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April 19, 2018  |  Login
ecomii guides guide to global warming
In partnership with:  Union of Concerned Scientists

Acting today

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When you consider that personal vehicles in the United States emit 20% of the United States' carbon emissions and that air conditioning and heating make up almost half of electricity use in the average American home, you can see that each of us does have real power to reduce total carbon emissions.1 We just need to step a little outside of our “business as usual” mindset and rethink certain choices. But scientists say the time to act is now.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists:

“Procrastination is not an option. Scientists agree that if we wait 10, 20, or 50 years, the problem [of global warming] will be much more difficult to address and the consequences for us will be that much more serious.

We're treating our atmosphere like we once did our rivers. We used to dump waste thoughtlessly into our waterways, believing that they were infinite in their capacity to hold rubbish. But when entire fisheries were poisoned and rivers began to catch fire, we realized what a horrible mistake that was.

Our atmosphere has limits too. Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for about 100 years. The longer we keep polluting, the longer it will take to recover and the more irreversible damage will be done.”2

Turn down, unplug and use less

The short answer to what you can do to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions boils down to some pretty common sense actions: walk more, drive less (and use renewable fuel or a hybrid car if you can), change light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs, recycle and buy recycled products, buy green energy from your utility company, and switch to energy efficient appliances like those with an Energy Star rating.

One of the first things you can do is measure your carbon footprint, which will tell you how much greenhouse gas you or your household emits. The U.S. EPA has a personal emissions calculator that will allow you to estimate emissions and potential savings from particular actions.

Saving Energy Saves Money

You will probably be surprised to learn how much carbon (and money) you’ll save with some simple changes. In fact, according to Energy Star, a joint program of the EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy, Americans saved enough energy in 2006 alone to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 25 million cars — all while saving $14 billion on their utility bills.3

You can save up to one-third on your energy bill by making energy efficient choices. And consider this: If every American home replaced their five most frequently used light bulbs with ones that have earned the Energy Star, we would save close to $8 billion each year in energy costs, and would prevent the greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions from nearly 10 million cars.4 (You can read more about switching to CFLs here.)

Where your money goes

Where your money goes: a breakdown of a single family’s typical annual energy bill. Source: Residential Energy Consumption Survey, 2001, EnergyStar. more

1. The Nature Conservancy. [undated] Available from: [28 November 2007]

2. Union of Concerned Scientists. [30 September 2005] Excerpted from: [1 December 2007]

3. Energy Star. [undated] Available from: [1 December 2007]

4. Energy Star. [undated] Excerpted from: [1 December 2007]

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