Six easy ways to reduce our carbon footprint

Evidence of climate change is all around us. The news media is full of stories about wildfires, storms, floods, raging rivers, mudslides and every kind of wild and unexpected weather event. In some places it’s flood. In others, it’s drought. It could be extreme heat, or extreme cold. The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (August 2021) concluded that climate change is “rapid, widespread and intensifying” and that some of the trends we are seeing, such as changing weather and rising sea levels, may be irreversible for centuries or millennia. Therefore, we have to reduce our carbon footprint as fast as possible.

United Nations secretary general António Guterres has said the Working Group’s report is a “code red for humanity” and that “the alarm bells are deafening.” We need big changes to address global warming and we need them now. Politicians have been slow in responding to the obvious signs of climate change, so as we wait for governments and corporations to catch up, we as individuals should make some personal changes of our own. 

Here are six ways to reduce your personal carbon footprint in everyday life.

1. Take shorter and colder showers

Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and step under the cold jet of water. Admittedly, dunking yourself under a cold shower requires determination. But not only does it reduce energy use, it also has a positive impact on our psyche. The more often we push ourselves out of our personal comfort zones, the stronger our inner willpower becomes. A cold shower in the morning conveys to our subconscious that we can do anything. It also stimulates our metabolism, strengthens our immune system, and increases our ability to concentrate. There’s a reason traditional saunas incorporate sudden transitions from the hot steam of the sauna to a sudden plunging into snow or icy cold water. It gives the body’s nervous and circulatory systems a life-infusing jolt.

Successful people like the Italian mountaineering legend Reinhold Messner or Hollywood star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson swear by cold showers and have made them part of their morning rituals. If showering in cold water seems too bold of a step, turn down the heat just a bit while also investing in a low-flow shower head. The less water we use, the more we reduce our carbon footprint.

2. Use electricity generated by renewable sources

We have many ways to generate electricity that don’t rely on nuclear and carbon-based energy. Solar panels, wind turbines, and hydroelectric power plants are now commonplace. They also allow us to move away from our reliance on oil companies which can often source their oil and gas from countries that fail to respect human rights and regimes that may even support international terrorism. 

A solar panel can be installed almost anywhere. And if you don’t have the space or money for your own solar power system, you can switch to a green-power provider. Solar panels have come down so far in price however, that there is not much gap any more between them and the cost of power from a carbon-based power producer. And even if solar power still costs a little more the traditional electricity, this voluntary surcharge will encourage us to be more sparing in our power use while allowing solar power costs to decline even more as the number of its users rises.

3. Save energy tor reduce your carbon footprint

Doing simple things can save energy. We could all turn up the dial on our refrigerator a degree or two without spoiling food and replace our incandescent light bulbs and halogen lights with LEDs. We could also plug our electrical devices into power bars which would allow us to switch them off individually rather than leaving them permanently drawing power while in standby mode. In real terms, standby mode is a small power drain, but it adds up over time. When buying new appliances, we can also make sure we buy durable, energy-efficient ones. Saving energy not only reduces our personal carbon footprint, but it also saves us money. It’s a similar story with our personal mobility, which is the energy-saving tip we at Podbike love the most.

4. Use a bicycle instead of a car

Owning a car is more expensive than you think. In addition to the up-front purchase price, there’s insurance, repairs, the cost of petrol (or electricity if you have a battery-powered vehicle), and the depreciation caused by wear and tear. And most of the time our cars sit around, idle and empty, consuming parking space on the street or sitting inside garages whose construction also takes up land and energy. With a bike, the financial and energy burdens are nowhere near as large. If switching to a bike doesn’t seem feasible, you could also opt for a motor-assisted e-bike (Related: Six reasons to buy an e-bike).

“But what do I do when it rains or snows?”

Of course, you could buy full rain gear – waterproof jacket, pants, shoe covers, gloves, helmet cover, panier covers) – but getting in and out of all that protective clothing (not to mention getting cold and rained on) is way less appealing than simply getting in a car. That’s why we at Podbike have developed the FRIKAR e-bike. It’s the world’s first commercially-produced, weatherproof e-bike on four wheels (Click here to find out more about the FRIKAR.)

With the FRIKAR, we want to close the gap between cars and bikes. The answer to the question, “car or bike?”, will become “Podbike” going forward. The FRIKAR can be ridden all year round because the driver is completely sheltered from the elements. There is even a windshield wiper on the front canopy to keep your vision clear on rainy days. Podbike’s FRIKAR takes a lot of the heavy work out of cycling, offers some decent speed, and can help you reduce your personal carbon footprint. Plus, of course, cycling is way healthier than driving.

5. Eat fewer animal products

If everybody moved away from our love of farmed meat and switched to a vegan diet, the planet would be in a much healthier state. And so would we as human beings. There is increasing evidence that avoiding animal products can reduce the incidence of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer. (You can read more about the benefits of a vegan diet here)

If we consumed less meat and animal by-products, fewer animals would suffer and large areas of land currently used for grazing and to grow animal feed could be converted into vegetable farming. Greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide would also be drastically reduced. Clearly, an immediate global conversion to vegetable-based food is not realistic. But, every step toward this goal counts. Industry has already made a pretty good start over the last few years by creating new and interesting meat-alternative, meat-mimicking, and milk replacement products. For example, oat milk is a pretty good substitute for cow’s milk and cream. The selection of vegan-friendly, meat replacement products is already large and increasing all the time.

6. Avoid air travel

When it comes to harming the Earth’s ozone layer, aircraft are the most damaging form of transportation. In addition to high CO² emissions, aeroplanes also deposit nitrogen oxide (NO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and water vapour into the atmosphere. Avoiding air travel  – or reducing it to a minimum  – can drastically reduce your personal CO² footprint. Within Europe, trains and buses are excellent alternatives. If you live in Europe and are travelling within your own country’s borders, air travel rarely offers an advantage. Because once you add up the time it takes to get to and from the airport, go through security, wait to board, and pick up your luggage at the other end, any time saving you may have had over the train or bus has largely vanished. 

For those who can’t avoid air travel, there are carbon credits. This tax on your plane’s carbon emissions is used to fund projects which diminish the impact of carbon use, such as tree planting to renew dying, depleted, and over-harvested forests. 

But if you just love the feeling of ‘wind beneath your wings’ and ‘flying’ through the countryside, ditch the car, motorbike, and plane. Try Podbike’s FRIKAR instead. Once you get inside the weatherproof cockpit and clip your feet into the pedals, you’ll feel like a pilot of the sleekest, coolest, most energy-efficient vehicle on Earth. And that’s the whole point! Because we at Podbike think human power (with some added batteries to give you a boost, of course) is the future of personal transportation. 

For everyone’s sake – but especially planet Earth.

These blog posts might also interest you:

Against gravity: riding uphill with the FIRKAR

Why vehicle weight and resources matter