Dear EarthTalk: My New Year’s Resolution
is to reduce my “carbon footprint” to help fight
global warming. Do you have suggestions for ways I can make
good on my promise?
— Carrie, via e-mail
There’s never been a more urgent time to reduce your
carbon footprint. With the U.S. government still opting out
of mandatory emissions cuts, it’s up to every individual,
business owner, and city or state government to take steps.
So here are 10 ways to get you started in the new year:
(1) Step-up Recycling and Composting.
Recycling prevents carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by saving
the energy it takes to make products from new materials and
by saving the energy it takes to incinerate or landfill what
we discard. And composting food scraps turns organic material
back into fertile soil, which itself is an efficient carbon “sink.” To
get started, visit www.earth911.org and www.howtocompost.org.
(2) Stay close or stay put.
About half the CO2 we generate comes from our car trips, so walk, bike, or
take mass transit instead. Air travel also produces huge amounts of CO2, so
the less you fly, the smaller your carbon footprint. Visit www.culturechange.org.
(3) Eat organic and local.
Stick to foods produced organically and you prevent harmful pesticides and
fertilizers from polluting air, waterways, soils, and family members. And if
the food is grown nearby, thousands of pounds of CO2 weren’t emitted
getting it to your grocery store. Visit www.100milediet.org.
(4) Buy green power.
Your power company might just source part of its supply from renewable sources
like hydro-electric or wind, and will sell it to customers who know to ask
for it. Visit www.green-e.org.
(5) Change out your lightbulbs.
A compact fluorescent lightbulb (CFL) uses less than a third of the energy
of an incandescent bulb to produce the same amount of light—and it lasts
10 times longer. And some CFLs now have three-way capabilities and can be dimmed.
(6) Upgrade and unplug.
Upgrading any appliances (including computers and TVs)? Be sure to look for
the “Energy Star” logo, which only energy efficient models can
wear. Also, turn off appliances when not in use to prevent wasting so-called
phantom energy coming in off the grid. Visit www.energystar.gov.
(7) Adjust your thermostats.
If you don’t need a sweater indoors, your heat is too high. Likewise,
in hot weather turn down the AC. Also, keeping your hot water at no more than
120 degrees—the minimum temperature to keep the water bacteria-free—is
another way to save energy, money, and the environment.
(8) Plant a tree…or 300!
An average tree stores 13 pounds of carbon per year; a mature tree can absorb
upwards of four times that amount. Just 300 trees can counterbalance the amount
of greenhouse gas pollution that one person produces in a lifetime. So get
to work! Visit www.americanforests.org/planttrees.
(9) Buy offsets.
Many organizations sell “carbon offsets,” whereby you pay a voluntary
fee to offset your daily CO2 emissions. The money usually goes to develop alternative,
renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar. Visit www.climatetrust.org,
www.nativeenergy.com and www.my-climate.com.
(10) Get involved.
Donate time or money to groups working to fight global warming. Just about
all green groups devote some work to climate change, and they need your help.