Nearly every year, more carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere than the year before. And, much of the carbon dioxide that is generated comes from the US. While we are only 5% of the world’s population, we contribute over 20% of its carbon emissions. Additionally, we use over 30% of the world’s resources and contribute 30% of its waste. Over time, the accumulation of greenhouse gases accelerates the process of global warming. We can help curtail or even reverse the process by cutting down the size of our carbon footprint.

What Is a Carbon Footprint?

Your carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide you are creating or contributing to. Factors that range from the cars we drive to the sizes of the house we live in all determine our carbon footprint. By making choices that reduce our footprint, we can also reduce our impact on the Earth.

How Recycling Reduces Your Carbon Footprint

Making new products is a substantial cause of pollution. Materials must be pulled from the earth. Then, processes in refining, manufacturing, packaging and shipping each take a toll. After all is finished, the items are disposed of. Together, these all contribute to the venting of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which raise global temperatures.

When we recycle, we use already existing materials in place of new ones that would otherwise have to go through this process. This reuse helps us reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that are produced at every stage of the production cycle.

How You Can Help

On an individual level, recycling items instead of throwing them away can help reduce your carbon footprint. Consider reuses even before recycling, as these can help prolong the life of an object and reduce the need for new materials.

Individuals can do even more good by voting with their dollars. Purchase items, whenever possible, that utilize post-consumer recycled content. Let manufacturers know that you want them to incorporate more recycled products into the items that they sell. Let lawmakers know that you would favor incentives for companies to use more recycled content so that their much larger carbon footprints can be reduced.

No one act is going to cut your carbon footprint enough to make a noticeable difference. However, combined efforts over time can have a significant impact. Consciously choose recycled products and making recycling and reuse part of your everyday activities. Over time, the reduction in damaging greenhouse gases can be enough to make a significant difference.

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