What You Can Do

Each of us can control how much CO2 we individually add to the atmosphere. The main sources of our personal CO2 emissions include anything that uses electricity, home heating and cooling systems, the food we eat and the vehicles we drive. Find your carbon solutions in the following actions – these little changes can make a big dent in your personal CO2 contribution to our atmosphere.

On the road
Drive less – MUCH less. The average car emits 20 pounds of CO2 for every mile driven. Walk, bike, or take public transportation as much as possible. Need to drive? Keep the car well-maintained: a well-tuned vehicle with the right tire pressure consumes less fuel.

Buy green: When it’s time for a new car, look for a hybrid, biodiesel, or alternative-fuel model that gets more than 30 miles per gallon.

Pass on plastics. Plastics are usually made from petroleum, and their manufacturing fills our skies with greenhouse gases. Bring your own bags when you shop and drink tap water to help curb the needless production of plastic shopping bags and water bottles. Worried about tap? About 40 percent of bottled water is actually tap water in disguise, so save yourself some bucks and cut out the plastic middleman.

Need to attend a conference? Consider using digital technology to connect instead, since air travel is responsible for 12 percent of transportation emissions.

On your plate
Choose local foods. On average, food travels 1,500 miles from the farm to your plate. Yes, 1,500 miles. Read labels at the grocery store or buy your produce from local farmers market to greatly reduce your carbon output. Find a farmers market near you.

Eat your (local) veggies. Beef production carries an enormous carbon footprint. Nearly 15 pounds of CO2 is released for every pound of beef you eat, and this doesn’t include the shipping emissions to get it to your store. Go vegetarian several times a week to make a serious dent in your personal carbon emissions.

Around the house
Junk your junk mail. Did you know that the average American receives 41 pounds of junk mail every year? More than 100 million trees are needed annually to produce America’s junk mail, and the amount of CO2 released in its shipping is equivalent to the tailpipe emissions of 9 million cars. Opt out of junk mail by registering with Catalog Choice and the Do Not Mail registry.

Wash on cold. About 90 percent of the energy used when washing clothes is for heating the water. Look for cold-water laundry detergent and wash your laundry – including your whites – in cold water, with full loads only, for cooler skies.

Are you wearing T-shirts in the winter and sweatshirts in the summer? Save some serious cash and reset your thermostat. For every degree you shift your thermostat up in the summer or down in the winter, you will save an average of 3 percent on your energy bill. Spending less on energy means you’re using less: good for our skies, great for your wallet.

Flick the switch: REALLY turn them off! About 40 percent of the energy used by our appliances is burned while you’re not using them! Plug your appliances into power strips and turn off the strip when the appliances are not in use. Unplug those chargers when you’re not using them, too – they’re pulling power whether they’re charging a phone or not.

Change a bulb: Save 100 pounds of carbon dioxide over the course of your lamp’s lifetime by switching from a traditional incandescent bulb to compact fluorescents or LEDs.

See STARs: Is that old refrigerator on its way out? Have a television that’s seen better days? Replace it with an ENERGY STAR-rated appliance, which will save electricity and cost less to run.

Cut the grass with a push mower to exercise and reduce carbon emissions at the same time. A little lawn mower may not seem like much, but the Environmental Protection Agency found that a single gas-powered mower can produce as much air pollution in its lifetime as 43 new cars driven 12,000 miles each.

Remember the R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle. By recycling what you can and minimizing your waste, you reduce the emissions generated from product production, shipping and disposal.

Plant a tree. Find native species at your local nursery and create a carbon sink in your own backyard.

Consider the alternatives. Many utilities provide customers with the option to pay a small green fee that purchases a percentage of power from renewable resources, such as solar and wind energy. For a few dollars, you can directly affect where your home’s power originates.

Reality check

What’s your carbon output? Check out the EPA’s greenhouse gas emissions calculator and get personalized tips on how you can reduce your footprint.

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