April 22nd marks the annual observance of Earth Day, but we want to help you commemorate your love for the environment and our planet every day! With our Celebrate Earth Day series, we’ll introduce you to the history of the event as well as practical ways to extend green and eco-friendly principles throughout everyday life.
Everyday Ways to Show Your Love for the Environment
What’s a Carbon Footprint?
Your carbon footprint is a measure of how much carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases your lifestyle adds to the environment. This includes daily activities such as driving, heating your home, using electricity, selecting what to eat, and how you dispose of waste.
Learning the size of your carbon footprint is the first step in learning how to reduce it and lead a more sustainable, green lifestyle. Now, while that may sound pretty challenging, there’s a number of easy, practical ways you can go about it:
1) Buy an Electric or Hybrid Car
Transportation is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gases. For every gallon of gasoline burned in an engine, about 20 pounds of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. Electric cars now have better batteries to get you further on just one charge. The average commute to work or running errands about town can easily be covered by an electric car. New models are coming out every year, and you’ll be able to take a 30% tax credit.
If you can’t buy a new car, keep your current car running at its peak by changing oil, tires, and air filters according to the manufacturer’s specs. Better performance means you’ll spend less money on gas, release lower emissions, and cut down on air pollution.
2) Sign Up for a 100% Renewable Energy Plan for Your Home
This will let you support the development green energy sources and technology while reducing the power industry’s reliance on fossil fuels to generate electricity. Currently, renewable energy sources account for about 13% of electricity generation in the US, with more projects slated for development in 2016 and beyond.
3) Make Your Home More Energy Efficient
Heating and cooling account for roughly one third to one half of an average American home’s carbon emissions. Insulating and air sealing your home saves you money and reduces your energy usage. Homes with more insulation retain their heated or cooled air longer, especially if they’re also air sealed against drafts.
4) Replace Your Old Appliances
Technically speaking, a ten-year-old appliance is a fossil. Not only does it not use energy efficiently, it’s probably not working well either. Replace it with an EnergyStar qualifying appliance. Many utility companies offer rebates to help you to save even more money.
But if your current appliances aren’t too old, then follow these tips squeeze out a little more efficiency:
- Refrigerator: Turn off the ice maker when you don’t anticipate using it for a while. This will save you both energy and water. Keep both your fridge and freezer close to full because the mass of cold food inside helps maintain an even temperature.
- Water heater: Tank water heaters add nearly 18% to your energy bill just keeping water ready for use, even when nobody’s home. Adding a water heater jacket and lowering the heater thermostat to 120°F helps reduce the impact of standby heating.
- Dishwasher: Cut its energy usage by only running it when it has a full load. Also avoid using the heated drying when possible by propping the door open as soon as the machine has finished washing.
- Cooking: Baking on a summer day just adds heat to your home when your AC system is trying to keep it cool. Microwave ovens now use less energy to heat hot water or thaw frozen foods, which means it can heat faster and more efficiently than the stove top.
- Washer: While washers use a fair amount of electricity, their main energy efficiency lag stems from using lots of hot water, so only wash when you have full loads.
- Dryer: It uses lots of heat so it’s not very energy-efficient. However, emptying lint traps after every load and cleaning out the dryer duct at least once a year will help keep the air flowing efficiently.
5) Recycle Fanatically
Americans generate about 4.3 pounds of trash per day or about 15,670 pounds/year. This converts to roughly about 1 metric ton of carbon/year. Consider that when Americans produced about 250 million tons of municipal solid waste in 2010, 85 million tons of it were recycled. And that’s the the equivalent of approximately 186 million metric tons of carbon dioxide or taking 36 million cars off the road for a year!
6) Compost Religiously
Households waste 14% of food purchases due to spoilage, table scraps, and leftovers. Food and yard waste also amount to 27% of the landfill load. Think more sustainably about what you’re throwing out. By composting your kitchen’s organic waste, you can add to the health of your home’s landscape plantings naturally and reduce your costs for fertilizers.
7) Purchase Eco-Friendly Products or Services
Ecolabels show that the product has been certified for being environmental friendly. Different organizations offer certifications to manufacturers, including the Rainforest Alliance, Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL), and Green Seal.
8) Buy Locally Grown, Direct-to-Consumer Food
Many popular name-brand foods must be transported hundreds of miles to make to your grocery store. This burns more fuel and puts more carbon exhausts into the air. Instead, buying locally grown foods puts fresh-picked fruits and vegetables and locally raised and processed meats on your plate. It also helps keep local farmers in the business of growing healthy, sustainable food for your community. There’s fewer middlemen, so there’s less mileage.
9) Live Brighter and Light Smarter
Home lighting consumes on average 13% of your electricity. With the average home having around 40 sockets, that’s an average of 1,700 kWh in 2012 just for lighting in the US. LED lighting has demonstrated being the highest in efficiency over and over again (wattage usage for 800 lumens: 60 watt incandescent bulb vs 13 watt LED bulb). Prices for LED bulbs are still falling — especially smart LED bulbs that you can control remotely with your smartphone or tablet. By having more control over your energy use at home, even just the lighting, you can lower your energy need and reduce your carbon footprint.
Happy Earth Day from Direct Energy!