What You Can Do to Help

 

Your carbon footprint estimates how much carbon dioxide is produced to support your lifestyle.  Every product we buy and all of the energy we use personally adds up.  The US national average is 7.5 tons of carbon dioxide per person per year. Organizations like Prairie Research Institute are researching different technologies, but there are things individuals can do as well!

 

carbon footprint logoStep 1 is knowing where you stand.

Use the USEPA Household Carbon Footprint Calculator to see how you measure up!

Which things are contributing to your score?

Exelon's Energy Use Guide shows how much energy different devices use


Step 2: Once you know where you stand, it's time to figure out what changes you can make.

Most of us have heard of the 3Rs - no, not reading, writing, and arithmetic, the other 3 -

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Let's add a 4th R - Renew!

Reduce

Using less of everything saves energy and pollution. Here are some ideas:

  • Turn off lights, tv, computers, etc. when you aren't using them
  • Unplug charger cords when not in use
  • Turn off the water - according to the USEPA, 3% of the nation's energy is used to pump and treat water
  • Carpool, use mass transit, walk, or ride a bike - according to the USEPA, leaving your car at home just two days a week can reduce your greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 2 tons per year
  • Reduce your food waste - all the growing, manufacturing, packaging, and shipping adds up

Recycle

When items have outlived their usefulness, recycling them makes the materials available for new items, cutting down on energy consumption.

Some items that can be recycled include:

  • Paper
  • Glass
  • Many types of plastic
  • Metal
  • Electronics
  • Fabrics
  • Shoes

Not all items are able to be recycled, but Earth911 can help you find information about recycling in your area.

 

Reuse

We all like getting new things, but there is a cost to all of that new stuff:

For each product we buy:

  • Materials are grown or mined
  • The product is manufactured
  • The product is packaged
  • The product is shipped


Each of those steps uses energy, but by reusing items instead of replacing, you can cut down on your carbon footprint.

Reusable shopping bags, lunch containers, and water bottles are one way to start.


Renew

Planting new trees helps absorb carbon dioxide.  

Using cleaner, renewable sources of energy, like solar power, reduces carbon dioxide emissions.

emissions.png

 


Let's look at where our household energy comes from.

Your energy provider reports on the sources they use for generating electricity. The USEPA has a power profiler that, based on your zipcode, tells you what the sources of your electrical power are. Check your area.

 

Once you know where your energy comes from, some things to consider:

  • Do you have a choice in energy providers?
  • Can you afford to install renewable energy like solar panels or geothermal pumps at your home?
  • Are there programs available in your area to subsidize the costs of installing renewable energy sources?

 fuelsources ameren.jpg

Click to enlarge screenshot of Champaign, IL power sources.


 

The USEPA has a website with more specific tips to help decrease your carbon footprint

https://www.epa.gov/climatechange/what-you-can-do-about-climate-change

 

Here are a few ideas to consider:

  1. Replace your five most frequently used light fixtures or the lightbulbs in them with ENERGY STAR–qualified products and you will help the environment while saving $70 a year on energy bills. Over their lifetimes, products in your home that have earned the ENERGY STAR label can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 130,000 pounds and save you $11,000 on energy bills.
  2. Simple steps like changing air filters regularly, properly using a programmable thermostat, and having your heating and cooling equipment maintained annually by a licensed contractor can save energy and increase comfort while helping to protect the environment.
  3. Reduce air leaks and stop drafts by using caulk, weather stripping, and insulation to seal your home's envelope and add more insulation to your attic to block out heat and cold.
  4. Reducing, reusing, and recycling in your home helps conserve energy and reduces pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from resource extraction, manufacturing, and disposal.
  5. Three percent of the nation's energy is used to pump and treat water, so conserving water conserves energy that reduces greenhouse gas pollution.
  6. Composting your food and yard waste reduces the amount of garbage that you send to landfills and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
  7. Use renewable energy
  8. Switching to public transportation, carpooling, biking, or telecommuting can save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on your way to and from work or school.