Friday, May 04, 2007

20 simple ways to reduce your "Carbon Footprint"

Following an email we now present "20 simple ways to reduce your carbon footprint". Thanks to

Although we tend to steer clear of such "green" issues the 20 tips are useful for the statistics associated with each "tip". As an empiricist I can never resist a good set of interesting numbers. The tips themselves are common sense but the savings estimates are interesting although I don't fancy the idea of having too many cold showers.

The economics of 12 are also dubious (see Economist acticle). Eating locally but inefficiently grown food is not necesarily better than having it flown half way around the world. I am sure the UK could grow oranges and lemons and some of the best grapes in the world if we used hot houses and threw enough energy at it - this would not help the environment.

Assuming a proportion of readers of this blog are interested in economics it would be interesting to know whether such information is useful. I believe that research shows that Economists give, on average, less money to charity than academics of other subjects. I suspect the same will apply to following the tips below - the following of every tip will involve a costs of some description - do any of them pass an individual level cost-benefit analysis?

See 20 Simple Ways to Reduce your Carbon Footprint from
This year humans will generate around 26 billion metric tons of excess carbon dioxide (CO2) – that’s 4.3 tons per person. All that extra CO2 precipitates global warming and leads to severe human and animal respiratory problems.

The average European emits close to 10 metric tons of CO2 per year. Not to be outdone, the average American emits over 20 metric tons - more than 6 times the world average. Worldwide, idle computers alone generate 45 million metric tons of CO2, enough gas to fill 810,000,000,000 (810 billion) balloons. But while much discussion focuses on the need for government regulation, little has been said about the very practical things we can do in and around our homes to reduce our own carbon footprint.

There is a temptation to feel that as individuals we can't do much to fix the problem of carbon emissions - this is simply not true. Just by making the 20 simple changes outlined in this article, you can reduce CO2 emissions by 40 metric tons per year, enough to entirely offset the global warming effects of you and another person. So without further ado, here are 20 things you can do in and around your home to help decrease CO2 emissions.

1. Adjust your hot water heater: Is the temperature of your shower scalding hot? You shouldn't even have that option. If you reduce the temperature of your water heater from 60°C to 49°C (140°F to 120°F), you'll prevent burns and save 217 kg CO2. Insulate your water heater for an additional savings of 454 kg CO2 and €30 (£20). If you're in the market for a new water heater, go tankless and save 136 kg CO2 and €287 (£195) every year. CO2 savings: 617 kg.

2. Shut down and unplug devices: Electronic devices, even when not in use, use electricity just by being plugged in. Do you leave your mobile phone charger plugged in at all times? It's using electricity even when your phone is far away. Turn off and unplug items like your hair dryer, coffee pot, TV and computer for carbon and electricity bill savings. Do this all year, and the average person can prevent 567 kg of CO2 from being released into our atmosphere. The cost saving is around €188 (£128) each year. Make it easy by plugging items into a power strip, and turning off and unplugging the power strip when not in use. CO2 savings: 567 kg.

3. Wash your clothes in cold water: Hot water is not necessary for general clothes washing. In fact, it's only needed for greasy or extremely dirty items. There are even special detergents that promise to get clothes hot water clean in cold water temperatures. Wash your clothes in cold water instead of hot to save 228 kg of CO2 this year. CO2 savings: 228 kg.

4. Hang clothes out to dry: Save the environment the old-fashioned way: invest in a clothesline. Your tumble dryer is one of the worst household offenders for CO2 emissions. Do you really need to use it? Try hanging you clothing outside, in the utility room or even your shower instead of throwing them in the tumble dryer. If you forego drying for 6 months out of the year, it represents a CO2 savings of 318 kg and €55 (£37) from your electricity bill. Make it a year-round practice to bump it up to 635 kg of CO2 and €110 (£75). CO2 savings: 635 kg.

5. Make life easy for your fridge: Your fridge joins the dryer on the worst-offender hit list. Make it easy for your refrigerator to stay cool by putting it in a cool place and letting hot food cool down to room temperature before you put it in. Clean your coils, clear clutter off the top and defrost on a regular basis to save 318 kg of CO2 every year. CO2 savings: 318 kg.

6. Plant a tree: Trees are attractive, cheap, help with energy costs and reduce the CO2 in our air. They provide cooling shade and absorb CO2 from the atmosphere while creating oxygen. Planting a tree native to your region in your garden can save 2,268 kg CO2 per year. If you're really a go-getter try planting 10 trees per year and save 22,680 kg CO2. If you don't have room for 10 trees at home, offer to plant them for your friends, family and neighbours. CO2 savings: 22,680 kg.

7. Cast a critical eye on your air conditioning and central heating: If you adjust your thermostat by just one-half degree Celsius during winter and summer months, the average household can save 907 kg CO2 and €72 (£49). Stay comfortable by wearing fewer clothes and being less active in the home during summer months, while layering up in the winter. During the summer months, remember to run house-warming appliances like your washer, dryer, dishwasher and oven after the sun goes down to avoid heating up your house. Alternately, in the winter months use these appliances whenever your house is the coldest. When it's practical, use a ceiling fan instead of your air conditioning and save 181 kg CO2 and €16 (£11). Help your air conditioner work smarter, not harder; remember to replace your filter according to recommendations and you can save 79 kg CO2 and €110 (£75). CO2 savings: 1167 kg.

8. Use energy-efficient light bulbs: Incandescent light bulbs are becoming a thing of the past. This year, when your light bulbs burn out, replace them with a compact fluorescent light bulb. These fluorescent lamps fit into a standard socket, but have a longer life and better energy efficiency. If you change just 3 light bulbs to compact fluorescent this year, you will save 136 kg of CO2 and €44 (£30). CO2 savings: 136 kg.

9. Reduce: Cut down on purchasing products with lots of packaging. Simply trimming garbage by 10% can save up to 454 kg CO2 within a year. Reducing your consumption of takeout boxes alone can save 11 kg CO2 per year. CO2 savings: 454 kg.

10. Reuse: Instead of replacing items, fix them. Reuse plastic shopping bags for rubbish, garage sales or to carry your lunch. Simply switching to reusable cleaning products like sponges instead of paper towels saves 5 kg CO2 and €18 (£12) a year. Don't rush out to get a new bestseller; visit a used bookstore or start a book exchange with your friends to save 14 kg CO2 a year. Make use of sites like Freecycle and Craigslist to get used items for free or low cost. CO2 savings: 567 kg.

11. Recycle: Use the recycling bins in your neighbourhood. Buying recycled content and increasing home recycling by 10% saves the average household 91 kg CO2 over the course of a year. CO2 savings: 91 kg.

12. Eat locally grown, unprocessed food: Food typically travels 2,500 km before it gets to you. Each of those miles involves the emission of CO2. To avoid this contribution, support your area's agriculture: visit a farmer's market, look for regional produce at the grocery shop or create a garden of your own. If you eat local food just once a week, you can save 2,268 kg CO2 over the course of a year.CO2 savings: 2,268 kg.

13. Install a low flow shower head: Showers account for 2/3 of water heating costs. If you change two showerheads in your home to low-flow heads, you'll save 136 kg of CO2 each year as well as €110 (£75) on your water bill. Oxygenics, Delta and Tempest offer low-flow shower heads. Take it one step further by taking shorter showers. Each minute under an average showerhead uses more than 9 litres of water. Cutting down on shower time results in CO2 savings of 159 kg each year and €73 (£50) off your water bill. CO2 savings: 159 kg.

14. Take a shower instead of a bath: Did you know that a bath can take up to 190 litres of water? If you forego a bath in favour of a shower just once a week, you can save 45 kg of CO2. If you do this daily, it adds up to 317 kg of CO2 and €26 (£18). CO2 savings: 317 kg.

15. Eat fewer animal products: A diet of 30% meat, dairy and poultry produces 1,485 kg CO2 each year, but a vegetarian diet generates only half of that. Animal flatulence, processing, packaging and transportation of products are to blame. If you replace red meat with fish, eggs and poultry, you can save more than 430 kg CO2 a year. Alternately, eat meat-free meals every other day for a 215 kg. CO2 savings: 430 kg.

16. Remove yourself from junk mail lists: Your mailbox is stuffed full of CO2 every day. Junk mail is more than just a nuisance: 1 million trees are used to create junk mail each year, and transporting this mail via CO2-emitting vehicles costs €405 million (£275 million). The average adult gets 19 kg of junk mail per year. If you cut down on this waste, you can save up to 104 kg of CO2 every year. CO2 savings: 104 kg.

17. Use a mechanical lawn mower: Are you sick of your mower not starting? Do you hate having to make a run to the petrol station early Saturday mornings just to mow your lawn? Push mowers don't have these problems. Get some exercise, save petrol money and save the environment by switching to a push mower. Modern reel push mowers by Sunlawn, Brill and Scotts are easier to use than you think. You'll save 36 kg CO2 in a year and €26 (£18) in gas money. CO2 savings: 36 kg.

18. Install double glazed windows. Double glazed windows are made up of two glass panels with a space in between. This space is generally filled with air or gasses that can help with insulation. They also often have a UV coating, which can be customised to your climate. Cold regions can use a UV coating that maximises the warmth of the sun, while those in hot areas can employ a UV coating that keeps heat out. If you switch 6 medium to large windows to double pane this year, you could save a whopping 4,536 kg of CO2 and €321 (£218). CO2 savings: 4,536 kg.

19. Update the insulation of your home: Updating your home's insulation can add up to big CO2 and financial savings. In just one year, updated wall and ceiling insulation can save 907 kg CO2 and €180 (£122). Think about the savings over the life of your home. Just 5 years with updated insulation will save up to 4,535 kg CO2 and €902 (£613). If you caulk and weather-strip your doorways and windows, add another 454 kg CO2 and €201 (£137) saved each year. CO2 savings: 1,361 kg.

20. Buy eco-friendly appliances: It's not necessary to run out and buy all new appliances to replace old ones, as the manufacturing of new items and disposal of old ones contributes to carbon waste. However, if your refrigerator has cooled its last Coke, think eco-friendly when shopping for a new one. An energy-friendly refrigerator can save 227 kg CO2 and €44 (£30) year, while a green washer conserves 199 kg CO2 and €33 (£22). CO2 savings: 426 kg.

See the link above for links on where to find further information.


Anonymous said...

While I think backyard fruits and vegetables are an obvious win, I worry about the general advice to support farmer's markets. That may feel good, but ... I find it impossible to believe that the broken down trucks and vans at my local markets are delivering their few hundred pounds of food at a higher efficiency than a fully loaded semi.

Remember, it CO2 per ton that matters:

- A small farmer bringing vegetables to market in an old pickup truck might move a ton of goods 10 miles on a gallon of fuel. If that.

- One gallon of fuel moves a ton of goods 59 miles by tractor-trailer.

- One gallon of fuel moves a ton of goods 202 miles by rail.

- One gallon of fuel moves a ton of goods 515 miles by inland barge.

- One gallon of fuel moves a ton of goods 1,043 miles by container ship.

Keith said...

Hi Rob. I received the same email, and suspect quite a few other bloggers did too. A nice piece of subtle marketing. You read the tips, wonder who produced them and go to their homepage... and find out it's a firm that sells real estate in Spain...

Rob Elliott said...

Thanks for the comments.

Keith - yep, I suspected as much. I checked the link and could see no reason why "20 ways" was on a Spanish property site.

However, the odds of anyone reading this article and then running out and buying a Spanish house appear slim. If that is their best "spam attempt" it appears to be a poor one.

I suppose spam is still spam but as I said, it is useful to get some estimates for future reference.