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Photo: Pixabay

Summertime is filled with fun activities, but many of our favorite pastimes aren’t the most environmentally sustainable. Here are five ways to reduce your carbon emissions this season.

Cavendish winning the 2012 Tour de France on the Champs-Élysées, for a record fourth successive year. Photo © William Morice / MaxPPP

Cavendish winning the 2012 Tour de France on the Champs-Élysées, for a record fourth successive year. Photo © William Morice / MaxPPP

1) Take Non-Motorized Transportation

Transportation accounts for about 26 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Each gallon of gas we use emits an estimated 8,887 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. The National Complete Streets Coalition estimates, “Nearly half of all trips in metropolitan areas are three miles or less and 28 percent are [within one mile].”

If you are traveling in the neighborhood, consider walking or riding your bicycle; you would reduce your carbon footprint, save money on gas, get exercise, avoid traffic and soak up vitamin D.

Holstein-Friesian milk cow (Photo Credit: Keith Weller / USDA)

Holstein-Friesian milk cow (Photo Credit: Keith Weller / USDA)

2) Eat Less Meat

Animal agriculture is responsible for roughly 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions; cows, used for beef and dairy, account for about 65 percent of that figure. Even if you don’t switch to a completely plant-based diet, which has the smallest associated carbon footprint, eating alternative animal-based foods creates an average of five times less green house gas emissions than consuming beef.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Photo Credit: Pixabay

3) Use Alternative Cooling

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that air conditioning is associated with five percent of national electricity use and about 100 million tons of CO2 emissions in the U.S. alone each year. This averages out to approximately two tons of CO2 emissions per air-conditioned household.

Instead of cranking up the AC, consider using fans and water spritzers and staying in the shade to keep cool.

Solar panels on roof. (Photo via SolarCity)

Solar panels on roof. (Photo via SolarCity)

4) Use Renewable Energy

Even though you want to minimize your emissions and be the greenest human possible, sometimes you don’t have time to bike to the store – or it’s just too hot to sit in the shade with the fan cranked up.

You can reduce your emissions by installing solar panels on your house and continuing business as usual. Companies like SolarCity even offer zero money down solar packages.

Alternatively, many utility companies give ratepayers “green pricing” options, which allow environmentally-minded consumers to purchase electricity from strictly renewable power sources.

Actual volume of one metric ton of carbon dioxide gas. (Photo Credit: Carbon Visuals / Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

Actual volume of one metric ton of carbon dioxide gas. (Photo Credit: Carbon Visuals / Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

5) Purchase Carbon Credits

Despite our best efforts, sometimes the systems in place make it extremely difficult to avoid emitting green house gases. This is especially true for cross-national or international travel. In these situations, we can offset our carbon emissions by buying carbon credits. Offsetting the emissions generated by flying from Boston to Portland costs a little over five dollars.

A carbon credit is a guarantee that someone else avoided emitting, or sequestered, a certain amount of CO2 equivalent gases into the atmosphere. Offset options include things like planting trees, paying for renewable energy in underprivileged communities or buying CO2 offsets in regional carbon markets like RGGI.

Although there are many organizations that offer carbon offset credits, not all of them are legitimate. To assure that emissions reductions are transparent, enforceable and permanent, third party organizations like SCS Global offer verification services.

And remember, just because you can purchase emissions credits doesn’t mean you’re excused from living an environmentally conscious lifestyle daily.

While you’re enjoying yourself this summer, remember these five ways to reduce your carbon footprint, and have fun in the sun.

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