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How—and Why—to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

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From the time I was a little kid, being good to the earth was a priority. From anti-litter campaigns in elementary school, to Earth Day speeches and celebrations in high school, to becoming a vegetarian, to pledging to take only jobs that don't harm the planet at my college graduation, being eco-conscious has been a big part of my life.

That's not to say I don't burn fossil fuels in my car or own more stuff than I need. But, I try to cut my carbon footprint where I can.

It's now accepted as scientific fact that the earth's atmosphere is heating up in large part because of human activity. We are experiencing extreme weather: floods, droughts, heat waves, massive storms, bitter winters in the east, and mild temperatures here in Montana. It's weird. The sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic is thinning and less extensive. The places I love to hike look different.

The laws of physics dictate that the world will grow warmer and warmer as greenhouse gas concentrations rise. There's no uncertainty about this: scientists have modeled this correlation and are working hard to predict what a warmer future might look like.

But—yes, there is a big but—we can still change things.

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Walking to the store instead of driving can be an adventure, not a chore. All images: Melynda Harrison

Taking action now won't result in an immediate stop to climate change, but new studies show that we'll see the effects in about a decade. Our actions today will help prevent catastrophic changes from taking place.

Here are a few things you can do:

1. Dry your laundry outside
Unless it's raining, your clothes will dry outside. Even in winter. A clothes dryer accounts for a whopping 12% of electricity use in a typical household. Plus, drying your clothes outside makes them smell nice.

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Save electricity by hang-drying clothes outside.

2.Walk or ride a bike
I get that it can be a pain to hoof it to the store when you could pop in your car and be there in minutes. I live in Montana; it's cold sometimes. And I live in the windiest town in the world (probably not, but it sure seems like it) with two little kids. It's a total hassle to walk and bike sometimes. Do it anyways. Do it as often as you can, even if it's not every trip.

3. Buy from responsible companies
We can't buy our way out of this, but when you need something, think local, organic, and responsible. One of the reasons I applied to be an Oboz Trail Team Ambassador was their ethics. Did you know Oboz plants a tree for every pair of shoes they sell? Trees take carbon out of the air, which is a good thing when you are concerned with greenhouse gases and global warming. They also offset their carbon from shoe shipments, travel, and office utilities. Plus, the Oboz HQ is powered by wind energy. Imagine if every company did this.

4. Two up two down
This is an easy one. Turn your thermostat down two degrees when running the heat and up two degrees when using the air conditioner. Then see if you can adjust the thermostat at your work or school. According to the EPA, for each degree a thermostat is adjusted up or down for the season, if the setback period is eight hours long, a family, school, or business can save 1% of the cost.

5. Write your elected officials and demand a fair price for carbon
Many individuals working to shrink their carbon footprint is good, but getting whole countries to do it is even better. Carbon-based fuels are currently less expensive than many renewables because they pass on costs to future generations. A fair price for carbon will factor in those hidden costs and make renewable energy more competitive. You can find U.S. officials here, and contact EU and Canadian officials here.

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The most important part of cutting carbon is getting outside and falling in love with your little slice of the planet.

And most importantly, get outside and fall in love with your part of the planet. Because when we love something, we want to take care of it.

Melynda Harrison is a Livingston, Montana, based writer whose essays and articles have appeared in High Country News, Backpacker Magazine, Big Sky Journal, Woman's Adventure, and Montana Magazine. Melynda is also the social media manager for Polar Bears International, and author of Ski Trails of Southwest Montana. Melynda's company Yellowstonetrips.com, is the premier travel company specializing in vacation coaching and itinerary building for travel in and around Yellowstone National Park. Follow her adventures at TravelingMel.com.

At the heart of everything we do are the folks who make the magic happen. A group of likeminded footwear-industry vets who left our big-brand jobs back in 2007 intent on doing business a better way. 

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