There’s a worldwide buzz over global warming and how to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal greenhouse gas that contributes to the problem. See how much your house creates—and then find ways to cut back by following these three steps.
1. Calculate Your Home’s Emissions
Burning fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas to generate electricity and heat releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We create CO2 each time we use the air conditioner, drive a car or turn on the computer. You can figure how many tons of CO2 you produce in a year by visiting an online carbon calculator, which will prompt you to enter information on your house’s size, number of people who live there, gas and electric bills, and your vehicles. Check www.ClimateCrisis.net/takeaction/carboncalculator or www.CarbonCounter.org.
2. Reduce Your Impact at Home
By using energy more efficiently at home, you can reduce your emissions and lower your energy bills by more than 30 percent. Here’s how:
1. Replace an incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL).
2. Set your thermostat 2 degrees cooler in winter and 2 degrees warmer in summer.
3. Clean or replace filters on your furnace and air conditioner.
4. Choose energy-efficient appliances. Look for the Energy Star label on new models.
5. Wrap your water heater in an insulation blanket and set the thermostat no higher than 120˚F.
6. Use less hot water by installing a low-flow showerhead and by washing clothes in cold or warm water.
7. Use a clothesline instead of a dryer whenever possible.
8. Turn off electronic devices such as the stereo, computer and TV when you’re not using them.
9. Unplug electronics from the wall when they’re not in use. Even when turned off, items such as hairdryers, cell phone chargers and televisions use energy.
10. Only run your dishwasher when there’s a full load, and use the energy-saving setting.
11. Insulate your home and weatherize with caulking and weather-stripping.
13. Buy recycled paper products to prevents loss of forests. Plus, it takes 70 to 90 percent less energy to make recycled paper.
14. Plant a tree. A single tree absorbs 1 ton of CO2 over its lifetime. Shade from trees also reduces air conditioning bills.
15. Get a home energy audit. Many utilities providers will help you improve energy efficiency.
16. Switch to green power generated by clean, renewable sources such as wind and solar.
17. Buy locally grown foods to save fuel.
18. Buy fresh foods instead of frozen. Frozen food uses 10 times more energy to store.
19. Support local farmer’s markets; they greatly reduce the energy required to transport food.
20. Buy organic foods; organic soils capture and store CO2 at higher levels.
21. Avoid heavily packaged products.
22. Eat less beef. Cows are one of the greatest emitters of methane, a significant greenhouse gas.
23. Walk, bike, carpool, take mass transit or telecommute.
24. Keep your car tuned up and your tires properly inflated to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions.
25. Choose a more fuel-efficient vehicle.
3. Buy Carbon Offsets
Offsetting your CO2 emissions—paying someone else to reduce CO2 emissions on your behalf—allows you to reduce your global warming pollution to zero. For example, most people can’t give up driving entirely, but you can drive less and then make up for the emissions by helping finance things such as wind farms, tree-planting projects or solar collectors that displace kerosene or diesel power.
To buy carbon offsets:
• The Climate Trust: Supports projects that reduce diesel-engine idling through truck-stop electrification.
• Native Energy: Finances projects using clean and renewable energy to help American Indians and farmers create sustainable economic benefits.
• Sustainable Travel International: Offset home or air-travel emission through the MyClimate project:
Excerpted with permission from
. Additional information from David Suzuki Foundation
; U.S. EPA
Carbon Offsets: Caveats
If you’re purchasing carbon offsets, look for investments in viable projects that will truly make a difference. (Below are a few offset pitfalls.) Also, keep in mind that CO2 offsets alone can’t save the planet—it’s more important that each individual does his or her part to reduce energy waste.
Concerns about carbon offsets:
• Wind-turbine or solar-panel projects are beneficial, but they only qualify as an offset if they wouldn’t have otherwise been installed—and only if they replace current use of fossil fuels.
• Most carbon offsets aren’t currently verified to ensure they’re really happening and that they’re not sold to anyone else.
• Tree planting as a carbon offset gets mixed reviews because even trees planted with good intentions can burn down or die.
• Installing a solar panel on your own roof reduces your personal emissions, but to offset additional carbon use, install more panels than you need. Then the surplus can be sold into the grid, reducing the quantity of fossil fuels needed to make electricity.
Source: Solar Electric Light Fund