Carbon footprint

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Living more environmentally friendly is more important than ever. Everything from travel and electricity to the food we eat affects the carbon foot print we leave behind and our pocketbooks. There are small steps that we can make at home that will have a big impact on preserving our global environment.


  • Planning your menu at least a week at a time and then using it to make your grocery list saves you time and money and is usually healthier for you. The more trips to the store you make, the more you spend. This is often because you don’t have a list and can’t remember what you need, but also because you have more time at the store to be tempted by clever marketers.
  • Making fewer trips also saves on gasoline and therefore, carbon emissions. The more planning you do, the less food you discard.

Discard Less

  • Put a compost bin in your backyard instead of throwing food away. According to a study by the University of Arizona Garbage Project, Americans throw away 1.3 pounds of food every day, or 474.5 pounds per year. That garbage is filling up our landfills. The Johnson County Environmental department is concerned we may fill up the local landfill sooner than planned. The USDA estimates that higher percentages of fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy and grain products are thrown away than other items.
  • Look for products that have less packaging. More and more companies have listened to our concerns and are now reducing their packaging.
  • You can also use biodegradable disposables and attempt to reduce the use of disposables such as paper and foam plates, cups and paper towels.
  • If you are already washing a load of dishes, a few more pieces being washed will increase costs only slightly and result in considerable savings in the cost of disposables. And use fragrance-free detergents as they are more eco-friendly than their counterparts.
  • Instead of buying bottled water, buy a water bottle to fill.

Buy Local
Think global by buying local. Do some research and find out the best place to purchase local products. The more local the product, the less it has had to travel, thus cutting down of carbon emissions.

You can make a difference in energy consumption with small changes in your cooking and baking, too.

  • Many newer ovens come to temperature so rapidly that they make preheating unnecessary. When roasting or baking, put the food in right away and then turn the oven off five or ten minutes early and let dishes finish cooking in the residual heat. The same concept is true for anything cooked on an electric stovetop.
  • Glass or ceramic baking pans warm up faster and retain heat longer than metal pans, so you can lower the oven temperature by 25° and conserve energy. Foods will cook just as quickly as they would in the original recipe.
  • When it’s time to replace equipment, purchase Energy Star products. To earn Energy Star qualification, products must meet strict criteria for energy efficiency set by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. The Web site offers lists of Energy Star-qualified products such as dishwashers, refrigerators, lighting fixtures and ceiling fans.
  • While you’re at it, investigate induction cooking. This method uses electricity to produce a magnetic field that reacts with the ferric content in stainless steel, cast iron, and enameled steel cookware, exciting the molecules and producing heat. The cookware (and therefore the food) gets hot, but the stovetop doesn’t. Less heat is wasted and the food heats faster, saving time and energy. Induction cooking is about 90% energy efficient compared with gas and electric radiant, which are 50% to 60% efficient.

Small steps can make a huge difference in our environment with very little disruption in your life. Sources: Today’s Dietitian Vol. 10 No. 6 P. 8, University of Arizona Garbage Project, Amy Reaman, Dietetic Intern

By Nichole Burnett, MS, RD, LD
Family and Consumer Sciences
County Extension Agent
K-State Research and Extension
Johnson County

Edited to add: We had one comment that making a switch to a more plant based diet is important - and we do not want to leave this point out of course!! Science Daily reports, shifting entirely from an average American diet to a vegetable-based one would reduce the same emissions as 8,000 miles driven per year.  As a comparison, they state that switching to a diet that is completely local would save 1,000 miles per year.

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