Ways to Cut Your Home’s Carbon Footprint (Tips for Greener Living Series)

The average American contributes an estimated 17 to 21.5 metric tons (around 40,000 pounds) of carbon dioxide in greenhouse gas emissions each year. This amount is known as the “carbon footprint.” Reducing your carbon footprint not only minimizes your personal contribution to climate change, doing so usually saves you money as well. You can estimate your own carbon footprint with the use of online calculators that account for location, type of housing and activities such as home heating and recycling. Minimize this footprint by taking some or all of the following steps around your home:
  • Insulate your home. Seal air leaks and reduce drafts with caulk, insulation, and weather stripping around doors and windows.
  • Appliances. Replace old appliances such as furnaces, washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, water heaters and refrigerators with energy efficient models. The ENERGY STAR label indicates products certified to have superior efficiency.
  • Lighting. When you leave a room, turn off lights. Replace incandescent light bulbs with more efficient lighting, such as LED bulbs, which use up to 80 percent less energy and last longer.
  • Thermostat. Install a programmable thermostat that will turn off heating or air conditioning when you are not home.
  • Laundry. Wash clothes in cold water and line dry outside in warmer months.
  • Hot water. Insulate your water heater for more efficient operation. Lower its temperature a few degrees also. Take shorter showers at lower temperatures.
  • Recycle. You could save 582 pounds of carbon dioxide annually by recycling your household’s glass, aluminum, plastic, and paper, according to estimates by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That’s the equivalent carbon dioxide that would be emitted by more than 600 miles of driving.
  • Solar. Install solar panels on your roof. Photovoltaic panels capture the free, clean and renewable energy from the sun and convert that energy to electricity. Many providers offer financing options, several states provide incentives for installation, and if you live in a state with a Net Metering law, you could possibly eliminate your electricity bill and potentially earn money from selling excess electricity back to your local power company. If all of the electricity used by the average American home is generated through solar power instead of conventional fossil fuels, that home would emit 6.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide less each year.
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