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Save Energy and Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Global Warming Whenever we save energy- or use it more efficiently- we reduce the demand for gasoline, oil, coal, and natural gas. Less burning of these fossil fuels means lower emissions of carbon dioxide, the major contributor to global warming. Right now the United States releases about 40,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per person each year. If we can reduce energy use enough to lower greenhouse gas emissions by about 2 percent per year, in 10 years we will "lose" about 7,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per person.

Here are some simple steps that can help cut annual emissions of carbon dioxide by thousands of pounds. The carbon dioxide reduction shown for each action is an average saving.

Home Appliances

  • Run your dishwasher only with a full load. Use the energy-saving setting to dry the dishes. Don't use heat when drying. Carbon dioxide reduction: 200 pounds per year.
  • Wash clothes in warm or cold water, not hot. Carbon dioxide reduction: (for two loads a week): up to 500 pounds per year.
  • Turn down your water heater thermostat; 120 degrees F. is usually hot enough. Carbon dioxide reduction (for each 10-degree adjustment): 500 pounds per year.

Home Heating and Cooling

  • Don't overheat or overcool rooms. Adjust your thermostat (lower in winter, higher in summer). Carbon dioxide reduction (for each 2-degree adjustment): about 500 pounds per year.

  • Clean or replace air filters as recommended. Cleaning a dirty air conditioner filter can save 5 percent of the energy used. Carbon dioxide reduction: about 75 pounds per year.

Small Investments That Pay Off

  • Buy energy efficient compact fluorescent for your most-used lights. Carbon dioxide reduction (by replacing one frequently used bulb): about 500 pounds per year.

  • Wrap your water heater in an insulating jacket. Carbon dioxide reduction: up to 1,000 pounds per year.

  • Install low-flow shower heads to use less water. Carbon dioxide reduction: up to 300 pounds per year.

  • Caulk and weatherstrip around doors and windows to plug air leaks. Carbon dioxide reduction: up to 1,000 pounds per year.

  • Ask your utility company for a home energy audit (Exit DNR) to find out where your home is poorly insulated or energy inefficient. Carbon dioxide reduction: potentially, thousands of pounds per year.

Getting Around

  • Whenever possible, walk, bike, carpool or use mass transit. Carbon dioxide reduction (for every gallon of gasoline you save): 20 pounds.

  • When you buy a car, choose one that gets good gas mileage. Carbon dioxide reduction (if your new car gets 10 mpg more than your old one): about 2,500 pounds per year.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

  • Reduce waste: buy minimally packaged goods; choose reusable products over disposable ones; recycle. Carbon dioxide reduction (if you cut down your garbage by 25 percent): 1,000 pounds per year.

  • If your car has an air conditioner, make sure its coolant is recycled whenever you have it serviced. Equivalent carbon dioxide reduction: thousands of pounds.

Home Improvements

  • Insulate your walls and ceilings; this can save about 25 percent of home heating bills. Carbon dioxide reduction: up to 2,000 pounds per year.

  • If you need to replace your windows, install the best energy saving models. Carbon dioxide reduction: up to 10,000 pounds per year.

  • Plant trees next to your home and paint your home a light color if you live in a warm climate, or a dark color in a cold climate. Carbon dioxide reduction: about 5,000 pounds per year.

  • As you replace home appliances, select the most energy efficient models. Carbon dioxide reduction (if you replace your old refrigerator with an efficient model): 3,000 pounds per year.

Schools, Businesses and Communities

  • Reduce waste and promote energy efficient measures at your school or workplace. Work in your community to set up recycling programs. Carbon dioxide reduction (for every pound of office paper recycled): 4 pounds.

  • Be informed about environmental issues. Keep track of candidates? voting records and write or call to express concerns. Carbon dioxide reduction (if we vote to raise U.S. auto fuel efficiency): billions of pounds.

While your students might not be in the market to buy new refrigerators for their homes, there are some things on this list that they can do. Have your students make a list of the things they can do to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Then, have them do a home energy check-up.

From: Environmental Defense Fund, 20 Simple Steps to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

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