Replace an incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL). It takes about 18 seconds, but saves about 300 pounds of CO2 a year. Over its lifetime, a CFL prevents the burning of more than 200 pounds of coal. CFLs also save you money—replacing the bulbs in five fixtures with CFLs will save you $60 a year in electricity costs!
Move your thermostat down 2º in winter and up 2º in summer. You could save about 2,000 pounds of CO2 a year—and some money to boot!
Use less hot water. It takes a lot of energy to heat water. Washing your clothes in cold water, or warm water when needed, can save up to 500 pounds of CO2 each year and cleans clothes just as well.
Turn off or unplug electronic devices when you’re not using them. Turning off your TV, DVD player, stereo, and computer when you’re not using them will save thousands of pounds of CO2 each year. But even when turned off, electronic devices like hairdryers, cell phone chargers, and TVs use energy. Consider unplugging anything electric when not in use—or leave them plugged into a power strip that you can easily turn off between uses.
Recycle, avoid excessive packaging, and buy recycled products. Think recycling doesn’t matter? Recycling half of your household waste saves 2,400 pounds of CO2 each year. To reduce garbage by 10%, avoid purchasing heavily packaged products. That 10% reduction saves 1200 pounds of CO2 a year. Another purchasing choice? Buy products made from recycled materials, like recycled paper products. It takes 70-90% less energy to make recycled paper, and it prevents the loss of forests worldwide.
Buy fresh, local, organic foods while eating less meat. It takes 10 times more energy to produce frozen food, so fresh is better. And can you believe the average meal in the U.S. travels 1,200 miles from farm to plate? Buying locally produced foods saves CO2 spent on transportation. Consider local farmers markets, which reduce the energy required to grow and transport your food by 20%. Look for organic foods at the farmers market, or the regular grocery store—organic soils capture CO2 at higher levels than conventional farm soils. If all corn and soybeans were raised organically, 580 billion pounds of CO2 would be removed from the atmosphere. Conversely, raising cows produces excessive amounts of methane, the second most significant greenhouse gas. Therefore, reducing demand for meat can dramatically impact greenhouse gas emissions.
Reduce the number of miles you drive by walking, biking, carpooling, or taking mass transit. Almost one third of the CO2 produced in the U.S. comes from our cars, trucks, and airplanes. Avoiding just 10 miles of driving each week would eliminate about 500 pounds of CO2 emissions a year. Sharing a ride just 2 days a week will reduce your CO2 emissions by 1,590 pounds a year.
When buying a vehicle, choose a more fuel efficient one. You can save 3,000 pounds of CO2 every year if your new car gets only 3 miles per gallon more than your current one. You can get up to 60 miles per gallon with a hybrid! Not to mention the cost savings in gas!
Fly less. Air travel produces large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, so reducing how much you fly by even one or two trips a year can reduce your emissions significantly. Or consider offsetting your air travel by investing in renewable energy projects.