cutting down on energy use is the best way to help reduce global warming

A Black man is applying a role of weather tape vĩ đại an exterior door of his trang chủ.

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Weatherizing doors and windows by sealing drafts can make your trang chủ more energy efficient.


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EDITOR’S NOTE: On April 4, 2022, the IPCC released the Working Group III Sixth Assessment report on climate change mitigation. The report describes how, despite gains in the clean energy revolution, nations are falling far too short of reducing climate pollution quickly enough vĩ đại avoid severe damage, cost, and upheaval. “The good news is that we have the climate solutions needed, and they work,” says NRDC president Manish Bapna. “For our economic and national security, and for the future of all life on earth, lawmakers must act without delay.” Read more about the IPCC report here.

Rising sea levels. Raging storms. Searing heat. Ferocious fires. Severe drought. Punishing floods. The effects of climate change are already threatening our health, our communities, our economy, our security, and our children’s future.

What can you do? A whole lot, as it turns out. Americans, on average, produce 21 tons of carbon a year, about four times the global average. Personal action is, of course, no substitute for meaningful government policies. We still must limit carbon pollution and aggressively move away from dirty fossil fuels toward cleaner power.

But it’s important vĩ đại remember the equally vital contributions that can be made by private citizens—which is vĩ đại say, by you. “Change only happens when individuals take action,” says clean energy advocate Aliya Haq. “There’s no other way, if it doesn’t start with people.”

Here are a dozen easy, effective ways each one of us can make a difference.

1. Speak up!

What’s the single biggest way you can make an impact on global climate change? “Talk vĩ đại your friends and family, and make sure your representatives are making good decisions,” Haq says. By voicing your concerns—via social truyền thông or, better yet, directly vĩ đại your elected officials—you send a message that you care about the warming world. Encourage Congress vĩ đại enact new laws that limit carbon emissions and require polluters vĩ đại pay for the emissions they produce. “The main reason elected officials bởi anything difficult is because their constituents make them,” Haq says. You can help protect public lands, stop offshore drilling, and more here.

2. Power your trang chủ with renewable energy.

Choose a utility company that generates at least half its power from wind or solar and has been certified by Green-e Energy, an organization that vets renewable energy options. If that isn’t possible for you, take a look at your electric bill; many utilities now list other ways vĩ đại tư vấn renewable sources on their monthly statements and websites.

3. Weatherize, weatherize, weatherize.

“Building heating and cooling are among the biggest uses of energy,” Haq says. Indeed, heating and air-conditioning trương mục for almost half of trang chủ energy use. You can make your space more energy efficient by sealing drafts and ensuring it’s adequately insulated. You can also claim federal tax credits for many energy efficiency trang chủ improvements. To help you figure out where vĩ đại start, you could also get a trang chủ energy audit, which some utilities offer không lấy phí of charge. (Alternatively, you can hire a professional vĩ đại come vĩ đại your trang chủ and perform one; the Inflation Reduction Act offers a partial tax credit for this.) The EPA’s trang chủ Energy Yardstick gives you a simple assessment of your home’s annual energy use compared with similar homes.

4. Invest in energy-efficient appliances.

Since they were first implemented nationally in 1987, efficiency standards for dozens of appliances and products have kept 2.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide out of the air. That’s about the same amount as the annual carbon pollution coughed up by nearly 440 million cars. “Energy efficiency is the lowest-cost way vĩ đại reduce emissions,” Haq says. When shopping for refrigerators, washing machines, heat pump water heaters, and other appliances, look for the Energy Star label. It will tell you which are the most efficient. (There may also be rebates vĩ đại earn from your purchase of Energy Star–certified products.)

And when you’re ready vĩ đại swap out your old machines, don’t just put them on the curb: Recycling an old refrigerator through the EPA’s Responsible Appliance Disposal Program can prevent an additional 10,000 pounds of carbon pollution because the global-warming pollutants in the refrigerants and foam would be properly captured rather than thở vented vĩ đại the air.

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5. Reduce water waste.

Saving water reduces carbon pollution, too. That's because it takes a lot of energy vĩ đại pump, heat, and treat your water. So take shorter showers, turn off the tap while brushing your teeth, and switch vĩ đại WaterSense-labeled fixtures and appliances. The EPA estimates that if just one out of every 100 American homes were retrofitted with water-efficient fixtures, about 100 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year would be saved—avoiding 80,000 tons of global warming pollution.

6. Actually eat the food you buy—and compost what you can’t.

Approximately 10 percent of U.S. energy use goes into growing, processing, packaging, and shipping food—about 40 percent of which winds up in the landfill. “If you’re wasting less food, you’re likely cutting down on energy consumption,” Haq says. As for the scraps you can’t eat or the leftovers you don’t get vĩ đại, collect them in a compost bin instead of sending them vĩ đại the landfill where they release methane. Recycling food and other organic waste into compost provides a range of environmental benefits, including improving soil health, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, recycling nutrients, and mitigating the impact of droughts.

7. Buy better bulbs.

LED light bulbs use one-sixth the amount of energy vĩ đại deliver the same amount of light as conventional incandescents and last at least 10 times longer. They’re also cheaper in the long run: A 10-watt LED that replaces your traditional 60-watt bulb will save you $125 over the ligh bulb’s life. And because the average American trang chủ has around 40 vĩ đại 50 light bulbs, this is a simple swap that will reap huge rewards. If every household in the United States replaced just one incandescent with an Energy Star–labeled LED, we would prevent seven billion pounds of carbon pollution per year. That’s equivalent vĩ đại the emissions of about 648,000 cars.

8. Pull the plug(s).

Taken together, the outlets in your trang chủ are likely powering about 65 devices—an average load for a trang chủ in the United States. Audio and đoạn phim devices, cordless vacuums and power tools, and other electronics use energy even when they're not charging. This "idle load" across all U.S. households adds up vĩ đại the output of 50 large power plants in the country. So don't leave fully charged devices plugged into your home's outlets, unplug rarely used devices or plug them into power strips and timers, and adjust your computers and monitors vĩ đại automatically power down vĩ đại the lowest power mode when not in use.

9. Drive a fuel-efficient vehicle.

Gas-smart cars, such as hybrids and fully electric vehicles, save fuel and money. And once all cars and light trucks meet 2025’s clean siêu xe standards, which means averaging 54.5 miles per gallon, they’ll be a mainstay. For good reason: Relative vĩ đại a national fleet of vehicles that averaged only 28.3 miles per gallon in 2011, Americans will spend $80 billion less at the pump each year and cut their automotive emissions by half. Before you buy a new phối of wheels, compare fuel-economy performance here.

10. Maintain your ride.

If all Americans kept their tires properly inflated, we could save 1.2 billion gallons of gas each year. A simple tune-up can boost miles per gallon anywhere from 4 percent vĩ đại 40 percent, and a new air filter can get you a 10 percent boost. Also, remove unnecessary accessories from your siêu xe roof. Roof racks and clamshell storage containers can reduce fuel efficiency by as much as 5 percent.

11. Rethink planes, trains, and automobiles.

Choosing vĩ đại live in walkable smart-growth cities and towns with quality public transportation leads vĩ đại less driving, less money spent on fuel, and less pollution in the air. Less frequent flying can make a big difference, too. “Air transport is a major source of climate pollution,” Haq says. “If you can take a train instead, bởi that.” If you must fly, consider purchasing carbon offsets vĩ đại counterbalance the hefty carbon pollution associated with flying. But not all carbon offset companies are alike. Do your homework vĩ đại find the best supplier.

12. Reduce, reuse, and recycle.

In the United States, the average person generates 4.5 pounds of trash every day. Fortunately, not all the items we discard over up in landfills; we recycle or compost more than thở one-third of our trash. In năm trước this saved carbon emissions equivalent vĩ đại the yearly output of 38 million passenger cars. But we could be doing ví much more. “Reduce should always be the number-one priority,” says NRDC senior resource specialist Darby Hoover. And vĩ đại reap the environmental benefits of “recyclable” goods, you must recycle according vĩ đại the rules of your municipality, since systems vary widely by location. Search your municipality’s sanitation department (or equivalent) webpage vĩ đại learn exactly what you can place in the recycling bin, as counties and cities often differ in what they accept.

This story was originally published on April trăng tròn, 2022 and has been updated with new information and links.

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