You’ll Save Yourself a Lot of Green, Too!
You have probably seen or heard the phrase carbon footprint a lot in the media lately in relation to global warming, climate change, and energy efficiency, but do you really know what it refers to? Did you even know that you have a carbon footprint? And did you know that the heating and air conditioning that you consume has a significant impact on YOUR carbon footprint? We explain below.
A carbon footprint is a measurement of the impact our daily activities have on the environment. Specifically, it measures the amount of greenhouse gases we individually produce in our day-to-day lives through the burning of fossil fuels — such as oil, gasoline, coal — for electricity, heating, air conditioning, manufacturing, transportation and other energy-intensive activities.
Greenhouse gases are gases that accumulate in the earth’s atmosphere, reducing the amount of available oxygen and producing a barrier around the earth that holds in the heat that would otherwise dissipate into space. In theory, the more of these greenhouse gases we produce, the lower the quality of the air we breathe, and the greater the likelihood that the earth’s temperature will rise and climate will be negatively affected.
The most common greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide. Carbon footprint is typically expressed in units of tons of carbon dioxide equivalent produced. According to Wired.com, the average U.S. carbon footprint is 2.87 metric tons per person. Total U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from all sources come in at about 6 billion metric tons per year. That’s a lot of carbon dioxide and its equivalent filling the atmosphere and leaving its mark on the planet!
The carbon footprint is made up of two parts, the primary footprint (shown by the green slices of the pie chart) and the secondary footprint(shown as the yellow slices). The primary footprint is a measure of our direct carbon dioxide emissions of when we actually burn fossil fuels ourselves for heating, transportation, etc. The secondary footprint is a measure of the carbon dioxide emissions we are indirectly responsible for; such as those associated with the manufacture and eventual breakdown of the products we use. More simply put: the products we buy and consume, the more greenhouse emissions will be produced on our behalf.
Does that mean the world is going to end unless we stop all of our favorite activities and buying our favorite stuff? No…it just means we have to be a little smarter in how we go about doing those activities and in our purchase decisions.
Fortunately, there are a great number of simple things you can do in and around your home to go green and reduce your carbon footprint without significantly altering your lifestyle. You can even save yourself a lot of greenback dollars in the process of making these changes. Check out the green tips below:
- Replace Incandescent Light Bulbs w/ EnergyStar Bulbs. This alone can reduce your carbon footprint by up to 450 lbs per year.
- Cut Down on Driving. Carpool, use public transportation or trade-in your gas guzzler for a more energy-efficient car. You’ll reduce your carbon footprint by 1 pound for every mile you do not drive.
- Adjust Your Thermostat Just 2 Degrees from What Makes You Comfortable. Two degrees down in winter; two degrees up in summer. You’ll hardly notice the difference…but you’ll reduce your carbon footprint by 2000 lbs. per year!
- Improve Your Car’s Gas Mileage. Keep your tires properly inflated. Get a tune-up. Coast up to stoplights. Stop gunning your engine. You’ll reduce your carbon footprint by 20 lbs. for each gallon of gas you save.
- Use a Low-Flow Showerhead. The less hot water you use, the less energy is required to heat the water. If you shower every day, this can reduce your carbon footprint up to 350 lbs. per year!
- Wash Your Clothes in Cold Water. This will reduce your carbon footprint by up to 500 lbs per year.
- Cut the Clutter. Buy products with less packaging. Use less paper, plastic, and glass; recycle these items when you can. Reducing your garbage by just 10% can reduce your carbon footprint by 1,200 lbs per year!
- Plant Trees. Trees breathe the carbon dioxide emitted by furnaces, air conditioners, and cars and convert it back into oxygen-rich air for us to breathe.
- Run Your Dishwasher Less. Dishwashers use an awful lot of energy. Run yours only when full. Better yet, do things the old fashioned way and wash your dishes by hand.
- Buy EnergyStar Appliances. Household appliances that bare the Department of Energy’s EnergyStarlogo have been tested and certified to meet the government’s minimum energy-efficiency standards. If your appliance doesn’t have the EnergyStar seal, there’s a very good chance that you are wasting electricity and leaving a big carbon footprint. For more information, please visit EnergyStar.gov!
- Clean and Replace Dirty Heater and Air Conditioner Filters Regularly. Dirty filters are the leading cause of furnace and air conditioner breakdown and inefficiency. A quick cleaning or replacement will greatly reduce the amount of energy it takes to run your furnace or a/c unit. Same thing for your car’s air filter; you’ll improve your gas mileage and your car will emit much less carbon dioxide.
- Weatherize Your Home. Installing proper installation and sealing leaks and cracks in and around windows, doors, ceilings, and walls will keep your home warmer in winter and cooler in summer without having to crank the heater or air conditioner as much. Consider double pane windows, too.
- Buy Locally-Produced Products from Nearby Merchants. It requires much less energy to transport locally grown or manufactured products to market. And it requires less energy to drive to and from a nearby store than a far-off one. What’s more, your efforts will support your local economy.
- Watch Your Hot Water Heater. Keep it insulated and set the thermostat no higher than 120 degrees F.
- Turn Off and Unplug Electronics. Leaving on radios, TVs and lights can produce thousands of pounds of unnecessary carbon dioxide emissions. Even devices that are off but still plugged into the wall can draw “phantom electricity” which can jack up your electric bill and contribute to your overall carbon footprint.
- Buy Organic Food. Chemicals used in much of today’s food production pollutes our water supply and requires much energy to produce.
Calculate YOUR Carbon Footprint!
Click on the widget below, enter some information about yourself, and get a quick measurement of YOUR carbon footprint.