Reflecting on my carbon footprint

After attending the Green Schools National Conference this past week, I’m reflecting on my knowledge of sustainability and green schools education. I joined a new district nine months ago that is a national leader in sustainable education and my word of the year is coming in handy.  I am giving myself grace for what I don’t yet know.  I’ve decided to start a blog series to capture all of the learning I am doing in this area of education.
The first in the series is about my personal carbon footprint. Here are the ways I’m trying to live a more green, sustainable life in my own home:
  • I recycle.  I live in a condo complex that does separate trash and recycling.  It’s basic. I’ve been researching ways to enhance how and where I can recycle specific items. I also recycle clothing by donating my used clothes to charitable organizations or by buying from gently used places like Thred Up.
  • I reuse. I use reusable water bottles and metal straws for my drinks, avoiding single-use plastic cups and straws whenever I can. I also use Tupperware and canvas bags to store food. I have used canvas bags for grocery shopping for years.  My mother used to carry the same canvas bags to the grocery store back in the 80’s… long before anyone else was doing that!  I still have one of her bags (see picture below).

  • I unplug.  Before I go on a vacation, I unplug items that I know won’t be in use while I’m gone, such as my toaster oven, fans, and diffusers. I’m trying to be better about this when I’m home too.
  • I control the temperature. I use my home’s programmable settings to control the heat and AC to come on at appropriate times and appropriate temperatures. I love when my energy bill shows that I’ve used less this year than in the past.
  • I grow my own herbs. Thanks to a gift from my brother, I have my own mini Hydroponics garden in my home. I can grow a number of herbs at a time, inside, with limited water and no pesticides. This not only saves me money buying herbs at the store, but it also saves the plastic the herbs are often sold in at a traditional store.
  • I drive a hybrid. I know that driving, especially alone and a lot, contributes negatively to my carbon footprint.  To offset that, I drive a hybrid car, to limit some of my impact.
  • I use essential oils. My essential oils replace a number of products that I would otherwise buy, from candles to scented lotion in plastic bottles to some over the counter medicine. This saves any harmful toxins that candles let off into the air as well as the plastic packaging that so many goods come wrapped in these days.
  • I buy local. When I have a choice, I try to buy local products, especially fruits and vegetables.  Ideally, I’d like to only buy these items from local Farmer’s Markets, but I only hit those sporadically due to my schedule.
  • I use reef-safe sunscreen. I’ve recently made the switch to sunscreens that are both safe for my skin and for the water and the animals in the ocean where I often swim with said sunscreen covering my body.


Things I do that add to my carbon footprint:

  • I travel. Traveling by car and by plane adds to my footprint due to the carbon dioxide production and the green house gas emissions that are produced.  I am not going to give up traveling. I will try to pack lighter to add minimally to the overall weight I contribute. I will bring my reusable water bottle with me when I travel. I will try to fly direct to avoid multiple planes in one trip (that is more convenient anyway!). I will use local public transportation when I can in new cities. I’m even researching ways to offset my carbon through various programs. I’ve just read a new-to-me tip for travel: bring your own bar of soap and bar shampoo/conditioner.  This will eliminate the waste of the tiny plastic bottles that are provided in most hotels, and that are often thrown out only half used at the end of your stay. While I’m not a fan of bar soap, I’m willing to consider this switch to help the planet!
  • I still use plastic. I haven’t eliminated all single-use plastic from my world yet. I’ve reduced the amount over time, but there is still more I can do. I continue to research other options for my favorite products or sources of the problem.
  • I use electricity at prime times. There isn’t much I can do about this one. I have to use my electricity between 6-9 PM because that is when I am home and awake after work. I can’t change my hours because I work in public schools. All I can do is limit my use in any way possible.
plastic bottles

Source: “Recycled Type” by Amy Chen is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0

As I reflected on this post, I realize I am doing more than I initially thought. This is an on-going learning for me. I plan to share more in future green posts.  I’d love to hear how you are green in your home and life.

About Amy's Reflections

Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services in Southern CA, taking time to reflect on leadership and learning
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