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?


  1. Most of my household is comprised of Freecycle, thrift shopping, and dumpster diving. Lucky me, no bed bugs yet. Knock on wood. I do my best to sanitize, but some of the stuff people throw away, I just can’t stop myself. I ought to do a whole post on my shabby shabby shabby not so chic furnishings (but seriously pretty decent stuff).

    • Hi Lisa,
      That sounds familiar in a way that makes me smile. In almost all cases, I prefer purchasing second hand to purchasing new. I find lots of second hand items that have years of use or wear left in them and are perfectly suited for my needs. Sometimes they may need some cleaning, painting or refinishing but recycled items is where I’m at and have been at for years now. :)

  2. I love this list… thank you. When we lived on the boat, all of was naturally part of our life. Now that we are on land and in mainstream again, it takes focus and awareness to look at the appliances and routines that seem to come with owning a home–so I love articles like yours that provide easy, do-able tips. Thank you!

    • Hi Joy,
      I’m happy to read you liked this article. Every little bit we do counts in the sense that acting is empowering and inaction renders us a sense of power-lessness or seemingly so.

      I have never lived on a boat. Years ago I lived in hard-floor tents, truck canopies, tiny trappers’ cabins, line shacks, a tipi, a fish camp, and in farm and ranch bunk houses. I still recall how huge the space in houses felt to me when I made the transition back to house bound living.

      Thanks for the visit.

      Be well and happy.

  3. This is a great list of things anyone can start doing to make a difference. Also consider going vegetarian/vegan or making an effort to reduce your meat cosumption as the methane emissions from the meat industry are about 20x more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

    • Hello there,
      I’m sorry for the delayed response. I’m coping with the busy season for our business while my hubby is traveling re: his work. We eat locally raised organic meat and fresh fish from the docks about 3 or 4 days every week. I’ve previously been a Vegan and I became so sick I was hospitalized. I have food allergies and sensitivities and when I withdrew all meat as well as not eating the foods that caused me reactions I became malnourished, anemic and vitamin B deficient. Overall our diet is close to being Mediterranean. That said I do agree with you and if I could go meat free I would.

      • Thank you so much for taking the time to respond! I’m glad you’re in good health and that you do what you can for the planet while taking care of your wellbeing. You’re setting a wonderful example.

        • You’re welcome and thank you for being who you are too. I’m not actually in good health as I have more than one serious long term condition but I cope with them every well. I’m looking forward to reading your posts but do know I’m always the laggard ie. last to read and last to comment. :)

  4. I confess that I use my dishwasher..only need to turn it on every 2nd day.
    I occasionally use a cold wash for laundry. It depends on the fabric of the clothing. So it’s cold wash about 60% of the time.

    My partner hates air conditioning because it gives him a headache. So we turn it off.
    Most of food prepared at home is not processed. I cook from scratch about 90% of the time. Cooking is therapeutic for me at times.

    But I do take warm-hot showers ..daily. My body simply can’t stand cold /cool showers. (I don’t know how to swim which might account to what my body is used to in terms of water temperatures.)

    I live in a building where the residents want and have a shared garbage disposal for separated recyclable waste. It works well for us and it’s simple in condo building.

    And I bike for transportation, fitness/recreation, touring…last 22 yrs. No car last 30. Believe me, one saves a lot of money that’s used elsewhere. I rent out my parking stall space.

    • HI Jean,
      I do hope you are enjoying your holiday time.

      I tossed our dishwasher out about 7 or 8 years ago now and hand wash all dishes. As there are only two of us it’s not a big deal. I wash and rinse in cold water first. When they are all in the rack I pour boiling water over them as a final rinse and let them air dry.

      I’m with your partner when it comes to air conditioning. It gives me headaches too and I avoid going anywhere where it’s blasting away.

      There’s no doubt about it, bicycling will be a mainstream means of transportation in the future and you will be leading the way.

      • Considering the fact I will have to do some clean up soon upon my return to a flooded city, I might as well enjoy my time here in 2nd home.

        I don’t overtly lead a lifestyle that speaks in my consciousness as environmentally friendly. A better definition is living without wasting money unnecessarily in big ways.

  5. Do I need to say anything? :D OK I will. As someone who has wrote about World Environment Day and GMOs, I think I can.

    Hot water use? In Spain we only use it for showering. Washing up is done in cold water (only a cold water tap to the kitchen).

    I don’t use cold water wash, we use 40 for virtually everything. I’m dubious about so-called super-efficient detergents, look for non-animal tested ones, non-big Pharma, and non-biological. That limits the choice a bit where I live.

    We inherited my mother’s tumble dryer. It is nearly as old as me, so that makes it 40 or 50 years old. We’ve never bought one. The fan belt packed up, I found a replacment stockist but never ordered it. It’s easy to talk about tumblers but living in small damp flats in a humid atmosphere makes it difficult to dry washing. But, for the last winter we have managed without it.

    Low flow shower head? Is that a non-power shower? No baths anyway. I do sometimes wash down in our enclosed patio using water from the sink because it is heated from the sun anyway :D Solar power eh?

    Fridge in Gibflat is another one from my mum. Ancient and probably inefficient. Am I going to throw it out?

    I won’t get into the food issue!

    We use very few electronic devices. Fridges and water heaters (turned off when we aren’t around and on thermostat), cooker and computer in Gibflat.

    No aircon or CH. One other tip is to close windows, pull curtains during hot months.

    Light bulbs? I’ll argue with that. The current low energy ones provide terrible light which is appalling for visuality. I want the days of 100 watt light bulbs back.

    Recycle? I think I do my part for that. But as someone who lives in city where more than 90% of people live in flats, not much chance of composting. I take my organic waste back for my chickens, but not everyone can do that.

    Trees – as above. Can’t plant them in a flat without a balcony. I have planted olives, lemon and orange (died) in Spain. Hopefully I may be getting olives this year.

    One good thing about not living in North America. I don’t get junk mail in either Spain or Gibraltar.

    You forgot to add, walk, cycle or use public transport.

    • Hi there,
      Well it seems we are on the same page for sure.

      I hear you when it comes to drying clothes and dampness in small spaces. Though we do live on the “wet coast” our interior space is quite large and we do have an airtight wood-stove for heat. As waste-wood on the ground is a fire hazard and we are on acreage we have no shortage of fuel to burn and it’s free as opposed to electricity which is expensive. I have wooden drying racks that work very well inside in winter and outside on our deck in summer months.

      We use cold water washing for everything except bathing/showering. We insulated all accessible hot water pipes last year to cut down on hot water heating costs.

      Low-flow shower heads are pressurized.They aerate water and increase velocity by restricting the flow and forcing the water through very small apertures.They have a shut-off valve so you turn off the water while soaping up, and then turn it back on instantly without having to readjust the temperature.

      I make our own laundry soap, bubblebath, soap and the minimal cosmetics we use.

      I will never give up hot water in buckets for my feet or in the tub when my fibromylgia symptoms are flaring. Alternating hot and cold water will bring down the swelling and hot water soaking reduces the pain.

      If we lived on the prairies where the top soil depth is over two feet deep before you even hit sub-soil level then I would get a tiny fridge and we would dig a root cellar and use ice blocks. But where we live now is far too damp to store preserves and root vegetables below ground.

      Like you we have very few electronics. They are all on power strips and we shut them off when they aren’t in use.

      You are so right about closing windows and using blackout drapes in the hot months. Blackout drapery lining can be bought by the bolt and my friends and I bought a bolt and doled it out. The linings make a huge difference to lowering the temperature. We don’t have or want an air conditioning unit, which is number 3 on the list of power sucking carbon gas generating appliances.

      I agree that incandescent light-bulbs are brighter but we have adjusted. In the past we were into overhead lighting but now we don’t use it much at all. We have converted to using lamps and lights exactly where we need them. Fore example, hubby put a very small fluorescent light under the counter above the the sink where I wash dishes (he cooks) and it’s great!

      I don’t get much junk mail any more either. In Canada we have a reporting system that works quite well. We also have a “take me off the list” cold call telephone caller reporting system that works too.

  6. About four years ago I went to China. Once to Bejiing and once to Shanghia however they are spelt. Anyway, I was amazed by the industry and building going on, but also the large amount of smog and fumes. It made me realise that this problem is truly global and unless those in the Asiatic countries and elsewhere come on board, being dutiful about turning off my lights isn’t going to help much, although I still do before you start shouting at me

    • I’ve seen images my friends brought back form China that made me gasp. Of course they were channeled visiting only to specific places the Chinese government wanted them to go to but the air quality was horrible even at those locations.

      There’s little doubt about it. At the same time we householders in Europe and North America are trying to reduce our carbon footprints in our homes and live, our governments are flogging resources that create that same greenhouse gas pollution to the so- called under-developed nations. I find that to be so depressing and distressing that I choose not to dwell on it.

  7. Wow, when I read that list I can see that we are already doing lots to help. We don’t have air conditioning, preferring to open the windows and let the easterly breezes flow through the house. Most Australians only use the clothes drier when it’s absolutely necessary. I hung the washing out today and it dried even though it’s midwinter. Our recycling bin is always full and the rubbish bin has hardly anything in it by collection day. We have water saving devices and an energy efficient fridge and dishwasher. We turn off any appliance that doesn’t need constant power when we’re not using them. Every little bit counts! And apart from that, it’s saving us money.

    • Hi there,
      I do apologize for taking so long to respond. When my hubby travels for work I end up holding up the business, the house and my contracted work, so my blogs, which I love, perforce become my lowest priority.

      We are 1970’s back-to-the-landers. Our conversion from city living with municipal water, sewer and public transport systems, etc. to country living happened over thirty years ago. Since that time we have purchased and renovated one home and designed and built this one from scratch (my hubby is multi-skilled in the trades).

      During this last decade we have been gradually making more and more changes. The good news is that our friends have all done the same and we can all say we have accomplished everything on the brief list above and much more.

      You are so right – every bit does count and we ought to celebrate successes. It’s wonderful to hear that you have made these changes too. Every day I meet more and more people offline and online who are on track with doing the best they can to reduce their carbon footprint.

      • We designed our house and had it built for us. We made sure we got the best benefits from the winter sun and lots of shade in summer. It’s well insulated and easy to look after. I forgot to say before that we installed 5 kw of solar panels 2 weeks ago too, so we’ll be feeding the power back into the grid now. It’s nice to feel that we are making our contribution.

        • That’s so good to hear. I designed our home and as it was the second one and we knew the property so well the positioning of out house and the 5 foot overhangs provide lots of light in summer sans heat and divert tonnes of water away form the house and into the landscaping in winter.

  8. This is so informative! I’m wondering if you are on solar if you still get the same CO2 emissions from your fridge? I definitely want to study this carefully. I can happily say that we just finished planting trees. Thank you! You are always so thorough in providing information.

    • Hi Sandra,
      That fridge question is one I don’t have an answer for. When you find it please share it. Our fridge is aging. The more I think about the less I want it situated in the kitchen but all houses are designed for them to be there. Too bad the old time kitchen styles with pantries were lost. The more of us there are who plant trees the more tree canopy we can restore. I hope you are enjoying your new place.

      Be well and happy

  9. Hi TimeThief,

    Happy June to you! It seems that you have change your blog theme again.

    Thank you for the ecological pointers.

    SoundEagle has avoided using any heater and even take cold baths or showers all through winter.

    • Happy June to you as well.

      May went very quickly. We had were visitors and holidays and social events. June is quite lovely as we head into summer. I won’t be giving up hot water in winter as it’s very effective for relieving some of my symptoms but I am water conscious. We have our own well and all the monitoring and responsibility that comes along with that.

      You’re right about me changing themes on almost a monthly basis now. I can’t seem to find a responsive width theme I’m satisfied with.

      Be well and happy

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