Reduce the Size of Your Carbon Footprint
We keep hearing about carbon footprints, and if you’re like most people, you aren’t even sure what that means. Prepare to be educated. A carbon footprint is a meaure of how much carbon dioxide you personally generate per year. By burning fossil fuels for transportation and energy, we create carbon dioxide, what’s thought to be the most abundant of several greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere. Greenhouse gases, according to some scientists, trap heat around the planet, creating a greenhouse effect and consequently warming the planet. This phenomenon, for which human activity may be at least partly responsible, is the main factor in climate change.
The first thing we need to do is accurately measure our own carbon footprint. There are calculators galore available on the Internet, of course, but why not use a government site? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a calculator at http://epa.gov/climatechange /emissions/ind_calculator.html. It will lead you step by step through a quiz that will give you an idea of the size of your carbon footprint.
If you’re like most Americans, you’re personally responsible for approximately 20 tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year. That’s a lot of gas. But there are things you can do to reduce your shoe size:
Be green in your yard. Use a push mower. If you do use a power mower, make sure it is a mulching mower to reduce grass clippings. Compost your food and yard waste to reduce the amount of garbage you send to landfills.
Heat and cool smartly. Clean air filters regularly and having your heating and cooling equipment tuned up annually by a licensed contractor. And when it's time to replace your old equipment, choose a high efficiency model, and make sure it is properly sized and installed.
Look for ENERGY STAR qualified products to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Recycle your newspapers, beverage containers, paper and other goods. Use products in containers that can be recycled and items that can be repaired or reused. Support recycling markets by buying products made from recycled materials.
Replace conventional lightbulbs in your five most frequently used light fixtures with bulbs that have the ENERGY STAR. If every household in the U.S. took this one simple action we would prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions from nearly 10 million cars.
Seal and insulate your home. The biggest leaks are usually found in the attic and basement. If you replace windows, choose ENERGY STAR qualified windows for better performance. Seal and insulate any ducts in attics and crawlspaces. Not sure where to begin? A home energy auditor can also help you find air leaks, areas with poor insulation, and evaluate the overall energy efficiency of your home.
Use green power. Green power is environmentally friendly electricity that is generated from renewable energy sources such as wind and the sun. You can buy green power or you can modify your house to generate your own green power. Install solar panels or research incentives for renewable energy in your state.
Use water efficiently. Look for products with EPA's WaterSense label; these products save water and perform as well or better than their less efficient counterparts. Water your lawn and landscaping only when needed, and do it during the coolest part of the day. Turn the water off while shaving or brushing teeth. Do not use your toilet as a waste basket Repair all toilet and faucet leaks right away.