Q: There are so many ways that I use electricity or burn oil or gas every day. Can you suggest changes to my energy use that will have the most impact? A: The answer depends on how you live your life. In the US, roughly one-third of our energy use comes from driving, one-third comes from home energy use, and one-third from industrial uses. That means that individuals contribute the majority of our carbon emissions. This month, I’ll borrow from a list compiled by carbonfootprint.com to suggest some simple ways to reduce your personal energy use. I encourage you to visit this website to plug in your specific energy usages and calculate your own carbon footprint. Simple things:
- Sign up for Energy for Tomorrow through We Energies, a program that will supply your electricity from renewable sources (e.g. wind, solar, and hydroelectric power) – this will reduce your carbon footprint contribution from electricity to zero. If your landlord pays for electricity, offer to pay the difference (on average $7 per month).
- Do shopping in a single trip or combine with other errands. A higher percentage of carbon is emitted within the first 15 minutes of driving, before the car has warmed up.
- Carshare or carpool to work, take the bus more often, or walk / bike when the weather permits. See if your employer will allow you to work from home one day a week.
- Turn it off when not in use (lights, television, stereo, computer, etc.).
- Turn down the heat (try just 1 to 2 degrees at a time) when you are home and turn down even more when you are not home or sleeping.
- Turn down the water heater setting (just 2 degrees will make a significant saving).
- Fill your dishwasher and washing machine with a full load.
- Unplug your mobile phone as soon as it has finished charging and unplug all other non-essential appliances when not in use.
- Hang out clothes to dry rather than using a dryer.
- Go for a run rather than drive to the gym.
A little investment (1-4 years pay off)
- Fit all light sockets with energy-saving light bulbs such as compact fluorescents.
- Insulate your hot water tank, attic, and walls (35% of heat generated in the house is lost through the walls.
- Weatherproof windows with rubber or felt sealants and plastic.
- Replace old appliances with new, EnergyStar rated ones.
- Reduce your consumption of meat (meat production requires many times more energy and water than grains, fruits, and vegetables.
- Don’t buy bottled water; get a Brita or PUR filter and your own reusable water bottle.
- Buy local fruit and vegetables, especially organic, or even try growing your own.
- Try to buy products made closer to home.
- Recycle as much as possible; see if you can get down to 1 small garbage bag per week.