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Ten Tips to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Even if you don’t work for the EERC, you can still pledge to reduce your carbon footprint on a smaller scale. Here are ten easy tips to help you do it.

1) Replace your incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). Look closely at labels when buying light bulbs. Those marked as CFLs last 10 times longer and use 66% less energy than incandescent bulbs while delivering the same light levels. As a result, CFLs accrue net savings between $30 and $45 over their lifetimes, depending on your cost of electricity, the wattage size of the CFL, and the lamp’s lifespan (manufacturers make CFLs that last 6000, 8000, or 10,000 hours).

Fun Fact: The return on investment is 15 times higher than leaving your money in a bank account or the average return on Dow Jones stock investments.

CFLs also reduce the release of greenhouse gas emissions and are safer because they burn at a lower temperature (160°F or less) than incandescent and halogen lights, which can burn at temperatures up to 500°F. To learn more download this PDF from Energy Star.

2) Avoid mass market, throw-away fashion. The global clothing industry generates roughly 10% of total global carbon emissions. Instead, opt to buy from ethical and sustainable brands, or second-hand stores. After all, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure!

3) Turn down the thermostat just 3 degrees in the winter and up 3 degrees in the summer. You can prevent the emission of nearly 1100 pounds of CO2 annually.

4) Turn down the hot water heater. Set your water heater to 130°F. While you’re at it, turn down your house thermostat during the winter to 55°F when you go to bed or leave home. These simple actions can have enormous positive consequences, preventing the emission of more than 1100 pounds of CO2 over the course of the year, while cutting your energy bill by more than 10%. And that’s just from you! Get your friends on board, and the benefits will multiply.

5) Wash and rinse in cold water. If everyone in the United States alone switched to cold water with their washing machines, we could save about 30 million tons of CO2 each year — and more than $3 billion in energy costs collectively. What’s more, cold water cleans your laundry just as well as hot water.

6)  Buy locally sourced meats and produce. Sounds like a good idea, but you don’t know where to start? Just type in your zip code on Local Harvest’s website to see a list of farms and farmers’ markets close to home, as well as nearby restaurants committed to supporting their neighbors. Buying locally produced food cuts out the vast amounts of energy required to get your products onto store shelves. Most produce in U.S. supermarkets travels an average 1500 miles before it’s sold!

7) Drink more water from reusable glassware. It’s great for your bank account, your health, and your planet. The average American consumes an estimated 348 beverages from bottles and cans per year, leaving behind wasted glass, plastic, steel, and aluminum. That adds up to excessive amounts of fossil fuels and hydropower for mining, processing, refining, shaping, shipping, storing, refrigerating, and disposing of those materials. Of course, changing your drinking habits both at home and at work is applicable to just about every other habit, as well. You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again: reduce, reuse, and recycle.

8) Inflate your car tires. When walking or biking isn’t feasible, you can do something to better protect the earth while driving. Take a step in the right direction by inflating your car tires. Pumping them up can improve your gas mileage by about 3.3% — a savings of about 7 cents per gallon. It’s the right thing to do for your wallet and the right thing to do for the earth.

9) Encourage working from home or having a hybrid schedule. In the United States, the car represents one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Many people are already incorporating this practice into their schedule without realizing the impact it has on reducing their carbon footprint. By taking the transportation piece out of your work day schedule, you could be saving hundreds of tons of carbon.

EERC employee Matt Burton-Kelly biking to work on a chilly winter day

10) Walk, bike, and carpool. If working remotely isn’t an option, you don’t have to give up your car for a healthier planet, just expand your transportation options. You can significantly reduce your emissions by commuting to work. Try combining trips to minimize emissions, which are greatest at the beginning of a journey before the engine has reached optimum temperature and efficiency. When purchasing your next car, make it a fuel-efficient one.

Fun Fact: Hybrid cars can get twice the fuel efficiency of the average new car, cut greenhouse gas emissions by half or more, and reduce urban air pollutants.

Carpooling saves energy, cuts down on additional pollution, and allows you to take a turn as a passenger instead of driving every day. Car-sharing (not pooling) is available in numerous U.S. cities. Car-sharing enables you to rent a car just when you need it. Each car-share vehicle displaces four to eight privately held cars, requiring less parking area and creating less road congestion. If you live within an hour’s bicycle ride to the office (~10 miles), consider biking to work one or more days a week.

Overall, you don’t need to make major lifestyle changes to have a positive impact on the planet. By simply acknowledging you have an impact on the environment and consciously choosing to incorporate small changes into your everyday life, you can, over time, create a smaller carbon footprint.

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