The key to reducing your carbon footprint is to limit your energy use. That said, any behavior
that conserves resources—recycling is one example—will reduce greenhouse gas pollution.
Here are some practical ways to cut your greenhouse gas emissions:
1. Unplug your electronics
Many appliances consume energy even when you’re not using them. This is called “phantom load,” and it can cost you $100 or more per year. Prevent it by directly unplugging electronics or by plugging items into a surge protector/power strip and turning the whole strip off when you leave a room.
2. Adjust your thermostat
Turning up your air conditioning by several degrees can reduce your energy bill, keeping CO2 out of the air and dollars in your wallet. In the winter, putting on a sweater instead of blasting the heat can also save a hefty amount of energy.
3. Alter your driving habits
Small changes to your driving style can make a big difference in carbon emissions.
- Stop iding: An idling car gets exactly 0 miles per gallon. If you are parked or stuck in a gridlocked traffic jam, turn it off.
- Accelerate gently: Hard acceleration just takes you to the gas station faster.
- Reduce your speed: Think about how much more energy it takes to run than walk. Now think about how much more gas your car uses at 70 mph than at 55 mph.
4. Green-clean your clothes
Greening your laundry is as easy as hitting the cold water button and drying your clothes on a rack instead of in machine. You’ll save money on electric bills too – about 5% of all electricity used in U.S. homes is used to dry clothes.
1. Don’t skip tune-ups
Good maintenance usually equals efficiency. Care for your appliances and they will reward you with lower energy costs and longer operating lives.
- Car: Follow the scheduled service guidelines for your car and keep the tires properly inflated.
- Heating and Cooling: Change the air filter in your air conditioning unit and periodically tune up your furnace.
- Refrigerator: Keep the coils on the back of your refrigerator clean.
2. Make conscious purchases
When making buying decisions, consider how your everyday purchases will affect the environment.
- Buy items with less packaging: More packaging results in more weight, which uses extra energy during manufacturing, shipping, and waste disposal.
- Buy locally: Shipping food long distances uses a lot of fuel. Why buy apples from some exotic location when you can have local apples in season?
- Size it right: If you buy something like a car or a home that’s bigger than necessary, you will commit yourself to larger energy or gas bills every month.
- Don’t buy it: Before making a purchase, consider whether you will really use it. Impulse purchases waste your money and the Earth’s resources.
3. Rethink Your Waste
Your trash really is someone’s else’s treasure. Recycling is still important, since materials like aluminum and steel require a lot of energy to mine and refine. You can also reduce greenhouse gas emissions even more by composting your organic waste at home. If you don’t have a yard, try vermicomposting inside your home.
4. Consider travel alternatives
Flying is the most carbon intensive mode of transport. The average cross-country, round-trip flight emits about 6,000 pounds of carbon emissions. Short flights are the worst, emitting more CO2 per mile traveled than medium to longer flights. So, when possible, take a train or bus instead of flying. Just think of all the security and TSA headaches you’ll avoid!
5. Prioritize efficiency
Easy, low-cost investments can significantly improve your household’s efficiency.
- Switch to CFLs: Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) are more expensive than traditional incandescent bulbs, but because they are so efficient, they will save you money over their lives. Traditional lighting accounts for a large portion of household electricity use, but CFLs can reduce this by up to 75%, saving you an average of 7.5% on your electricity bill.
- Wrap your water heater: For just a few dollars, you can wrap your water heater in a heat blanket, saving cash and reducing carbon emissions.
- Buy efficient appliances: When you plan to purchase new appliances, look for ENERGY STAR qualified products. But don’t just settle for the certification—pick the model that uses the least amount of energy possible. If you don’t need a full sized refrigerator, don’t buy one.
- Seal those drafts: Use caulking for leaky windows and get a door sweep to keep the heat in your house and CO2 out of the atmosphere.