What’s the #1 Way To Reduce Your Carbon Emissions?

The Paris climate change summit focused the world’s attention on how carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are wrecking our world. Unfortunately, we all emit CO2 in the course of daily life. The message coming out of the summit loud and clear was…we have to emit less. The question is, where to start? What’s the #1 way to reduce your carbon emissions?

You may think it’s to drive less, since every gallon of gasoline burned generates 20 pounds of carbon. Put another way, every year, the average car in the U.S. is driven 12,300 miles, consuming about 67.8 million Btu worth of fuel, reports Burn: An Energy Journal. That’s a lot.

But it turns out that our homes actually are our biggest individual sources of emissions, given how much energy it takes to heat and cool them while using all the electronics and appliances we do. That’s because, in addition to the 41 million Btu worth of electricity an average household uses on the spot, an additional 90 million Btu of primary energy needs to be produced at the power plant, says the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Heating and cooling account for almost half of your total energy bill, about $1,000 a year, says the U.S. EPA. So the first step you can take at home to reduce emissions should be to insulate attics and crawl spaces, as well as leaky doors and windows. You can caulk and weatherstrip. Or, replace old windows and doors with tight-fitting double or triple-paned versions. You can also cover up windows with insulating blinds and curtains. Attics, crawl spaces and possibly the space between interior and exterior walls, will also need insulation.

The best approach is to start with an energy audit of your home. Many utilities will subsidize the cost of the audit because they want to encourage their customers to save energy. Utilities may also refer you to a list of auditors you can trust to do a good job.

The most complete audit will take an infrared picture of your house to show you exactly where energy is leaking out. They’ll also know what the recommended level of insulation is for your region in order to reduce heat loss as much as possible.

Don’t wait for the audit to install a programmable thermostat if you don’t already have one. These thermostats automatically turn the heat down (or the AC up in summer) when you leave your home for work or go to sleep at night, saving energy and hundreds of dollars on your energy bills.

If you’re in the market for a new washing machine, dryer, refrigerator, furnace or other appliance, make sure to purchase the most energy-efficient model in your price range. You’ll also want to make sure that any appliance you choose meets ENERGY STAR standards for energy-efficiency. Over their lifetime, products in your home that have earned the ENERGY STAR label can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 130,000 pounds and save you $11,000 on energy bills, says EPA.

Again, many utilities give their customers rebates to encourage them to get rid of old models that waste energy. My utility company in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., for example, gave me a $100 rebate when I replaced my old refrigerator with a new one; they also gave me $50 to recycle it, and picked it up for recycling so I didn’t have to hassle with it.

EPA also recommends that you replace your five most frequently used light fixtures on the lightbulbs in them with ENERGY STAR qualified products. Both CFLs (compact fluorescents) and LEDs (light emitting diodes) use as much as 75 percent less energy than standard incandescents, but one of the things I like most about them is they last so long. Some LEDs are rated to last as long as 20 years!

If you want more ideas about where you can cut emissions, why not figure out your household’s carbon footprint? EPA has created this easy-to-use Carbon Footprint Calculator. It will give you a quick estimate of how much carbon you use based on using U.S. average values. But to get a more accurate picture, use your own utility bills. Once you actually look at how much energy you’re using, you might be more inclined to cut back.

By the way, even though your car may not generate the most CO2 emissions, what it generates is not insignificant. Shrink That Footprint suggests 11 smart ways to save fuel here. You can also calculate your car’s actual fuel efficiency by following these steps suggested by the U.S. Department of Energy at FuelEconomy.gov.

Related
10 Simple Things You Can Do To Save Money & Energy
10 Ways to Reduce Energy & Save Money in the Kitchen

 

 

62 comments

Beryl L
Beryl Ludwig1 years ago

I must agree with Kamia T. Affording the new insulation and other things are rough on a fixed income.

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Beryl L
Beryl Ludwig1 years ago

thank you---one problem for me. those fluorescent lightbulbs gove me migraines. give me incandescent bulbs

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill3 years ago

thanks

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golden s.
star peace3 years ago

thanks for posting

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

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Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper3 years ago

Noted

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Tanya W.
Tanya W3 years ago

Noted

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Tanya W.
Tanya W3 years ago

Thanks

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Thomas G.
Thomas G3 years ago

A better way to reduce carbon emissions is to stop eating meat. You could save enough for the down payment to fix your house and ease the suffering of billions of animals

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