It really depends on what you mean by realistic, and how significantly you want to decrease CO2 emissions by. If you’re talking in terms of inexpensive individual contributions, one of the easiest things to do is reduce the amount of energy you use in your home and in transportation. Walk or ride a bike whenever possible, lower the temperature on your thermostat by a few degrees in the winter, take shorter, less hot showers, don’t leave your lights on, unplug electronics when they’re not in use, buy local and/or used and/or reusable (reduces transportation and production emissions)…the list goes on, and all of these things not only reduce CO2 emissions, but save money. If you’re willing to put a little bit of money into it, then installing solar panels is a good option (you can actually have solar panels put on your house for relatively little money and pay the solar company for electricity instead of taking power from the grid). You could also buy a more fuel effient car (not necessarily a hybrid, just something small and sensible) or even a motorcycle. Cut back on your vacations and other travelling, use public transportation, buy more efficient appliances, use solar-powered lamps. And really, the more time and money you have available up front, the more options you have. Regardless of your situation though, there are lots of adjustments you can make to your home, your transportation and your habits that can have a meaningful impact on the environment.
If you’re looking to have an impact beyond yourself, then supporting businesses that strive to reduce their carbon footprint is a good place to start. Look for companies that obtain their materials locally (or at least within the US), that use fuel-efficient means to produce or transport their goods, or make any other meaningful contribution to the effort to cut back on CO2 emissions.
Get you and your town involved in the transition town movement. This is an international network focused on combatting man-made pollution (including CO2 emissions) and dependency on nonrenewable fuels (primarily oil products). Communities involved are taking steps like creating community gardens to provide food organically and locally, share programs to reduce waste, and local currencies to strengthen the local economy. The network provides resources, ideas, and support.
I’d probably say that driving a lot less is the most realistic way to curb man made carbon emissions. For those that live in rural communities that don’t have many things close to them, then investing in a hybrid car would be a great alternative. I live in a rather rural community with lots of steep hills, so driving a hybrid allows me to still help the environment when walking isn’t an option.
Along with reducing the amount of miles driven like environmichael says, and all the great answers by maddie, another huge step towards reducing CO2 emissions is to stay away from airplanes. Although they may take us to beautiful locations, the emissions from an airplane can be devastating to the environment. Try to find fun, local places to enjoy your weekend or summer. There are many websites with blogs and forums that can direct you to local parks, hikes, shows, etc. that can be just as exciting as laying on the beach in hawaii, while also limiting your footprint on the environment.
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