At individual level, I believe, the key is less consumption, less waste.
Daily household consumption
In our home the largest daily waste is paper, then plastic bottles/containers. Less consumption means reuse and recycle when appropriate.
For example, I collect papers used only on one side in a drawer. I open junk mails, if papers are printed on one side , then I will keep these papers in the drawer as well. These papers will be recycled after their reuse as scratch papers.
We usually don't drink bottled water. We use reusable bottles with filtered water from a pitcher for sports events or exercises. That means significant less consumption of plastics.
Disposable utensil is very convenient but also a big generator of non biodegradable waste. Now we refrain from using them. We try to use conventional utensil as much as possible for all occasions.
Durable goods consumption
If we take good care of durable goods such as appliances, TV, computers, clothes, shoes, they will last a lot longer efficiently. So less consumption of durable goods means use with care, reuse and recycle when possible.
Here is a story I used to tell Lily about how taking care of stuffs can make them last very long time. On my way to college, I visited my maternal uncle. He gave me a pocket short wave radio as a present. Afterwards, I used the radio twice daily to listen to Voice of America. After each use, I put the radio aside under my pillow - no throwing, no squeezing, no heavy load - that was all the care I took. I used it through my college and almost through my graduate school. One morning I put the radio on the guard rail of the balcony of my 3rd floor dormitory at the graduate school, doing stretching exercise while listening to VOA. A sudden strong gust blew it off the guard rail, sending it plunging to the ground and broke it. I used the radio daily for 6 and half years by then! Another story I like to tell Justin is a watch I used for 12 years - when it was replaced due to its shabby looking - gold plating was all gone, it still functioned perfectly.
We recycle out-of-date but lightly used clothes by donating them to charity, we reuse worn clothes, socks for car wash or other cleaning, I reuse worn pants/clothes for yard work involving dirt or stains ....
All these are small potatoes when compared to the consequences of maintenance of major appliances, washer/dryer, dish washer, refrigerator, oven, stove. Prolonged appliances' life and keep their efficiency at high level not only significant reduce our carbon footprint but also save big bucks. We felt this type of impact recently by fixing our dryer - fixing the dryer effectively saved us ~ $300, and since we cleaned the dryer's duct inside and out, the dryer's efficiency improved 100% (time to dry a full load of bathing towels, bed sheets is ~ 45 minutes compared to more than 90 minutes before the cleaning and fixing the heating element) - this will lead to some reduction in electricity usage. I plan to check users' manuals of other appliances to see what maintenance are needed.
Our direct carbon footprint is from our daily driving.
Maintenance of cars are common practice. For cars we have, we can improve their efficiency by minimizing idle time during drive. After I wrote the post "drive to work", I am more conscious of relaxing and minimizing idle time while driving - I was pleasantly surprised that my Odysseys efficiency improved from ~ 20mph to 22mph this month.
Keeping your tires properly inflated will make your tires run longer and make your car more efficient as well.
Heating and Air Conditioning
In north Texas, our biggest, though indirect, carbon foot print comes from Air conditioning in summer and heating in winter. Tune up of furnace and air conditioners should help maintain or improve their efficiency. But I had bad experience the last time I had my air conditioners serviced by SEARS. The SEARS technician came, all he did was to turn on my AC, went to attic to check if there was leaking and then sprinkled water on the outside of the AC! We have not had tune ups for several years now.
To save energy what we preach to the kids are "take off clothes before turn on AC in summer, put on clothes before turn on Heat in winter". We follow widely recommended thermostat settings - 75 ~ 78F for summer, 68 - 72F for winter. Another important thing to do is to keep door and window seals in good conditions.
Texas is hot in the long summer - it means we have abundant sunshine and solar energy! We looked at solar panels a couple times, but have not made up our minds on it yet.
Without solar panels, we can still utilize solar energy - Sun dry laundry! Traditionally people Sun dried laundry all the time. Now days many home owners' associations actually ban such practice to make sure the real estates look good all the time.
After we moved to Texas, we started sun dry laundry from jeans, pants and T shirts initially to now all laundry except underwear. On a summer Sunday several year ago, when the kids were younger , they helped mom to take Sun dried clothes inside the house. As they were entering the house, I told them: "Smell the clothes" - they smelled it. "It smells good. What is it?", they asked. "It is the Aroma of the Sun" Lily told them. They were amazed. I smiled.
Note: To have real and substantial reduction of carbon dioxide emission, development and application of renewable energy, conservation of forests etc. requires national, international efforts. As individuals, we voice our support to sensible green efforts through ballots.