In order to curb climate change, there must be global-scale actions happening across several large industries. While individual choices can sometimes feel futile with the overwhelming threat of climate change, personal-level actions may help still lessen your impact on the environment.

Lowering your carbon footprint, the total amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from all your activities, has been promoted as a positive effort that individuals can take to help fight climate change. But calculating a carbon footprint can be a difficult task.

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A new study finds that many North Americans actually often underestimate GHG emissions from their activities and are largely incapable of making trade-offs between different actions. Seth Wynes, Ph.D. Candidate at the University of British Columbia and author of the new study, described the study in The Conversation.

When asked to categorize environmental-conscious activities as having low, medium, or high impact, many participants listed driving less and recycling as high impact. Switching personal vehicle habits is a high impact activity while recycling is not.

Reducing air travel and meat consumption were incorrectly ranked, which both have a huge impact on an individual’s carbon footprint.

Pushing the practice of reducing your personal carbon footprint may not be effective as once thought, since most people cannot gauge which activities will have the greatest impact on the environment. People can often spend too much time and effort on something that actually doesn’t have a big impact on mitigating climate change.

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When balancing individual action with political action, Wynes commented in The Conversation that “we can test ways to incentivize lifestyle change while increasing policy support, ideally with resources that don’t take away from political action. That could include projects on university campuses, in corporate offices and in grade schools (twelve-year-olds can’t vote, but they can learn what constitutes a sustainable meal and how to cook it).”

“These approaches are helpful because they bring attention to climate change but don’t rely on individuals mastering the difficult subject of carbon footprints on their own,” he writes.

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Although individuals don’t know the science behind GHG emissions calculating, day-to-day choices can still help in the fight against climate change when done in a meaningful fashion.

Learn more about how to cut down on your own carbon footprint:

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Reducing your meat intake is one important way to help the environment. Plant-based foods are also known to help with chronic inflammation, heart health, mental wellbeing, fitness goals, nutritional needs, allergies, gut health and more! Dairy consumption also has been linked many health problems, including acne, hormonal imbalance, cancer, prostate cancer and has many side effects. For those of you interested in eating more plant-based, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App — with over 15,000 delicious recipes it is the largest plant-based recipe resource to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy! And, while you are at it, we encourage you to also learn about the environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet.

Here are some resources to get you started:

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