

While some of the activities that increase our carbon footprint might seem insignificant, any small action that helps to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions we contribute can have beneficial effects, from combating global climate change to improving our personal health and supporting local plant and animal populations. The greenhouse gases that are released as a result of the burning of fossil fuels absorb solar energy, trapping heat closer to the Earth’s surface, and consequently increase temperatures globally. 

Storms, such as the one photographed at Bristol Harbor, are predicted to intensify with climate change.

Among other impacts, these higher temperatures have altered local meteorological patterns; intensified storms; caused the melting of land ice, which has resulted in higher sea levels; and changed regional habitats, which affects the local wildlife and marine populations. In addition, these greenhouse gases reduce air quality, which can negatively impact our health. Historically, corporations have been significant contributors of greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, as of 2019, more than 680 companies set science-based greenhouse gas reduction targets in response to the latest science on the threats of climate change. While businesses should take responsibility for how their corporate actions impact the environment, we can also help battle climate change by making personal choices that reduce our own carbon footprints.

The Narragansett Bay connection… and what you can do to help! 

Many of the actions that reduce our carbon footprints are also beneficial for the health of Narragansett Bay! By eliminating some of our reliance on fossil fuels and making more environmentally friendly decisions, we can help improve water quality in the Bay and preserve the health of our watershed and its local ecosystems. There are many simple ways you can help reduce your carbon footprint:

  • Be efficient with lawn maintenance: By planting a low maintenance or beneficial lawn—such as a lawn grass mix of tall and fine fescues, and including native trees, shrubs, and flowers—you can reduce the amount of fertilizer and water needed to maintain a healthy lawn. Similarly, by watering and fertilizing your lawn efficiently, you both save water and prevent excess nitrogen from being picked up by stormwater runoff and polluting the Bay.
  • Green your home: By taking advantage of National Grid’s free energy audits and rebate programs, you can find ways to increase the energy efficiency of your home, including choosing energy-efficient light bulbs, low flow shower heads, and more efficient heating and cooling systems. Installing solar panels can also help to reduce the amount of fossil fuel-sourced energy needed to power your home, and the state and federal incentives for going solar can make this switch more cost-effective for homeowners.
  • Solar-panels-Bay-Center
    Solar panels on the roof of Save The Bay’s Bay Center in Providence, R.I.

    Reduce your carbon emissions from personal car use: Choosing to walk, bike, or take advantage of public transportation whenever possible can help to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions associated with personal vehicles. Joining or starting a “Walking School Bus” for students in your neighborhood, where adults take turns walking the neighborhood schoolchildren to school together, can help to reduce the carbon emissions from personal car use during student drop-off and pick-up each day.

  • Shop local: Buying locally made products and shopping at small businesses can help cut down greenhouse emissions associated with shipping and transportation of products. In addition to having access to fresher and better quality ingredients when in season at local farmers markets and shops, according to a study by Worldwatch Institute, shopping locally can cut down the fuel expenses associated with food transportation by as much as 4 to 17 times!
  • Support local or regional policy initiatives that will help reduce carbon emissions: Take advantage of your right to vote and support ballots that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and make sure to vote for changes that are beneficial to your community, the planet, and the health of Narragansett Bay! If you haven’t yet, we invite you to subscribe to VoterVoice, our Action Alert platform, to stay up-to-date on ways you can make your voice heard.

To learn more about greenhouse gases and to calculate your household’s carbon footprint you can visit The Nature Conservancy’s Carbon Footprint Calculator.