Maybe it's because I'm older, but suddenly, I find myself increasingly worried about the climate. I want to have grandchildren someday (not now) but someday, and I want them to be able to swim in the ocean and see a live Polar bear, you know? Man-made greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for global warming. That's just a fact. That artificial warming is contributing to record-high temperatures, more intense droughts, devastating floods, intense wildfires, and devastating storms. It's enough to make you want to duck under the covers with a sleeve of Oreos and wait for the apocalypse.
But wait! All is not lost. There’s still time for us to make an impact and turn this planet around.
Nobody expects you to sit in a tee-pee, knitting your own shoes, but there are meaningful things you can do at home to lower your carbon footprint.
- Change a Light Bulb. Seriously, it’s that easy. Installing a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL) is the simplest way to save energy and money. Unlike traditional incandescent bulbs, CFLs convert most of the energy they use into light rather than heat. CFLs consume about 75 percent less electricity and last up to 10 times longer (10,000 hours as opposed to 1,500). Replacing one 75-watt incandescent bulb with a 25-watt CFL can save you up to $83 over the life of the bulb. The best ones emit a warmer glow, so no need to worry about your Living Room being lit like a 7-11.
- Flick that switch. Your Dad was right. Turn off all the lights when they aren’t in use. But you knew that already. You’ll save on your energy bill, and feel smug about saving the planet, too.
- Some countries (including Australia) have a cute little switch that completely cuts the flow of electricity at the wall socket. WHY DON’T WE HAVE THESE IN THE UNITED STATES?
That flow is called "Vampire Load" for a reason: It sucks the energy out of electronic things like your desktop computer, your iPhone charger, the TV, gaming console, and anything else in "standby" mode. This phantom load can add up to lots of wasted energy, sometimes 10% of your total energy bill. Unplug it!
- Have dimmer switches installed for overhead lights. Better still, use task-specific lighting only where you need it. Nobody looks good under downlights anyway, amiright?
- Try to have a candle-lit, vegetarian dinner once a week. When the boys were small, we had a weekly "dinner party" with them (i.e., regular Monday night dinner, but with candles and they loved it. It was a chance to practice their table manners in a more formal setting! It's fun, energy-saving, and frankly, who doesn't look better in candlelight?
- Don’t touch that dial! Artificially controlling our indoor environment is one of the biggest energy busters. Put a sweater or snuggle up with a chic throw! Most households shell out 50 to 70% of their energy budgets on heating and cooling. Invest in a smart thermostat with an Eco setting (and use it). For every degree you lower the thermostat, you'll save between 1 and 3% of your energy bill. Do the same thing in reverse with air conditioning.
- Shut it. In the warmer months, I make like a Venetian (the Italian kind, not the blind) and keep the house dark and shut up during the day and open it up again at night. Perfecto!
- Do Less Laundry. Only ever do full loads in the washing machine. Anything less than full capacity is a waste of time and energy.
- Wash in Cold Water. Most of the energy consumed by washers goes toward heating. Using cold water in the washing machine and dishwasher is better for your clothes your wallet (and the planet).
- Look for the Label. When it's time to replace a household appliance, choose a product with an energy rating of 3 stars or more. Energy Star labels guarantee that products are energy efficient. Energy Star appliances use about 30 percent less energy than the average equivalent. Plus, an annual savings of about $570.
- Hang things out to dry whenever possible. Tumble-drying wastes energy and can ruin your clothes. If you have to tumble dry, use a lower heat setting and everything from knickers to knits will look better (and last longer).
- Go with the (Low) flow. Buy water-efficient taps and shower heads. There are some gorgeous ones out there now. You'll cut your water consumption by hundreds of gallons per month, and you won’t even notice the difference (until you see the water bill)!
- Leaky taps and toilets are more than just annoying, it's downright wasteful! A dripping tap can waste up to 9 gallons a day and a running toilet more than twice that amount! Cut your losses by immediately fixing leaks.
- Take it down a notch. Refrigerators and freezers are among the biggest energy suckers in the house. Make sure yours isn’t set to over-kill. Fridge temperatures should be set between 37 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit and freezers between 3 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit respectively.
- Take your next computer to go. Did you know that laptops use considerably less energy to run than desktop versions? Neither did we, but they do.
- On Yer Bike! Making short trips by foot, bike or public transport is a great way to lower your carbon footprint. Make a habit of taking your reusable shopping bags to the Farmer’s Market. Cycling there will keep you from over-buying and wasting food.
- Avoid single-use items and fast fashion and try not to buy more than you need.
- Vote with your dollars. Put your purchasing power to good use by choosing brands that align with your sustainable values.
- Vote with your VOTE. Electing people that will commit to environmental conservation is the most impactful thing you can do. Don't sleep on any elections. Even the local ones. It all adds up!