Dear EarthTalk: My New Year’s Resolution is to reduce my “carbon footprint” to help fight global warming. Do you have suggestions for ways I can make good on my promise?
There’s never been a more urgent time to reduce your carbon footprint. With the U.S. government still opting out of mandatory emissions cuts, it’s up to every individual, business owner, and city or state government to take steps. So here are 10 ways to get you started in the new year:
1. Step-up Recycling and Composting. Recycling prevents carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by saving the energy it takes to make products from new materials and by saving the energy it takes to incinerate or landfill what we discard. And composting food scraps turns organic material back into fertile soil, which itself is an efficient carbon “sink.” To get started, go to earth911.org or howtocompost.org.
2. Stay close or stay put: About half the CO2 we generate comes from our car trips, so walk, bike, or take mass transit instead. Air travel also produces huge amounts of CO2, so the less you fly, the smaller your carbon footprint. culturechange.org.
3. Eat organic and local: Stick to foods produced organically and you prevent harmful pesticides and fertilizers from polluting air, waterways, soils, and family members. And if the food is grown nearby, thousands of pounds of CO2 weren’t emitted getting it to your grocery store. 100milediet.org.
4. Buy green power. Your power company might just source part of its supply from renewable sources like hydro-electric or wind, and will sell it to customers who know to ask for it. green-e.org.
5. Change out your lightbulbs. A compact fluorescent lightbulb (CFL) uses less than a third of the energy of an incandescent bulb to produce the same amount of light – and it lasts 10 times longer. And some CFLs now have 3-way capabilities and can be dimmed. Go to Energy Federation, Inc. at efi.org.
6. Upgrade and unplug: Upgrading any appliances (including computers and TVs)? Be sure to look for the “Energy Star” logo, which only energy efficient models can wear. Also, turn off appliances when not in use to prevent wasting so-called phantom energy coming in off the grid. energystar.gov.
7. Adjust your thermostats: If you don’t need a sweater indoors, your heat is too high. Likewise, in hot weather turn down the AC. Also, keeping your hot water at no more than 120 degrees – the minimum temperature to keep the water bacteria-free – is another way to save energy, money, and the environment.
8. Plant a tree…or 300! An average tree stores 13 pounds of carbon per year; a mature tree can absorb upwards of four times that amount. Just 300 trees can counterbalance the amount of greenhouse gas pollution that one person produces in a lifetime. So get to work! americanforests.org/planttrees.
9. Buy offsets: Many organizations sell “carbon offsets,” whereby you pay a voluntary fee to offset your daily CO2 emissions. The money usually goes to develop alternative, renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar. climatetrust.org, nativeenergy.com, or my-climate.com.
10. Get involved: Donate time or money to groups working to fight global warming. Just about all green groups devote some work to climate change, and they need your help. volunteermatch.org.
Send your environmental questions to EarthTalk, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881, email email@example.com or go to emagazine.com/earthtalk/thisweek.