How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

The other night I was watching The Colbert Report and saw a very funny interview that Steven Colbert did with the head of the Sierra Club. For those who are not familiar with The Colbert Report it is a “fake news” show with the host pretending to be an extreme conservative who reports on Liberal and Democratic news items.

At one point in the interview Colbert says, “So if you are so into the environment then you must have walked here – right? You wouldn’t want to take a plane and use all that fuel.” The gentleman responded that he did take a plane, of course. He stated “It is all about the carbon footprint you leave and how big that is. Nobody can live in today’s world and not leave a footprint. How big that is depends on YOU.”

Of course, Colbert, says, “Well my carbon footprint is REALLY big! You know what THAT means…right? (wink wink).”

But Colbert’s antics aside…this illustrates a good point…

If more people were to see change in terms of “footprints” rather than individual actions, we might have a lot more peace between those of us who are on the side of the environment and natural living and healing. However, one reason we do not have the unity we need in the environmental/natural living community is that we often spend too much of our time policing each other.

I have overheard criticisms of other’s habits too many times to count. I hear mothers criticized for not nursing their child and for nursing their child. I hear people criticized for sending their children to school and for homeschooling. I hear people criticized for owning a gas-guzzler and  sneered at for spending so much money on a fuel efficient car. I see this happening on Facebook, Twitter, on mailing lists, forums and in small groups.

It seems everyone is busy watching each other – making sure they are doing the “right thing”.

However, what if we looked at these things as we look at the FOOTPRINT? What if we look at people’s intentions and their over-all commitment to a cause rather than one thing they are doing?

So instead of asking, “Is my family using enough natural healing methods and eating enough healthy food?” ask, “What is my unhealthy food footprint?”  or instead of asking, “Am I Waldorf homeschooling in the right way?” ask, “What is my non-Waldorf footprint?” and “Is that acceptable to my family? Does it still fit into what we want to accomplish as homeschoolers?” or instead of asking, “Does my family have enough peace, harmony and rhythm?” ask instead, “What is our footprint of discord? How can we change this?”

Of course, in using the “footprint” method we are focusing on the negative aspects. This can be helpful when measuring progress and setting goals. However, it is often most helpful to spend most of your time focusing on the positive. Know what your footprint is but focus on what you are doing to change it! And encourage others to have a positive focus as well.

In the case of environmental activism, it certainly is near impossible to live without a footprint at all. If you know someone who is trying their best to reduce theirs then the best thing you can do for them is to encourage them by looking at what they are doing instead of what they are not doing. You may find that instead of pointing out what they are doing wrong you can learn something from what they are doing right.

In the case of parenthood choices we can also look at the big picture. Instead of looking at how a parent is schooling or if they nursed their babies or not, we can look at what their commitment is to their children in general. In the case of most people I know, their commitment to their children and doing what is best for them is very high.

This week, let’s work on more unity with our peers in the natural living and healing community. As an exercise – choose five-ten people you know and write down three things each of them are doing for the environment, their health or their children. Then be sure to encourage them this week and let them know how much you appreciate them being part of your community!



  1. It is too easy to look outward instead of inward. A few summers ago I adopted a 100% raw foods diet for 30-days with an unexpected outcome: it showed me just how much trash was produced by my normal “natural” cooked foods choices. When I went back to eating normally, it was with a new awareness of not only what I was consuming but also the amount of waste my choices created, and am committed to being more mindful about leaving a smaller footprint on the planet. I love your closing suggestion of acknowledging those in our lives who are striving for less impact, and plan to do that this week.

    Thanks so much for this.

    • Well said! I, too, have found that small “fasts” and “periods of change” have not only benefited my health but also my perspective. It is so true that sometimes we don’t realize what we are doing until we experience it will all of our senses (and not just our thoughts).

  2. SO True! However, it is not just about encouraging others to keep up the good work…I find myself falling to to “green fatigue” every once in a while and start dissing myself over my footprint expanding acts – we need to keep ourselves motivated as well! Regardless, I am for sure going to encourage my husband to keep up his good work (bottled water aside – arrgh!).

    md kennedy
    • Ah! So true! I think I am harder on myself than anyone else. Thank you for the reminder that we all need to encourage ourselves as well 🙂


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