A report in the journal Environmental Research Letters of Sweden identified the top four methods of shrinking carbon footprints, but also warned that these are the least promoted ones by mainstream media.
The report described a “missed opportunity” of public awareness about the most effective steps that could reduce carbon dioxide emissions which is a primary catalyst of global warming.
“We found there are four actions that could result in substantial decreases in an individual’s carbon footprint: eating a plant-based diet, avoiding air travel, living car free, and having smaller families,” said lead author Seth Wynes of Lund University in Sweden.
“For example, living car-free saves about 2.4 tons of CO2 equivalent per year, while eating a plant-based diet saves 0.8 tons of CO2 equivalent a year.” Other steps, such as avoiding airplane travel saves about 1.6 tons of CO2 equivalent per trip. Another major step that needs to be considered is having one less child, which saves 58.6 tons of CO2 on average, per year. “A US family who chooses to have one fewer child would provide the same level of emissions reductions as 684 teenagers who choose to adopt comprehensive recycling for the rest of their lives,” it said.
The four steps identified from an analysis of 39 peer-reviewed papers, carbon calculations and government reports calculating the effects of individual lifestyle choices on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
They found a general focus on “incremental changes with much smaller potential to reduce emissions”, such as changing light bulbs and comprehensive recycling has proven to be respectively. Researchers said these steps are respectively eight and four times less effective than a plant-based diet.
“There are so many factors that affect the climate impact of personal choices, but bringing all these studies side-by-side gives us confidence we’ve identified actions that make a big difference,” said Wynes. “Those of us who want to step forward on climate need to know how our actions can have the greatest possible impact.”