Carbon Footprint Reduction Tips
Use renewable energy
Generating or sourcing your own solar, wind, or hydro-electric power is one of the most effective ways to decrease your impact, and save a lot of money. Follow the links below to see detailed instructions from the US Department of Energy on how to outfit your home with solar power (Note: Cost savings are based solely on reduced electricity use, and don’t factor in natural gas, propane, etc. Also, there is an upfront cost to generating solar/renewable, so it will take time to see an ROI).
If you can’t generate your own renewable energy for all or some of your energy needs, you can also source it by using a service, like Arcadia Power.
Potential savings from generating 100% renewable energy, or using no non-renewable energy
Use Energy Star appliances
Switch to an Energy Star washer
The average American family washes about 300 loads of laundry each year. Energy Star can help families cut their related energy and water costs. Energy Star certified clothes washers use about 25% less energy and 45% less water than regular washers. If every clothes washer purchased in the U.S. was Energy Star certified, we could save more than $4 billion each year and prevent more than 19 billion pounds of annual greenhouse gas emissions, equal to the emissions from more than 1.7 million vehicles.
Switch to an Energy Star dryer
Energy Star certified dryers use about 20% less energy than conventional models without sacrificing features or performance. They do this using innovative energy saving technologies, such as moisture sensors that detect when clothes are dry and automatically shut the dryer off. If all clothes dryers sold in the US were Energy Star certified, Americans could save more than $1.5 billion each year in utility costs and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to more than 2 million vehicles.
Switch to an Energy Star refrigerator
An estimated 170 million refrigerators and refrigerator-freezers are currently in use in the United States. Energy Star certified refrigerators use less energy and help us reduce our impact on the environment. If all refrigerators sold in the United States were Energy Star certified, the energy cost savings would grow to nearly $700 million each year and 9 billion pounds of annual greenhouse gas emissions would be prevented, equivalent to the emissions from more than 870,000 vehicles.
Install a cool roof
If you have a flat or almost flat roof, consider installing a ‘cool roof’ to reduce your energy bills during the summer months. If you live in an urban area, taking this step will also help mitigate the urban heat island effect. A white roof of 1,000 square feet will offset 10 tons of carbon dioxide over its 20 year lifetime, compared to a black roof. The calculations for this activity use the offset numbers for a 1,000 square foot roof. If your roof is significantly larger than this, you can simply complete this activity multiple times. These calculations also assume that heating and cooling account for 50% of the average American’s energy bill (this is based on Department of Energy stats).
Improve home insulation & air leaks
Sealing air leaks and improving your home’s insulation could save you up to $200 a year in cooling/heating costs (or about 10 percent of your annual energy bill). You can do this by utilizing your window shades, planting trees that provide shade to your windows, installing energy efficient windows, and installing door draft guards.
Turn your thermostat up or down by 3 degrees
According to the National Park Service, turning your thermostat down 3 degrees in winter and up 3 degrees in summer can save you up to 1050 lbs CO2e and nearly 10% on your energy bill over the year. If you install and use ceiling fans, oftentimes you can increase the temperature by up to 4 degrees without any change in comfort level. The calculations for this activity use electricity (kWh) for the CO2e and cost savings reductions.
Install faucet aerators
Faucet aerators are an easy, inexpensive way to save water and energy. An aerator on your faucet will cut down on water flow by about 25%. You’ll save money every time the water runs, and you probably won’t even notice a difference. You can order aerators online or find them in most hardware stores. The emissions reduction for this activity is estimated based on the buckets provided by Energy Impact Illinois.
Install low flow shower heads
Low flow shower heads save you 10-30% on your water heating bill, and 50% of water used per shower. Standard shower heads use about 5 gallons of water per minute and some high-end fixtures use as much as 12 gallons per minute. According to Energy Impact Illinois, low-flow shower heads work by using air pressure instead of water pressure to create that sense of force when you’re bathing, using 1.5 to 2.5 gallons per minute instead of 5 or more. They cost about $25, can be installed in 10 minutes, and they’ll pay for themselves in around 6 months. The emissions reduction for this activity is estimated based on the buckets provided by Energy Impact Illinois.
Install a hot water heater timer
According to Energy Star and Arcadia Power, if you have an electric water heater, you can save an additional 5%-12% of energy by installing a timer that turns it off at night when you don’t use hot water and/or during your utility’s peak demand times. You can install the timer yourself. Although they can cost $60 or more, but they can pay for themselves in about 1 year. Timers are most cost effective if you don’t want to install a heat trap and insulate your water heater tank and pipes. Timers aren’t as cost effective or useful on gas water heaters because of their pilot lights. The calculations for this activity are based only on electricity (kWh) savings.
Wrap your hot water pipes
Insulating your hot water pipes reduces heat loss, and can raise your water temperature 2-4 degrees Fahrenheit compared to uninsulated pipes. This can reduce your energy usage and costs by 3% to 4% annually.
Switch to WaterSense certified toilets
According to the EPA, by replacing old, inefficient toilets with WaterSense labeled models, the average family can reduce water used for toilets by 20% to 60%. This is nearly 13,000 gallons of water savings for your home every year. You could also save more than $110 per year in water costs, and $2,200 over the lifetime of the toilets.
Raise your refrigerator temperature
You can save 10% on energy costs by raising the temperature of your refrigerator. Ranges of 36-38 degrees Fahrenheit are suggested for the fresh food section, and 0 to 5 degrees for the freezer compartment. For this calculation, it’s assumed that the average refrigerator uses 181 kWh of electricity per month.
Install a programmable thermostat
By installing a programmable thermostat, such as a Nest, you can adjust temperatures based on your daily routines. This simple switch could lower your energy bill by up to 33%! The calculations for this activity use electricity (kWh) for the CO2e and cost savings reductions.
Use SmartStrip power strips
Smart Strip power strips can help you eliminate the phantom or ‘vampire’ loads of your peripheral devices (such as laptops, coffee makers, curling irons, etc.) by cutting power to them altogether when they are not in use. Since it’s estimated that nearly 5-10% of your home energy use over the course of the year is attributable to phantom power, these strips pay for themselves in energy bill savings in just a matter of months.
Use cold water for your laundry
Energy Star states that almost 90% of the energy consumed by a washing machine goes to heating water. Switching from hot or warm water to cold water washing saves that energy.
Hang or air dry your clothes
In many households, the dryer is the third-most energy-hungry appliance, after the refrigerator and washer. Air-drying your clothes can reduce the average household’s carbon footprint by a tremendous amount each year.
Hand wash and hang dry your clothes
Loads of laundry are very harmful to the environment. Not only do they waste water and generate carbon emissions, but clothes that are washed in washing machines shed harmful microfibers that end up in the oceans. Instead of doing laundry in the washer and dryer this week, hand wash and hang dry your clothes instead. To be even more environmentally friendly, use GUPPYFRIEND laundry bads to protect against microwaste.
Clean your dryer’s exhaust vent
Your dryer’s exhaust vent becomes clogged with lint frequently. This leads to the dryer operating less efficiently. harmful chemicals being released into your home, fires, and more greenhouse gas emissions. Cleaning your dryer’s exhaust vent every two months keeps your dryer running better. According to the EPA, you can eliminate 11.3 lbs of CO2e for each 60 minute dryer cycle using a clean vent (versus a clogged vent). The calculations for the cost and emissions savings for this activity are based on a 60 minute dryer cycle.
Use wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets
Dryer sheets release harmful, carcinogenic chemicals into your home. Instead of using dryer sheets, try using felted wool dryer balls (you can find many types on Amazon, or make your own). Using dryer balls can increase your dryer’s e iciency and life span and reduce the time required to dry your clothes. As the dryer spins, these balls tumble between the clothes, maximizing the wet clothes’ contact with the warm air pockets they create. They’re a natural fabric softener and have been found to reduce drying time by 15-30%. The cost and energy savings for this activity assume that the average electric dryer uses 3.5 kWh of energy for each cycle.
Clean the coils on your older refrigerator
Clean your refrigerator coils annually (or twice per year if you have pets that shed). The cleaner the coils, the less energy your refrigerator has to drain to do the same amount of work. These calculations presume a 50% energy reduction on old refrigerators when coils are properly cleaned.
Replace HVAC and furnace filters
Clearing any duct obstructions and replacing clogged air ilters in your heating, ventilating, and air conditioning equipment is a quick and easy way to drastically improve the smoothness of air flow and reduce the amount of energy your system uses by 5% to 15%.