More and more people are wondering how they can do their part to help reduce the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. While change won’t happen overnight, here are steps that you can take against global warming.
House and Garden
- Plant a Tree. Well-placed landscaping cuts energy costs in summer and winter. Whilst alive, the tree will store carbon dioxide that would otherwise be in the atmosphere. Trees that are placed so that they will provide shade for your house will also help it stay cool in the summer. Better yet, make it a fruit or a nut tree. Planting perennials that yield food, including berry bushes and garden vegetables and herbs, will help you eat locally while ‘fixing’ more carbon in the soil. Introducing these plants in public places, by the sides of roads and in parks, is another way to benefit the community and the climate. When planting outside your home, limit yourself to native species.
- Repaint your house with latex paint instead of oil-based. Latex paint releases significantly fewer harmful fumes while drying and smells a lot better.
- Buy energy efficient appliances with the “Energy Star” label.
- Make sure the dishwasher and washing machine are full before running them to save energy and money.
- Call your local utility and sign up for renewable energy. If they don’t offer it, ask them why not.
- Get a home energy audit. Many utilities offer free audits, which may reveal simple ways to cut emissions.
- Weatherize your home; caulk and weather-strip your doorways and windows. Add insulation, especially to the roof, it cuts drastically heating and cooling expenses. Change your windows for double glazing. Add outside shades to use in summer. Not only will all this save energy, it will save you money too!
- Move your thermostat two degrees cooler in winter and two degrees warmer in the summer.
- Unplug your cell phone charger, TV and other electronics from the wall when you are not using them. Did you know that even when turned “off” your cell phone chargers, DVD players, computers, and cameras still use small amounts of energy? The process can be made easier if you have everything plugged into a surge protector with its own switch.
- Make sure to turn off lights and other energy-sucking devices when they aren’t being used. This also applies to schools because most schools do not turn off their lights when not in use. If 10,000 schools turned off all their lights for just one minute, they would save more than $81,000. If those same schools turned off their lights every time they went to recess, they would save more than $4.9 million!
- Replace any incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent ones. Fluorescent light bulbs are more expensive, but replacing just one incandescent light bulb will save 150 pounds of carbon dioxide. Fluorescent lamps are more efficient than incandescent light bulbs of an equivalent brightness. This is because more of the consumed energy is converted to usable light and less is converted to heat, allowing fluorescent lamps to run cooler. An incandescent lamp may convert only 10% of its power input to visible light releasing 90% heat. A fluorescent lamp producing as much useful visible light energy may require only 1/3 to 1/4 as much electricity input and converts 90% of the power input to visible light releasing only 10% heat. Typically a fluorescent lamp will last between 10 and 20 times as long as an equivalent incandescent lamp. Basically, a fluorescent light bulb would reduce your energy consumption AND your electric bill!
- Replace flourescent light bulbs with Ultra Compact LEDs. These use less energy and last longer than flourescent light bulbs. Additionally UCLEDs do not contain any deadly mercury.
- If you’re leaving your computer for a while, put it on stand-by. You’ll be able to restart it quickly, and it’ll take less energy than shutting it down and then restarting it.
- Before turning the heat on, put on thick socks and a sweater.
- Invest in alternate energy devices for your own home. Windmill kits are inexpensive and a great source of electricity in many areas. Solar energy, especially solar collectors for water heaters, is possible for most homes. Building from adobe in arid climates can dramatically save on energy costs and result in homes that last hundreds of years. Adobe construction also greatly reduces the amount of wood used in home construction. The man behind the Rocky Mountain Institute (www.rmi.org) actually sells electricity created at his home back to the electric company, paying for the modifications he made to his home in just a few years.
- Buy durable goods. The effort to make and transport even small items can add up quickly. As much as possible buy items that will last instead of buying the same item several times in a decade. The larger the item is the more wear and tear on the environment you will save by not producing a brand new one.
- 90% of hot water heat goes to waste as it leaves dishwashers, clothes washers or the shower. This heat energy can be recovered to lower the energy needed and save on water heating costs. Install a hot water heat recycling unit to significantly reduce either electricity or the fuel burned for domestic water heating.
- Reduce the usage of refrigerants and air-conditioners whenever possible.
Water Conservation in the house
- Conserve lots of water. For example, instead of filling up the bathtub with water and bathing, you can choose two choices. Take short showers and/or bathe with a person in your family. The other choice is to fill a bucket with water and take a can, or some other cylinder object, and keep filling it with water from the bucket and pouring it over your head. You can also bathe with another person. If you are following the second choice or following the “fill bathtub and bath”, fill the bucket or bathtub with how much you’ll need and not to the top. Also if you have some extra water save it for some other person to use. Here’s a reason to conserve Earth’s water. Approximately 97% of the world’s water is salty and undrinkable. 3% percent of the water is freshwater, but 2% of all the water is frozen in glaciers and polar ice caps. This means humans have access to just 1% of the planet’s water for all our needs!
- Do not leave the water taps on if not in use and turn off the taps properly, because one drop of water per second would waste 2,700 gallons (10,220 L) of water per year! Leaky faucets and taps can add to your hot water bill so repair them as soon as possible. The constant drip wastes water, energy and money. You can also save by installing an inexpensive “flow control” device in shower heads and faucets.
- The water heater is the second largest energy consumer in the home and using it efficiently can add up to big savings. For families with an automatic dishwasher, the hot water heater setting can safely be lowered to 130-140 degrees. If the automatic dishwasher has a water temperature booster, the water heater temperature can be set to 110-120 degrees. If your house will be vacant for two or more days, you can lower the temperature of your water heater even more until you return. If you have a new water heater, drain a few gallons from your tank every six months to remove sediment that accumulates and reduces the heater’s efficiency. If you only use your hot water once or twice a day, you may consider installing a timer on your hot water heater and set it up to run two hours in the morning and the evening.
- Wrapping a fiberglass blanket around your water heater and securing it with duct tape, or installing a ready-made insulation kit can save up to 10% on water heating costs. Most new water heaters are already insulated, so this tip is most effective for heaters that are more than five years old. Also, insulate hot water pipes to reduce heat loss as the hot water is flowing to your faucets.
- It pays to operate appliances that use hot water wisely. Running the clothes washer with a full load and using cold water whenever possible can lead to big energy savings. Hang dry your laundry rather than putting it in the dryer and put them outside on a clothesline mostly at summer, when its hotter. Hang drying will also make your clothes last much longer. Use detergents that clean clothes effectively in cold water.
- Use dishwashers instead of washing dishes by hand. Washing dishes by hand may not save energy or money. In fact, you can probably save energy using the dishwasher since hand-washing usually requires more hot water. When shopping for a new dishwasher, look for models that require less hot water. Dishwashers differ in the number of gallons of hot water used in the wash cycle. Eighty percent of the energy used in automatic dishwashers goes toward heating water. Significant savings take place by running the dishwasher only when it is full. Running a half-filled dishwasher twice uses two times as much energy as running a full load once. Many new dishwashers have an internal water heater that raises the temperature of the incoming water to 140 degrees. This device allows you to turn down the temperature on the water heater in your home and still have your dishes washed thoroughly. Take advantage of the energy saving control on many dishwashers. It turns off the heat during the drying cycle. Opening the dishwasher after the rinse cycle and letting the dishes air dry is another way to save energy.
- Exercise for 15-20 minutes before you shower. You’ll end up taking colder showers and the shower will be shorter. You will even be warm enough to lather yourself up with the water turned off in the middle of the shower. In addition, you will benefit from the regular light exercise.
- Saving water also means not polluting it: using soap polutes less than a shower gel. For the dish washing, try to wipe off the greasy pans with flour or paper to use less detergent.