What’s your carbon footprint ranking?

Logan Phelps, Features Writer

Earth Day isn’t the only day we need to care for our planet. Instead, it is a reminder that every day we need to help out and protect mother nature. From more simple and cheap actions like recycling, to complex and potentially more expensive things like buying an electric or a hybrid car, here’s a tier list to figure out how far you are willing to go to show our planet a little love.

Bronze Level
Bronze is the lowest on our list — these actions may seem insignificant, but anything and everything helps. Saving water requires minimal effort. All you have to do is turn off the faucet when you’re brushing your teeth, or limit your shower length with a timer. You can also buy a special shower head that limits the flow of water you use. These items are relatively inexpensive on Amazon. However, something you can do for free is to simply stop littering and reduce use. Littering damages the environment by introducing foreign objects that animals might consume and get sick or die. Throwing away your trash is extremely easy, nowadays, there are trash cans virtually anywhere. You can even buy a little trash bag to hang from the seat of your car so you can keep it clean. Reducing the amount of plastic and packaging you buy makes a significant impact. Plastic can take up to 500 years to decompose while paper takes a few weeks. Buy reusable water bottles and grocery bags, reuse all items that you can.

Silver Level
These are some still fairly easy things you can do, although they will be slightly more difficult to adapt to. You can save electricity pretty easily, but it does require you to make a few sacrifices. You can replace your incandescent light bulbs with LED ones. While incandescent bulbs rarely last more than 5 years, LED lights can last up to 22 years. They are also much more efficient: LED lights use about 75 percent less electricity. When you leave a room, turn the lights off.
All of those options are quite reasonable, but the next one may cause some discomfort until you get used to it: minimize your air conditioning and heating. It takes a lot of energy to heat or cool a room, so if you’re up for it, try keeping your home closer to the outside temperature. In the summer, the upper 70s are a good temperature range and, in winter, low to mid 60s. It will be a little shocking at first, but you’ll get used to wearing sweatshirts indoors and camping out in front of a fan. Next up are the activities that will require some effort but can drastically limit your carbon footprint.
Gold Level
The previous tiers have mainly been passive methods to help our planet. This level, and the next one, are much more active. This one may be a little surprising: buy local produce. Much of our food products are shipped over vast distances by trucks. Driving releases a lot of carbon dioxide and pollution. If you buy local, or even grow your own produce, you are greatly reducing the amount of pollution and consequently the contribution to global warming. A different option that may be more appealing to you is to pick up litter. It’s all over the place, so even though you may see a bunch beside the road, it’s much better to go to a park where it’s a little less hazardous. Next is the most hardcore option — the platinum level.
Platinum Level
If you are really dedicated to the cause, you can drive an electric or hybrid car like a Toyota Prius or Tesla. These options significantly reduce the amount of pollution, and, once you have a charger installed in your garage, you can rack up a serious amount of savings by avoiding buying gas. Avoid products made from materials that aren’t sustainably sourced and minimize the amount of packaging. These cause a lot more trash that tends to be made out of plastic so it’s going to sit in a landfill for a while.
How did you do? Did you find out that you are already doing some of these? Did you learn something you can do? Helping out our planet isn’t the easiest thing to do, but at least one of these things can be done without much interference with your normal life. The more you do the better of course, but if you can’t afford to buy or trade in a car or lowering your thermostat in the winter is too much for you, it’s fine to stick to the little stuff. Remember, every little thing makes a small difference, but if everyone did something, the world would be a much cleaner place.