6 ways to reduce your carbon footprint
A few changes around the house can have a significant impact on your energy use.
© Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images; Allan Baxter/Getty Images
Does your home consume energy like it's at an all-you-can-eat buffet? Or do you approach energy use like you're on Weight Watchers and you're counting points at the salad bar? Chances are you fall somewhere in between.
These days, most of us are aware that we need to cut down on our energy consumption for more energy-efficient homes. In fact, you may have already made the switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs or have your thermostat turned down a few degrees. If you're ready to do more, however, then kudos to you. Here's a list of relatively easy or painless changes you can make to further reduce your home's carbon footprint. (Bing: What is a carbon footprint?)
1. Monitor your energy use
Do you know how much that old fridge in the basement costs you in energy each year? Purchasing an energy-monitoring device, such as the Kill-A-Watt, can open your eyes to how much energy your appliances are sucking down each month. If you discover that your old and practically empty fridge costs you $20 per month to run, you might be inspired to donate it to someone who really needs it. On top of that, you will lower your energy consumption and save on your utility bills in the process.
- MSN Money: Are you foolish to pay your bills?
2. Take on a roommate
A study by SMR Research has found that single-person households have grown by more than 350% since 1960. People who live alone use 18.4% more energy than two-person households and 52.8% more than three-person households. If you're living alone, you can dramatically reduce your home carbon footprint by taking on a roommate and finding a cheap apartment.
3. Compost your food waste
Would you be surprised if I told you I have a vermicompost bin in my kitchen? Yep, I compost all my kitchen waste with worms. Nothing goes in the garbage. Composting your food waste makes a big difference.
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When food is disposed of in a landfill, it produces methane. This greenhouse gas is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The more food we keep out of our landfills, the less greenhouse gas will be emitted. Awareness about the benefits of vermicomposting is slowly growing. It's easy, and when done right it, doesn't smell or draw rodents. In return, you get 100% organic compost and "worm tea" for your home garden.
4. Plant bamboo
Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants around, and it sucks up four times more carbon dioxide than trees. If you need a windbreak in your yard and you live in a favorable climate, opt for bamboo.
5. Rediscover your clothesline
Getting rid of your dryer will not only save you an average of $20 per month on your electric bill, but it will also help keep hundreds of pounds of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. Think line drying is a pain? Well, it's all in how you look at it. I line dry in my basement during the winter, so my clothes do get a bit stiff. But in the summer, line drying is pure bliss. My clothes smell like fresh air, sunshine and lazy afternoons.
6. Reduce your dependence on large appliances
The average refrigerator in Europe is 9 cubic feet. Here in the U.S., it's a whopping 18 to 26 cubic feet. And, 26% of households have two refrigerators. Often, that second refrigerator is more than 15 years old, which means it's even more inefficient.
- MSN Lifestyle: Before and after: A refrigerator makeover
We love our big refrigerators. But these jumbo-sized appliances suck up a lot of energy. Your refrigerator counts for around 20% of your monthly utility bill. Switching to a small, Energy Star-rated fridge will really help minimize your home's carbon footprint. You don't need to make an extravagant effort to lower your home energy costs.
6. Reduce your dependence on large appliances
I'm not saying DON'T use efficient appliances but do your homework. Get a Kill-A-Watt meter and measure your actual energy usage first. Spending $2k on a nice energy efficient refrigerator doesn't make sense if your pay-back time (i.e. energy "savings") is going to be 5+ years. By that point the powers that be will want you to go buy a new MORE energy efficient refrigerator. These machines have a limit to how efficient they can get; after that, a new technology will have to be invented.
Plus, dumping that old fridge in a landfill only exacerbates a different problem. Even after recycling what you can, there's still a large amount of material left over going to the garbage.