Walking Lightly One Step at a Time

footprintsClimate change is one of the biggest threats we face and your home is plugged into nature. Your home energy usage or carbon footprint might seem trivial, however, as much as 17 percent of CO2 emissions come from private home electricity usage, heating and waste. Wasting electrical energy prompts CO2-emitting power plants to produce more and heating with oil, wood and/or natural gas directly creates greenhouse gasses.

“We have forgotten how to be good guests, how to walk lightly on the earth as its other creatures do.” – Barbara Ward, Only One Earth, 1972.

Nearly 60 per cent of the energy used by homes is directly related to heating. But the good news is that it’s not too late to volunteer to act and make a difference right where you live. You can work towards reducing CO2 emissions to offset the global warming effects of you and your family by taking some simple steps.

little feet1.   Reduce hot water use

Insulate your water heater and reduce the temperature setting. Insulating your water heater and reducing your water heater thermostat can save 1,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide and $40 per year.

little feet2.  Wash your laundry in cold water

There are biodegradable soaps and detergents that get clothes hot water clean in cold water temperatures. Use one and reduce your hot water consumption or make your own laundry soap.

little feet3.   Hang your laundry out to dry

A tumble clothes dryer is one of the worst household offenders for CO2 emissions. Hanging wet laundry outside, in a utility room or even your shower for 6 months out of the year can represent significant CO2 reduction. Line-dry your clothes in the spring and summer can save 700 lbs. of carbon dioxide and $75 per year.

little feet4. Install a low flow shower head

Did you know that a bath can take up to 190 litres of water? And, each minute under an average showerhead uses more than 9 litres of water? Baths and showers account for 2/3 of water heating costs.  Take a shower instead of a bath, change to low-flow showerheads and the result will be CO2 savings and money off your water bill. Save 350 lbs. of carbon dioxide and $99 per year.

little feet5.  Focus on your fridge

Your fridge joins the clothes dryer on the worst-offender for CO2 emissions list. Remove clutter from the fridge top, clean the coils and defrost on a regular basis. Help your fridge stay cool by putting it in a cool place. Place it  out of direct sunlight and away from the stove and other heat-producing appliances.  Always let hot food cool down to room temperature before you put it in the fridge.

little feet6.   Eat locally grown, unprocessed food

Food typically travels 2,500 km before it gets to the table and each of those miles involves the emission of CO2.  Shop local and keep transportation costs down. Support local food producers, shop at  a farmer’s market, look for regional produce,  make the most of seasonal foods grow a garden.

little feet7.   Shut down and unplug electronic devices

Electronic devices use electricity just by being plugged in. Prevent CO2 from being released into our atmosphere by plugging electronics into a power strip, and turning off and unplugging the power strip when not in use. Save over 1,000 lbs of carbon dioxide and $256 per year.

little feet8.  Reduce air conditioning and central heating  dependency

Move your heater thermostat down two degrees in winter and up two degrees in the summer. Save 2000 lbs of carbon dioxide and $98 per year. Stay comfortable by wearing fewer and lighter weight  clothes indoors in summer and warmer layers in the winter. During the summer months, use a ceiling fan instead of air conditioning.  Run house-warming appliances like your washer, clothes dryer, dishwasher and oven after the sun goes down to avoid heating up your house in the summer months and in the winter months do the opposite.

little feet9.   Use energy-efficient light bulbs

When your incandescent light bulbs burn out, replace them with a compact fluorescent light bulb. The latter have a longer life and better energy efficiency.

little feet10.    Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Think long and hard before you buy new. Instead of replacing items, fix them. Make use of freecycle and recycle shops and secondhand shops.  Buy minimally packaged goods  and reduce your garbage by about 10%.  Say no to plastic! Don’t contribute to Islands of Sorrow, Oceans a Grief.  Recycle paper, plastic, cardboard, cans and bottles. Compost all organic waste to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with landfills.  Save 1,200 pounds of carbon dioxide and $1,000 per year.

little feet11.   Plant native trees

Trees provide cooling shade and absorb CO2 from the atmosphere while creating oxygen. Planting a tree native to your region in your own garden or a community garden can save 2,268 kg CO2 per year. Are you a tree hugger too?

little feet12.  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. Remove yourself from junk mail lists.

“The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.” – Gaylord Nelson, former governor of Wisconsin, founder of Earth Day

For additional information about what you can do to reduce CO2 emissions, check out StopGlobalWarming and the National Geographic’s Green Living Guide.

Chances are you’ve already made voluntary changes to better the planet. My husband and I have accomplished all I listed above and more. We have gone further by undertaking a green home renovation but we still have more to do when it comes to walking lightly. How about you?