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From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine
Green New Year’s Resolutions
10 ways you can reduce your carbon footprint in the New Year
My New Year’s Resolution is to reduce my carbon footprint to help fight global warming. Do you have suggestions for ways I can make good on my promise?
Carrie, via e-mail
There’s never been a more urgent time to reduce your carbon footprint. With the U.S. government still opting out of mandatory emissions cuts, it’s up to every individual, business owner and city or state government to take steps. So here are 10 ways to get you started in the New Year:
1. Step-up recycling and composting: Recycling prevents carbon dioxide emissions in two ways: by saving the energy it takes to make products from new materials and by saving the energy it takes to incinerate or landfill what we discard. Composting food scraps turns organic material back into fertile soil, which itself is an efficient carbon sink. To get started, see www.earth911.org and www.howtocompost.org.
2. Stay close or stay put: About half the CO2 we generate comes from our car trips, so walk, bike or take mass transit instead. Air travel also produces huge amounts of CO2, so the less you fly, the smaller your carbon footprint. See www.culturechange.org.
3. Eat organic and local: Stick to foods produced organically and you prevent harmful pesticides and fertilizers from polluting air, waterways, soils and family members. If the food is grown nearby, thousands of pounds of CO2 weren’t emitted getting it to your grocery store. See www.100milediet.org.
4. Buy green power: Your power company might just source part of its supply from renewable sources like hydro-electric or wind and will sell it to customers who ask for it. See www.green-e.org.
5. Change out your lightbulbs: A compact fluorescent lightbulb uses less than a third of the energy of an incandescent bulb to produce the same amount of light and it lasts 10 times longer. Some compact fluorescent lightbulbs now have three-way capabilities and can be dimmed. Visit Energy Federation, Inc. at: www.efi.org.
6. Upgrade and unplug: Upgrading any appliances, including computers and TVs? Be sure to look for the Energy Star logo. Also, turn off appliances when not in use to prevent wasting so-called phantom energy coming in off the grid. See www.energystar.gov.
7. Adjust your thermostats: If you don’t need a sweater indoors, your heat is too high. Likewise, in hot weather turn down the AC. Also, keeping your hot water at no more than 120 degrees the minimum temperature to keep the water bacteria-free is another way to save energy, money and the environment.
8. Plant a tree … or 300: An average tree stores 13 pounds of carbon per year; a mature tree can absorb upwards of four times that amount. Just 300 trees can counterbalance the amount of greenhouse gas pollution that one person produces in a lifetime. So get to work! See www.americanforests.org/planttrees.
9. Buy offsets: Many organizations sell carbon offsets, whereby you pay a voluntary fee to offset your daily CO2 emissions. The money usually goes to develop alternative, renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar. See www.climatetrust.org, www.nativeenergy.com and www.my-climate.com.
10. Get involved: Donate time or money to groups working to fight global warming. Just about all green groups devote some work to climate change, and they need your help. See www.volunteermatch.org.
Got an environmental question? Send it to: EarthTalk, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; submit it at www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/thisweek: or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Read past columns at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/archives.php.