Carbon footprint refers to the impact your daily activities have on the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Transportation choices and burning fossil fuels for heat and electricity are two major contributors to your carbon footprint. Simple strategies can help you immediately reduce your footprint in these areas. In addition to these instructions, follow the principles of reducing, reusing and recycling and consider how your diet and the products you buy contribute to greenhouse gases. For a comprehensive look at your carbon footprint, take an online quiz like the ones offered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the Global Footprint Network.
Items you will need:
- Programmable thermostat
- CFL light bulbs
Install a programmable thermostat and lower or raise the temperature by 10 to 15 degrees F whenever you are gone for the day. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, regularly setting back your thermostat for eight-hour stretches will result in energy savings of up to 10 percent annually. (See References 3) Adjust the thermostat even when you're at home --- according to the California Energy Commission, setting the thermostat higher in warm weather will save you 1 to 3 percent for every degree above 72 degrees F (see References 4).
Work from home whenever possible instead of driving to the office. Americans consume 23 billion gallons of gasoline during work commutes each year, according to The Nature Conservancy. Telecommuting even one day per week can dramatically reduce fuel consumption and decrease the effect your driving habits have on the environment. (See References 2)
Turn off lights and electronic devices when they're not in use. This not only helps reduce your carbon footprint, but it also lowers your electricity bill. Unplug devices that have a "standby" mode, as they will continue to draw power after being turned off. Alternatively, plug these devices into power strips so that you can completely power them down by flipping a switch. (See References 1)
Dry your laundry on a clothesline instead of using a tumble dryer whenever possible. A typical clothes dryer can use up to 5,000 watts per cycle, making it one of the biggest energy drains in the home. (See References 1)
Take the bus, subway or train instead of driving. Switching to public transportation may reduce your household's carbon footprint by as much as 10 percent. (See References 2)
Check your car's tires to make sure they are properly inflated. Under-inflated tires decrease fuel efficiency, which means a larger carbon footprint and more trips to the pump. If you drive 10,000 miles per year, proper tire inflation can save 300 lbs. of carbon dioxide each year. (See References 2)
Replace incandescent light bulbs with higher-efficiency CFL bulbs. Each incandescent bulb you replace with a CFL bulb saves 100 pounds of carbon dioxide over the life of the bulb, and saves you money on your electric bill. (See References 2)
- Get a home-energy audit to fully assess the ways in which you can make your house more energy-efficient. Many utility companies offer free audits; you can start your own assessment by visiting the U.S. Department of Energy's "Home Energy Assessments" webpage.
- Avoid placing lamps outfitted with CFL bulbs where children or pets can easily knock them over. CFL bulbs contain a small amount of mercury --- if the bulbs break, the mercury can escape, which can be hazardous to your health.
- U.S. Department of Energy: Estimating Appliance and Home Electronic Energy Use
- The Nature Conservancy: Climate Saving Tips
- U.S. Department of Energy: Thermostats and Control Systems
- California Energy Commission: Summertime Energy Saving Tips
- U.S. Department of Energy: Lower Water Heating Temperature
Owen Pearson is a freelance writer who began writing professionally in 2001, focusing on nutritional and health topics. After selling abstract art online for five years, Pearson published a nonfiction book detailing the process of building a successful online art business. Pearson obtained a bachelor's degree in art from the University of Rio Grande in 1997.
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