The solution to global warming starts not on the floor of Congress or Parliament, but at home. Making a few simple lifestyle changes can help your household reduce your carbon footprint - or the amount of greenhouse gases you are responsible for creating.
1. Don't Overdry Your Clothes
About ten percent of the average energy bill comes from your washer and your dryer, because these two appliances use quite a bit of energy (Consumer Reports). While there might be very little you can do to reduce how much energy your washer uses (unless you want to hand-wash everything), a dryer with a moisture sensor will help you to reduce your carbon footprint. Alternatively, dry clothes the old-fashioned way on a line. This doesn’t add to your carbon footprint at all!
2. Trade Your Gas Mower for an Electric or a Push-Mower
Did you know that according to the EPA, Americans use 800 million gallons of gasoline each year mowing their lawn? The EPA says that one traditional, gas-powered lawn mower produces as much air pollution as 43 new cars being driven 12,000 miles each (People Powered Machines). An easy way to reduce your carbon footprint is to trade in that gas mower for an electric mower or (better yet) a push-mower.
3. Get Rid of Energy Vampires
Most appliances still draw energy from the power grid even when they are not in use. This is called “standby power" or “vampires" (because it sucks the power grid dry!). Your microwave, for example, uses the same amount of energy when it is off for 23 hours as it does when it’s in use for ten minutes (Saving Electricity). Reduce your carbon footprint by checking around your home to see if there’s anything that you can unplug while it’s not in use.
4. Double-pane Windows Save Energy
According to National Geographic, double-pane windows can reduce your monthly energy bill 10 – 15%. That extra pane helps keep in the heat during the winter and the cool during the summer. Look for the windows with the Energy Star label to make sure you’re getting the most energy-efficient windows available. And if you don’t want to replace all your windows, you can improve your existing windows by adding storm windows, weather stripping, or caulking your windows.
5. Monitor Your Thermostat
Everyone in your home probably prefers a different temperature, but if your household is serious about reducing your carbon footprint, keep your thermostat as low as you can bear during the winter and as high as you can bear during the summer.
6. Walk, Bike, or Take Public Transportation
You can reduce your carbon footprint by getting a more fuel-efficient car, or you can reduce your carbon footprint even further by avoiding cars altogether. Once you get into the habit of walking, biking, or taking public transportation to work and around town, you’ll enjoy the exercise and appreciate the effect on your budget.
7. Join a Carpool
If you can’t bear the idea of public transportation and you live too far away from your workplace to walk or bike, you can still reduce your carbon footprint by joining a carpool. Carpool with the people you work with, or use a site like CraigsList.org to find other people in your area who want to carpool to work.
8. Send the Kids to School on the Bus
If your children attend a public school that has school bus transportation, sending them to school on the bus is better for the environment than driving them each day. Many public schools have long carpool lines that snake from the entrance of the school, through the parking lot, and all the way onto the street. As you wait in line, your car is increasing your family’s carbon footprint. Consider sending your children to school on the traditional yellow school bus instead.
9. Buy Local Produce
Some grocery stores these days will tell you where your produce comes from. Labels state “Product of California," or “Product of Peru." As much as you may enjoy that asparagus from South America, it’s having a detrimental effect on the environment. Reduce your carbon footprint by buying locally and regionally produced foods.
10. Be Willing to Take Personal Responsibility
The changes you need to make to your lifestyle in order to reduce your carbon footprint do involve some sacrifice. During the winter months, for example, most people would probably prefer the thermostat to be set at 70 or 72 degrees rather than 68 or even 65. And having a large SUV is often more convenient than having a small hybrid, or taking the extra time it requires to use public transportation. But if the recent past is any indicator, the problem of global warming will not be stopped by governmental action alone. It will require individuals to educate themselves and take personal responsibility to do what they can to reduce their own carbon footprint.
“Cleaner Air: Gas Mower Pollution Facts." People Powered Machines
“Vampire Power." Saving Electricity
“Washers/Dryers: Green Buying Guide 08." Consumer Reports – Greener Choices.
“Is Your Home a ‘Green House’? Tips." National Geographic.