When we think of reducing our carbon footprint and combating climate change, we often think of extremes. No plastic whatsoever. Setting up a compost system for food scraps. Recycling or re-using every single thing we can get our hands on.

The fact of the matter is going zero waste is a big commitment, one that takes time and requires that everyone in the household be on board with. If you're one of the many who would like to reduce your carbon footprint but would like to start small, here are five things you can do today that will greatly benefit Mother Nature.

Eat Less Meat

Particularly, less red meat. While some people choose to stop eating meat altogether, the world would be much better off if we collectively agreed to simply cut back on our red meat consumption.

We've all heard about how harmful burning fossil fuels is for the environment. But did you know that the greenhouse gas emissions from agribusiness are an even bigger problem than the pollutants released from burning fossil fuels?

According to PETA, it takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of meat. That's incredibly unsustainable, not to mention that it puts immense strain on our water supply.

The main point here is that you don't have to quit meat altogether, but neither should it be a staple in every meal. There is a happy medium! Try scaling back and having meat just a few times a week. With vegetarianism and veganism on the rise, plant-based alternatives have come a long way in the last few years. See what you can swap out the next time you're at the store!

Eat Local

So other than less meat, what can you eat to reduce your carbon footprint? Local, in-season produce! By sticking to foods that are grown close to home, you eliminate the need for shipping, particularly from other countries. Without the need for trucks, trains, ships, or planes, not to mention packaging the products and keeping them cool, your carbon footprint is significantly reduced.

You can even try to grow veggies yourself! By doing so, you have more control over the foods that you're ingesting and can bypass the use of toxic pesticides and other chemicals that harm the environment.

Walk or Bike More

When you choose to walk or bike somewhere rather than take your car, you are:

  • Meeting your body's weekly exercise needs
  • Cutting back on harmful emissions
  • Saving money on gas
  • Upping your vitamin D intake

So many benefits from just one small switch! Of course, it's not always feasible to walk or bike but don't write off public transportation when it comes to getting around town. Public transportation is a highly affordable alternative to taking your own vehicle. You can sit back, relax, read a book, or get work done during your commute, all while knowing you're doing your part to curb harmful emissions.

Unplug

What's a way you can shrink your carbon footprint right this second? Unplug devices that you aren't using. Many of your household appliances are using "vampire electricity." Even though they are not in use, they are still drawing standby power.

By unplugging computers, televisions, stereos, coffeemakers, toasters, lamps, and DVD players, you're not only saving electricity - you're saving money! It has been estimated that up to ten percent of your residential electricity is being used by devices that are plugged in 24 hours a day. Defeat your energy vampires by unplugging devices after you use them!

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Switch to Clean Energy

When you make the switch to clean, renewable energy, you're protecting the environment in a major way. As it currently stands, we get most of our energy from burning fossil fuels, which release toxins that accelerate global warming. Additionally, fossil fuels are a finite resource, so no matter what, we'll have to start making the switch to renewable sources of power at some point. Best to do so while we still have natural resources left.

You can work on simply cutting down on your electricity use altogether, can sign up for energy-saving programs, or can go big by installing solar panels on your roof. You may even qualify for $0 down solar installation! Add to that the number of tax credits and incentives that solar panels offer, and it's no wonder so many homeowners are opting for clean energy.

Protect What We Have Left

It's no secret that we've done some serious damage to Mother Nature, but with help from these five tips, you can start to reduce your carbon footprint right this instant. The best part? These tips don't require extreme lifestyle changes.

It's vital that we all start to take small steps towards protecting the resources that we have left, while there is still time to do so. Get started with these carbon footprint-reducing tips today!