Data from the Union for Concerned Scientists indicates the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased ever since the beginning of the Industrial Age. Today, the need to burn fossil fuels to generate electricity, produce fuel used to heat homes and for processing oil into gas for transportation are all major contributors to the increase in carbon dioxide emissions.
Understanding your household carbon footprint
Each American has a carbon footprint of about 20 tons, the rough equivalent of what three brand new cars emit each year. The estimated population of the United States is roughly 300 million people—the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted by this group is around 12 trillion tons.
If carbon emissions continue at that rate, it will be impossible to slow the rate of climate change, let alone contain it. In most households, the major carbon footprint generators are heating and cooling systems and every appliance that uses electricity, which generates the production of fossil fuels.
Conserve energy on heating and electricity
- Purchase a programmable thermostat so you can lower the temperature in your house at night, or when no one is there. A programmable thermostat will allow you to set the temperature so that the house is more comfortable by the time people return. The money you spend ultimately saves you as much as $100 on your energy bill every year.
- Clean or replace your furnace or HVAC filters regularly. Dirty filters will force your system to work extra hard to give you the same amount of heat, and it will drive your utility bill up unnecessarily.
- Humidify your house with a whole-house humidifier. Humidity will make the air more comfortable at a lower temperature.
- Don't use your dishwasher and washer or dryer unless you run them with full loads. Save some more energy by washing clothing in cold water, whenever possible, and by turning off the heated dry on your dishwasher.
- Install sensors on all household light switches so the light will automatically go off when someone leaves the room. This will solve any problem you may have with kids who constantly leave lights on throughout the house.
- Make sure household computers are laptops or tablets rather than desktop models. Smaller, more compact devices don't use as much electricity.
- Plug televisions, freestanding lamps, video equipment, computers, cell phone chargers and other smaller appliances into power strips that have an on/off switch. Unplug the entire power strip when your equipment isn't in use. Doing so will prevent the devices from zapping energy unnecessarily.
- Lower the temperature on your hot water heater so that it isn't constantly running. Since the tank keeps the reserve water supply warm, there is no point in wasting energy on heating water all the time. If your hot water heater is on its last legs, consider replacing it with a tankless one, which will deliver hot water on demand without needing to heat it before it gets to you.
- Commit to using green power for your home.
Be eco-conscious about home furnishings and design
When you furnish your home, look for furniture that is made from reclaimed wood or eco-friendly bamboo. Choose fabrics that are made from organically grown natural fibers. Make your home look more warm and inviting by choosing eco-friendly wooden blinds, and thermal-insulating curtains or drapes. Reduce your carbon foot print by lowering your utility bills and buying things for your home that come from recycled or sustainable sources.
Reduce, reuse and recycle
Unless you have to remove a huge amount of snow after a massive snow storm, avoid using a snow blower because it uses a lot of gas, not to mention the emissions it discharges into the air. Use a shovel on smaller amounts of snow.
Make a point of buying used winter coats, or purchasing sweaters, hats, mittens and gloves that are made from sustainable materials. Instead of disposing of paper, plastic and other materials, recycle them. Compost kitchen scraps, paper and cardboard for organic gardening in spring and summer.
Install a filtration system for your drinking water so you don't feel tempted to buy bottled water, since it is probably purified the exact same way as the water you are purifying from your faucets.