You can reduce your carbon footprint by changing the way you shop and by reducing waste. Here are some links and advice to help Oregonians make green consumer choices:
Buying locally supports Oregon farmers, preserves Oregon's open spaces from sprawl and may reduce greenhouse gas emissions due to shorter transportation distances. Look for products from companies that are committed to aggressively reducing their energy use and carbon footprint. When you shop at your local farmer's market or take the kids to a U-pick farm, look for farms that adopt low impact practices that minimize releases of greenhouse gases. Some helpful links:
- Check the Oregon Farmer's Market Association's listings for a farmer's market near you.
- Community supported agriculture can keep your family in fresh produce all growing season long and give you a chance to support local farms directly. The Oregon Environmental Council’s Guide to Community Supported Agriculture lists CSA farms throughout Oregon.
- The Eat Well Guide is a directory for sources of fresh, locally grown and sustainably produced food. Also check out their handy seasonal food guide.
- The Chefs Collaborative non-profit network advocates for sustainability in the food community and provides resources for chefs who wish to purchase more sustainably.
- Different types of food have different greenhouse gas impacts. To date, analyses have estimated food products' greenhouse gas emissions by pound or gallon of product, dollar or calorie, but have not considered other nutritional differences between different kinds of food. Research is underway to evaluate some products' greenhouse gas emissions per unit of nutrients, and as it clarifies the greenhouse gas effects of our dietary choices, we’ll pass the guidance along. Given what we know and don't know today, our best advice for reducing food-related emissions is to eat a healthy, balanced diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables and grains, avoid fresh foods air-shipped in, and reduce wasted food by buying only what you can consume.
Everything we buy has greenhouse gas impacts in its production, transportation, and disposal. Some products also contribute to global warming during their use. A few rules of thumb to help you shop sustainably:
- For vehicles and most appliances, the emissions associated with energy use are larger than the emissions associated with manufacturing. So buying energy efficient products is important (as is minimizing energy use by turning appliances off when not in use, reducing driving, etc.).
- For durable goods (furniture, clothing), most of the impact is in manufacturing. Buy used instead of new. Focus on high-quality, durable, repairable products in “classic” styles that won’t require frequent replacement.
- Because of cleaner (lower carbon) energy sources, products made in the Pacific states (California, Oregon, Washington), Canada, and Europe may have lower greenhouse gas impacts than products made in much of Asia and many other areas.
- Consider buying services instead of products. For example, at holidays and birthdays, gifts of time and experiences (a picnic, a home-cooked meal, a hike, a bicycle ride, going bowling, concert tickets, etc.) may have lower greenhouse gas impacts . . . and create fonder memories too.
- Consider buying from businesses that make a concerted effort to reduce their carbon impacts. Travel Portland keeps a Green Resources Directory of certified sustainable businesses in Portland.
- The Central Oregon Environmental Center offers a Green Business Directory for Central Oregon.
Reduce Waste and Recycle
Oregon produced about 7.6 pounds of discards per person each day in 2008. Most of the impact of those discards isn't from landfills or garbage incinerators, but from raw material extraction and manufacturing. Remember: reduce first, then reuse, then recycle as an option of last resort. To reduce your discards, use re-usable coffee mugs, water bottles, shopping bags, and food containers. Remember the old adage: "use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without". If you cannot reuse an item, think recycling.
- Oregon DEQ's website has a summary of the link between materials, waste and global warming.
- Try some of Metro's tips for waste prevention.
- The EPA also has a guide to reducing, reusing, and recycling.
- Visit the Association of Oregon Recyclers to find information about recycling in your community. If you can't find the information you're looking for, try checking your county's website or find a contact through Oregon DEQ.
- Post your cast-offs on Freecycle. Someone’s trash is someone else’s treasure, so see if anyone else can use your unwanted items before sending them to the landfill. Many Oregon communities have Freecycle groups. Better yet, "buy" what you need from Freecycle and other reuse organizations, and avoid the impacts of making new products.
- Register on the DirectMail.com National Do Not Mail List to stop your junk mail and at Catalog Choice to stop receiving unwanted catalogs.
- FreeGeek is a non-profit in Portland that will happily refurbish or recycle your unwanted electronics, and provide you with reused computers and parts.
- If you're remodeling, Portland's Rebuilding Center accepts and sells used hardware, doors, windows, fixtures, siding, and more.
- Visit The City of Eugene's solid waste recycling/reduction and green building page.
- Compost your kitchen waste - start your own compost pile with ideas from Metro's Guide to Effective Composting. Lane County even has volunteer compost specialists.
Buy Carbon Offsets
Carbon “offsets” are produced from verifiable changes in business-as-usual practices that reduce emissions or increase the capture of greenhouse gases from the air. Your dollars may go to: capping old coal mines to keep methane from escaping; “no-till” farming that holds carbon fixed in the soil; or planting trees to soak up carbon and lock it into permanent forest growth. It’s important to assure yourself that you’re getting a real, verifiable, additional carbon benefit for your money. You can check that your supplier is certified by Green E, or another an independent non-profit organization that examines claims and validates them (see below).
Lists and information about offsets:
Independent Standards and Registries of Certified Projects and Suppliers
Link to more Take Action ideas:
Transportation | Energy & Buildings | Shopping and Waste
Planning Resources | Spread the Word