carbon dioxide &
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what you can do
The average US household generates over 45,000 pounds of carbon dioxide each year, counting both household and transportation uses (assuming a single family home, and two cars)10. While most attention has been focused on the cars we drive, household emissions (through electricity, natural gas, etc...) are often at least as much as those given off by our cars. Of the 45,000 pounds above, 25,000 come from home-based energy consumption. So buying a hybrid car certainly helps, but so does making your home as energy-efficient as possible.
For a comprehensive list of projects to reduce your global warming contribution,
visit the LIL Impact Calculator for your region.
To start, consider the following top projects to reduce your contribution to global warming:
Eliminate Your Global Warming Impact. If you are really concerned about global warming, these projects will do the most to reduce your carbon dioxide emissions.
1. Purchase a hybrid or renewable fuel vehicle. Switching from a normal car that gets 22 miles to the gallon to a hybrid like the Toyota Prius could save over 2½ tons of carbon dioxide per year, and switching to a biodiesel vehicle could save even more (4 tons+).
Learn more about automotive options.
2. Insulate and seal your entire house. Poor insulation, leaks in windows and doors, and leaks in heating and cooling system ductwork can waste up to 20% of your home energy and produce excess carbon dioxide. Get an energy audit of your house to find out where you can save, or click here to find insulation contractors in your area.
3. Install energy star appliances, starting with a clothes washer. Appliances use up a third of your household energy and produce large amounts of carbon dioxide. Depending on the vintage of your current appliances, installing a new Energy Star clothes washer or refrigerator can save hundreds of pounds of carbon dioxide a year. Review top Energy Star appliances.
4. Install solar panels and a solar hot water heater at your house. In the right area, solar panels and solar hot water heaters can reduce your use of electricity or heating fuel by 50% - 100%, saving thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide a year.
Learn more or contact solar installers in your area.
Bang for your Buck. Low Impact Living has analyzed over 100 projects to reduce your environmental impact, and these reduce the most carbon dioxide per dollar spent. So, you'll save the planet while also saving money.
1. Don't drive! Driving 20 miles to work may be unavoidable, especially in our public-transit-deprived Western cities, but there are many ways to avoid those shorter trips. Where available, take public transportation. Cities around the country are installing bike paths, so brush off that old Schwinn cruiser and head out to the store. Or, get some fresh air and walk to the neighborhood store or farmer's market – reusable shopping bags in hand, of course.
2. Insulate hot water piping and water heater. Insulating your hot water heater and hot water piping can save almost 5% from your home energy bills; depending on what your hot water fuel is, you can save nearly that much of your household carbon dioxide (excluding cars). And, they are simple to do. Buy insulation materials online.
3. Buy an Energy Star programmable thermostat. Home heating and cooling release the most carbon dioxide outside of driving cars, even in regions where natural gas is the primary heating fuel. Programmable thermostats can save hundreds of pounds of carbon dioxide a year, and pay for themselves in 12 months. Purchase a Low Impact Living-recommended thermostat
4. Replace light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs. Replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs (or CFLs) saves money, energy and carbon dioxide, especially if you live in a state where coal is used to generate electricity. Each light bulb you replace could eliminate 100 pounds of carbon dioxide per year or more.
Learn more about or buy CFLs.
5. Reduce the temperature of your hot water heater. Reducing the temperature of your hot water heater to 120 degrees cuts energy consumption, saves money and reduces carbon dioxide emissions.
6. Run appliances on cold water when possible. Using hot water is the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions after driving cars and home heating/cooling. Switching from a hot/warm laundry wash to warm/cold can save as much as 20 gallons of hot water per load. Over a year, this could save several hundred pounds of carbon dioxide.
Offset Your Global Warming Impact. There is a third way to reduce your contributions to global warming – pay another party to take steps on your behalf.
1. Purchase carbon dioxide offsets. A carbon dioxide offset is a mechanisms through which you pay another party to take steps to remove a certain quantity of carbon dioxide. In some instances, you pay to have trees planted that absorb a particular quantity of carbon dioxide. In others, you buy the carbon reductions that a company has taken via the financial markets. Quality offset providers always have third-party validation of their offsetting approach.
Investigate and purchase carbon offsets.
2. Purchase green power from your utility. Many utilities now offer consumers the opportunity to purchase 100% renewable power for a small additional fee. By doing this, you reduce or eliminate your carbon emissions from using electricity in your home. Check with your local utility to see if they offer this option.
3. Purchase Renewable Energy Certificates, or RECS. Renewable Energy Certificates are certificates associated with renewable energy projects that represent the positive environmental attributes of the project. For instance, a wind farm might sell electricity to the local utility and associated RECS for the amount of carbon dioxide avoided by not using fossil fuels to generate that amount of electricity. RECS are beneficial in that they stimulate the demand for renewable energy projects. Purchase RECS.
10 US Department of Energy, 2005 Buildings Energy Data Book
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