Make A Difference
Change aspects of your daily routine to reduce your footprint and lead by example. Below are ways to take action. Not all actions are created equal and some may be more or less difficult or realistic for you. But remember, each step taken makes a measurable impact.
DON’T EXHAUST IT
A single gallon of gasoline creates 20 pounds of CO2 emissions plus greenhouse gasses with even higher global warming potential, which means cars are big contributors to climate change. Before grabbing your keys:
- Opt for rideshares, carpools, or public transportation.
- Walk or ride a bike (zero emissions -- just sayin’).
- Choose a fuel-efficient, hybrid, or electric car.
- Get radial tires and use 3-7% less fuel.
- Check those tires are at the right PSI for improved fuel efficiency.
SHOOT FOR THE ENERGY STARS
Shop for electronics and appliances that tote the ENERGY STAR badge, which means it meets the EPA’s requirement as an energy-efficient product. Since it started, the rating has reduced greenhouse gasses by 3.5 billion metric tons. Check for clean energy rebates or incentives, too.
USE THE OFF SWITCH
Reducing your daily use of electricity reduces carbon emissions by thousands of pounds.
- Have your kids, partners, and/or roommates take ownership of one electricity-saving action. Empower to reduce power!
- Switch to efficient lighting, such as compact fluorescents (CFLs) or LEDs for up to 8x longer-lasting bulbs that consume only a quarter of the energy.
- Hit the lights on your way out of the room.
- Unplug appliances when they’re not in use. Believe it or not, they can still draw power even when switched off.
- Which leads to: switch electronics off, including TVs, stereos, computers, fans, and the like.
- Only hit start on a fully loaded dishwasher or washing machine.
DON’T WASTE WATER
- Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth or shaving. Faucets flow around 2 gallons per minute, so that could save 4+ gallons per person in one day (1,000+ gallons per year). Waste less, reduce your bill.
- Showers use 5-10 gallons of water a minute! Invest in a water-saving shower head, flow restrictors, or just shower quicker.
- Spring for a low-flush or dual-flush toilet. They’re easy to find and start at $99.
- Go for High Efficiency (HE) when buying a washing machine. HE washers with ENERGY STAR ratings use about 25% less energy and 33% less water than standard models.
- Load the dishwasher full to use half the water it takes to wash dishes by hand.
- No dishwasher? Use a basin or fill the sink instead of running the water as you wash.
- Laptops consume 5x less electricity than desktops.
- Choose LCD screens for external monitors.
- Make monitors more efficient with power-saving functions, like SpeedStep or Energy Saver.
- Switch the computer off when you’re not using it. Spoiler alert: screensavers don’t save energy.
- Only print what you have to. Print both sides of the paper. Better yet, don’t print.
- Stick with an inkjet printer (over laser) for better energy efficiency.
TAKE A BEAT
Let’s take a quick break and deep breath. Change can be overwhelming. There’s a lot of information and it can be overwhelming. But you can make real change. Keep going -- you’ve got this.
WATCH THAT DIAL
DON’T LOSE HEAT
Save on heating by keeping it where it’s supposed to be -- inside. Insulate attics and lofts, and draft-proof doors and windows. It can be a big job, so hire installers and you’ll also be supporting jobs that reduce energy waste.
GO SOLAR OR GEOTHERMAL
Solar is an opportunity to reduce (or eliminate) your energy bill and protects you against rising energy costs. Adding solar also increases your home value, creates local jobs, and boosts U.S. energy independence. The federal solar tax credit lets you deduct 26% of the install off your taxes (avg. $9,000). Plus, be sure to check add’l state incentives.
Geothermal heat is a long-lasting way to heat your home from the ground up. You’ll note install costs are higher, but systems last 2-3x as long as traditional HVACs use up to 65% less energy. Systems and parts are predominantly made stateside, so opting for geothermal promotes the U.S. (clean) energy economy.
REDUCE • REUSE • UPCYCLE • RECYCLE
- Try your best to avoid plastic bags. If you end up with one -- don’t feel guilty -- reuse it!
- Bring reusable bags with you to the supermarket (and all shops).
- Avoid food and products with a lot of packaging.
- Choose sustainable, non-plastic toys for children.
- Try to upcycle or repurpose something before tossing it.
- Keep up to date and follow your city’s guidelines for what can and can’t be recycled.
- Use recycled paper and recycle your office waste.
- Cosmetic packaging can be recycled. Empty shampoo bottles and make-up compacts seem to stack up, so Terracycle offers free shipping labels and a searchable map for nearby drop-off centers.
- Responsibly dispose of eWaste, i.e. CDs, computers, cell phones, etc. Do an internet search for local drop-offs. Hint: some Goodwill locations gladly accept eWaste.
- Dispose of old batteries responsibly. Use an internet search to find the closest drop-off.
Every product has a carbon footprint measured by how it was produced, packaged, and transported to the consumer. International maritime and air shipping increases this footprint. Think bottled water: plastic bottles + water + transport = 446 billion tons of CO2 in a year.
Eat local and seasonal foods. Transporting food long distances increases emissions, as does growing off-season crops using energy-intensive methods.
Trees provide oxygen, conserve energy by shading homes, clean the air, increase property value, provide food, and more. Plant a single tree and it will also absorb one ton of CO2 over the span of its lifetime. Plant another, and another…
“OFFSET” YOUR EMISSIONS
What if you absolutely have to go somewhere? Look, there will be times in life that you won’t be able to avoid increasing your carbon footprint, but you can do something: offset your emissions. Use the UN Convention on Climate Change’s carbon footprint calculator to find out how many emissions you’d need to “buy back.” Then, choose an established green project from the UN’s portfolio and contribute. It’s not net zero, but it’s better than nothing.
Establish a new value system. When people see you take environmental action, like conserving energy, or carrying reusable bags to the market, they begin to understand that sustainability is valued and feel more compelled to act. Social scientists say people constantly evaluate their peers, adjusting their own beliefs and adopting new actions in accordance. So, set the example and create a tipping point.