Be Part of the Solution
All of us use fossil fuels every day -- for heating and cooling our homes, driving our cars, generating the electricity to power our lights and appliances, and more. In the process we produce the greenhouse gases that are primarily responsible for global warming. Fortunately, each of us also has the power to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels. Here are some of the most important ways we can all make a difference:
NEW DRIVE WAYS
Consider driving less by taking public transportation, walking, bicycling, or carpooling. Drive a more energy-efficient vehicle. When you drive, follow the speed limit and drive at a consistent speed. Take your car in for regular tune-ups and keep your tires properly inflated. Take off any rooftop carriers when not in use.
Try switching from conventional incandescent bulbs to energy-efficient compact fluorescents. Or better yet, try to maximize your use of natural sunlight for daytime lighting needs.
TAKE YOUR TEMPERATURE
Take every step possible to reduce excessive use of home heating and cooling. Try turning up the thermostat in the summer and turning it down a few degrees in the winter. If you have an automated thermostat, program it to adjust temperatures at nighttime. Try installing better insulation throughout the house. Seal up windows, close vents, and clean filters. If you really want to save energy, try to avoid using air conditioning on all but the very hottest days. You'd be amazed at how effective ceiling fans alone can be in making you feel cooler.
New refrigerators use about 50% less energy than those made just 10-15 years ago. That's a big deal, considering that refrigerators account for between 10 and 15% of total home energy consumption. The next time you buy a new refrigerator or any major or even minor appliance look for the Energy Star label to be sure you're getting a high efficiency model. In the meantime, keep your refrigerator's thermostat set to the recommended temperature and clean the condenser coil regularly.
You can reduce your energy consumption a lot by using less hot water. Run your dishwasher only when full, and wash clothes in cold or warm water, never hot. They'll get just as clean! When it's time to replace your washing machine, choose a new high-efficiency front-loader. You'll see great savings on water, electricity, and detergent, and you'll discover you can more safely wash delicate items, too.
GO FOR THE SHADE
Plant leafy trees around your house to provide windbreaks and summer shade. Each year, the average yard tree cleans 330 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. An average tree absorbs ten pounds of pollutants from the air each year, including four pounds of ground level ozone and three pounds of particulates.
Whenever possible, select organic produce. The pesticides used to kill pests also kill the organisms that help keep carbon dioxide in the soil.
THINK GLOBALLY, EAT LOCALLY
As much as possible, buy local produce and other goods. The fewer miles your produce has traveled, the less energy has been used for refrigeration and transportation.
Almost everything you buy requires the consumption of fossil fuels. Manufacturing, packing, transporting, and selling goods all use huge amounts of energy, releasing excessive amounts of greenhouse gases. When shopping, ask, "Do I really need this? Does the Earth really need this?"
Try an energy audit for your home, school, or office. It's a great way of assessing where and how you use energy and how you can cut back. Click here for sample instructions.
CALCULATE YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT
How much do your emissions add up to? You can calculate your household's greenhouse gas emissions by using a carbon calculator. Once you've calculated your impact, consider how you can cut back on your overall emissions. You'll be amazed how small steps add up to huge differences in our cumulative impact.
BE AN ACTIVE CITIZEN
While each individual's commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions is important, we won't curb global warming without major changes in the kinds of energy we use and an economic system that depends on a high rate of wasteful consumption. These changes will come about only if enough of us become more politically active. You can do a lot to support the work of local, state, and national governments to curb global warming. Stay informed, write letters to your leaders, and support those candidates who promise to take the aggressive and farsighted actions necessary to curb climate change. Learn how you can get involved.