10 Easy Ways to reduce your carbon footprint
By Edward Guthmann
(This piece originally appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, Jan./Feb. 2010)
Light bulbs: Start using CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulb) instead of the incandescent bulbs. They last nine times as long and save on energy and money. “A typical incandescent light bulb converts only about 5 percent of the electricity it consumes into light,” Begley writes.
Energy-efficient windows: Investing in double-pane or triple-pane windows will dramatically reduce heat transfer and noise, and reduce your utility bill. “If [your] windows are old, loose, and leaky,” a U.S. Department of Energy report says, “they can account for 25 percent of a home’s energy usage.”
High-efficiency toilets. Toilet flushing accounts for 28 percent of the water usage in your home. Low-flow toilets use as little as 1.3 gallons per flush. The EPA estimates that if all low-efficiency toilets were replaced in American homes, it would save nearly 2 billion gallons of water per day.
Bottled water. “Is it good for us to be drinking water that’s stored in plastic bottles?” Begley writes. “Industry estimates say 80 percent of bottled-water containers still wind up in landfills. Invest in a water filtering system that attaches to your kitchen sink.
Conserve water: Turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth. For shaving, heat water in a tea kettle first, then fill the basin. Take shorter showers. Replace your lawn with drought-resistant landscaping. Buy a rain barrel to catch rain water off your downspouts and distribute that water to your garden.
Insulate: Update the insulation in your attic, basement and walls. Over time, most insulation in exterior walls will settle to the bottom. In newer homes, builders often install the least (and least expensive) insulation they can. Avoid fiberglass insulation; it contains formaldehyde.
Paper or plastic?: Plastic bags are an environmental horror. Opt for paper each time. Better yet, buy your own canvas or string shopping bags and keep at least one in your car.
Programmable thermostat. $80 or $90 will buy a thermostat that programs your heat and air-conditioning to run only when you need them (e.g., wake-up mode at 7 a.m., leave mode at 8 a.m.).
Phantom power. A lot of household objects, electronic in particular, consume 25 percent of their power in standby mode. Unplug the cell phone charger, television, DVD player, computer and printer when not in use.
Energy-saving appliances. “The refrigerator is the most power-hungry appliance in the kitchen,” Begley writes. Replace that energy hog with an energy-efficient refrigerator (look for the Energy Star rating). Many utility companies will buy your old refrigerator. You can also get tax credits for energy efficiency. www.energystar.gov.