By Larry West
Burning fossil fuels such as natural gas, coal, oil, and gasoline raises the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and carbon dioxide is a major contributor to the greenhouse effect and global warming.1 Global climate change is certainly one of the top environmental issues today.
You can help to reduce the demand for fossil fuels, which in turn reduces global warming, by using energy more wisely. Here are 10 simple actions you can take to help reduce global warming.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle & Upcycle
Do your part to reduce waste by choosing reusable products instead of disposables — get a reusable water bottle, for example. Buying products with minimal packaging (including the economy size when that makes sense for you) will help to reduce waste. And whenever you can, recycle paper, plastic, newspaper, glass, and aluminum cans. If there isn’t a recycling program at your workplace, school, or in your community, ask about starting one. By recycling half of your household waste, you can save 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide annually.
Use Less Heat and Air Conditioning
Adding insulation to your walls and attic, and installing weather stripping or caulking around doors and windows can lower your heating costs by 15 percent or more, by reducing the amount of energy you need to heat and cool your home.
Turn down the heat while you’re sleeping at night or away during the day, and keep temperatures moderate at all times. Setting your thermostat just 2 degrees lower in winter and higher in summer could save about 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide each year.
Change a Light Bulb
Wherever practical, replace regular light bulbs with LED bulbs; they are even better than compact fluorescent light (CFL). ENERGY STAR-qualified LEDs use 20 percent – 25 percent of the energy and last up to 25 times longer than the traditional incandescent bulbs they replace.
Drive Less and Drive Smart
Less driving means fewer emissions. Besides saving gasoline, walking and biking are great forms of exercise. Explore your community mass transit system, and check out options for carpooling to work or school. Even vacations can provide opportunities to reduce your carbon footprint.
When you do drive, make sure your car is running efficiently. For example, keeping your tires properly inflated can improve your gas mileage by more than 3 percent.2 Every gallon of gas you save not only helps your budget, it also keeps 20 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
Buy Energy-Efficient Products
When it’s time to buy a new car, choose one that offers good gas mileage. Home appliances now come in a range of energy-efficient models, and LED bulbs are designed to provide more natural-looking light while using far less energy than standard light bulbs.Look into your state’s energy efficiency programs; you might find some help.
Avoid products that come with excess packaging, especially molded plastic and packaging that can’t be recycled.5 If you reduce your household garbage by 10 percent, you can save 1,200 pounds of carbon dioxide annually.
Use Less Hot Water
Set your water heater at 120 degrees to save energy, and wrap it in an insulating blanket if it is more than 5 years old. Buy low-flow showerheads to save hot water and about 350 pounds of carbon dioxide yearly. Wash your clothes in warm or cold water to reduce your use of hot water and the energy required to produce it. That change alone can save at least 500 pounds of carbon dioxide annually in most households. Use the energy-saving settings on your dishwasher and let the dishes air-dry.
Use the “Off” Switch
Save electricity and reduce global warming by turning off lights when you leave a room, and using only as much light as you need. And remember to turn off your television, video player, stereo, and computer when you’re not using them.
It’s also a good idea to turn off the water when you’re not using it. While brushing your teeth, shampooing the dog or washing your car, turn off the water until you actually need it for rinsing. You’ll reduce your water bill and help to conserve a vital resource.
Plant a Tree
If you have the means to plant a tree, start digging. During photosynthesis, trees and other plants absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. They are an integral part of the natural atmospheric exchange cycle here on Earth, but there are too few of them to fully counter the increases in carbon dioxide caused by automobile traffic, manufacturing, and other human activities.Help mitigate climate change: a single tree will absorb approximately one ton of carbon dioxide during its lifetime.
Get a Report Card from Your Utility Company
Many utility companies provide free home energy audits to help consumers identify areas in their homes that may not be energy efficient. In addition, many utility companies offer rebate programs to help pay for the cost of energy-efficient upgrades.
Encourage Others to Conserve
Share information about recycling and energy conservation with your friends, neighbors, and co-workers, and take opportunities to encourage public officials to establish programs and policies that are good for the environment.
These steps will take you a long way toward reducing your energy use and your monthly budget. And less energy use means less dependence on the fossil fuels that create greenhouse gasses and contribute to global warming.