Carbon Offsetting my Winter Break

by Solange Fortenbach

carbon footprintOur carbon footprint is a measurement of the amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere from the activities we perform in our day-to-day lives, such as driving, turning on the lights, or flying in a plane. Our carbon footprints can be offset through activities that minimize or divert carbon dioxide.

During winter break, between flying back to my home state of California, purchasing gifts and decorations for the holiday, and cooking elaborate meals with my family, I know my carbon footprint with likely increase significantly. To offset these carbon emissions, I’m going to change my routine a bit. This is the list I’ve come up with to offset my carbon this break:

  • Biking and/or walking when possible – Rather than cars and transit that depend on the burning of fossil fuels, biking and walking are completely fuel-free modes of transportation. Also, I’ll be getting my fitness on!
  • Wearing sweaters versus turning up the heat – This allows me to lower my heat and therefore, my energy usage.
  • Wrapping all gifts in cloth or putting them in bags which I will store to reuse again for next year’s Christmas – Trees absorb carbon when undergoing photosynthesis, essentially becoming pockets of carbon. When forests are cut down to make paper and paper products, this carbon is released into the atmosphere. By using cloth, I will be reducing my use of paper gift wrapping.
  • Buying some rad thrift shop finds as Christmas presents – Clothes are the third largest source of waste on the planet. By thrift shopping instead of purchasing new clothing items, I am reducing both the demand on fast fashion the amount of textiles going to the landfill and emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
  • Not buying any glass bottles over winter break – Contrary to popular belief, glass (in some regions) is not actually recycled. In NYC it is smashed and used as landfill cover. Glass also has the highest environmental impact out of all packaging materials as it requires a lot of energy and varying materials to be produced. This is something I recently learned after a tour of Action Carting, the recycling service used by NYU. Not only will I try to reduce my use of glass, but I will also try to educate more people about lesser known recycling facts.
  • Buying local produce at farmer’s markets or California grown crops at the store – By investing in local produce I will be diminishing the amount of gas required to transport my food from the farm to the my table, all-in-all reducing my carbon footprint.

Even though I am specifically taking these actions to offset my carbon footprint during winter break, I hope to continue to live more sustainably beyond break and into next semester. Are you traveling during the holidays? Consider how YOU might offset your carbon emissions this break!

Solange Fortenbach is from the Bay Area in California. She is double majoring in Environmental Studies and Politics and minoring in Computer Science. She is a Student Engagement Coordinator for the Office of Sustainability, Research Assistant at Return Recycling, and a member of the Mock Trial team. She hopes to hike up Half Dome in Yosemite with her Dad one day.

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