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New Year’s Resolution: Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

By Cherl Petso
January 1, 2009
File under: Heating Sources, Reusable Energy, Waste Reduction


As the New Year begins, people begin to consider making changes in their lives.  The vast majority of people make resolutions around fitness and weight loss.  While health and fitness goals are resolution-worthy, what about making a resolution around your individual impact on the Earth?

The term carbon footprint is one that is thrown around and sometimes not understood.  It’s a measurement of the impact our daily activities have on the environment in relation to climate change, measured in carbon dioxide units.  Essentially, what are you doing day-to-day that is harming the planet?  According to the EPA, the average carbon footprint for a two person United States household is about 41,500 pounds.  Different calculators take different measurements into account.  For instance, my footprint is average on calculators that don’t take food into account; however, if the calculator accounts for the fact that I’m vegan, the decrease in emissions is amazing.

What can you resolve to do to reduce this number?

Go big. 

•    Looking to upgrade your vehicle?  Buy a car with better fuel economy and less harmful emissions.  There are many options from hybrids to natural gas to biodiesel.
•    Buy better appliances.  Replacing your refrigerator and furnace with an Energy Star appliance will reduce your footprint by about 3,500 pounds of CO2 per year.

Willing to spend a little.

•    Replace one window with an Energy Star window, this will not only save you money, it will reduce your emission by 3,320 pounds.
•    Replace your incandescent light bulbs with Energy Star light bulbs.  Replacing just one will save you 100 pounds of CO2 and, if you replace the five most used light bulbs in your house, you will save around $50 per year in energy bills.
•    Buying organic and local food also reduces CO2 impact by lessening the transportation distance and cost.

I don’t want to spend a dime.

•    Driving less can reduce your footprint by 30 pounds per mile not driven.  Check out carpooling or working from home one less day per week.
•    Turn down your thermostat one degree in the winter; you’ll use 22 less pounds of CO2 emissions.
•    Turn up your thermostat one degree in the summer and you’ll use 28 less pounds of CO2 emissions.
•    Recycle!  If you recycle newspaper, glass, plastic, and aluminum, you will reduce your footprint by 595 pounds of CO2 per year.  If you live in a city where you can only recycle one thing, choose newspaper, which uses the highest amount of CO2 to produce.
•    Use less water.  Reduce the time in that hot shower and wash your clothes on cold, you’ll see savings in your bills too.

There are many other ways to reduce your footprint.  Calculate your footprint using various sources and find out where you’re impacting the Earth the most.  Then, try and make some steps to reduce.  Keep it simple!

Where to Calculate:

EPA’s Household Calculator

Conservation International Carbon Calculator

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