How to reduce your carbon footprint at home

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You might think only factories emit pollution, but your home is guilty too. Patty Kim, from National Geographic's The Green Guide, shows you how to reduce your carbon footprint at home, and save money while you're helping to save the planet.

How to reduce your carbon footprint at home

Think you can't personally affect global warming? Think again. Patty Kim has several ideas for reducing your carbon footprint at home:

  • Reduce your time in the shower. The average shower lasts about 8 minutes. If you can do it just 2 minutes faster, you can cut 342 lbs of CO2 emissions every year. Save even more by installing a low-flow showerhead. This will not only cut your water usage by 20,000 gallons a year, but it will save you 10 to 16% on the cost of heating your water.
  • Replace your lightbulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. A CFL bulb provides just as much light, and lasts much longer than the average lightbulb.
  • Eliminating red meat from your diet will cut about a thousand pounds of CO2 output. If you're like most Americans, you get close to 30% of your calories from meat, dairy and poultry. And the production of the foods that provide those calories contributes over 3,200 lbs of CO2 to the atmosphere each year. Vegetarian diets contribute just half that amount, and provide health benefits as well.
  • Keep your refrigerator maintained in order to be energy efficient. If the seal in your refrigerator door can't hold a dollar, you're leaking cold air, which wastes energy. So get your door seal replaced. Also clean your refrigerator's coils, defrost regularly if necessary, and keep the top clear of clutter. (Note: fridges made before 2001 are much less efficient than today's Energy Star models, which cut over 500 lbs of CO2 from your annual total. Consider replacing your fridge if it is very old.)
  • Use cold water to wash clothes. 90% of the electricity a washing machine uses goes to heat water. If you wash just half your loads in cold water, you'll drop at least 500 lbs from your carbon total. The dryer is an even bigger culprit: Drying just half your loads on a line or a rack will save 723 lbs of carbon emissions.
  • And of course you should be recycling. Recycling paper, plastic and glass can cut 1,000 lbs of CO2 emissions every year.

If you make all these changes, give yourself a pat on the back: Your reduction in your carbon footprint at home will have topped more than 2 tons of harmful CO2 from polluting our atmosphere!

Transcript

Hi, I'm Patty Kim from the Green Guide for howdini. Let's lose some weight. Not a few pounds of body weight, although that's always nice, but hundreds-- even thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide that is emitted when we burn fossil fuels to heat and cool our homes, run our appliances and our cars – and heat our water. Scientists have determined that carbon dioxide, or CO2, is a major contributor to global warming, and each of us is contributing to the problem by putting out about 48 thousand pounds or 22 tons of CO2 each year, just by living our lives the way we do.

In the next few minutes, I'm going to show you how making a few changes can cut your CO2 emissions significantly – and save some money in the bargain. Lets get started….The average shower lasts about 8 minutes. If you can do it 2 minutes faster – you can cut 342 pounds of CO2 emissions every year. Save even more by installing a low-flow showerhead. This will not only cut your water usage by 20,000 gallons a year, but it will save you 10 to 16 percent on the cost of heating your water. Low-flow showerheads are available at most hardware stores.

Take a look at your lighting. Replacing just one 75-watt incandescent bulb with a 19-watt compact fluorescent bulb can cut 55 pounds of carbon emission each year. A CFL bulb provides just as much light, and lasts much longer than the average lightbulb.

If, like most Americans, you get close to 30 percent of your calories from meat, dairy and poultry, your diet contributes over 32-hundred pounds of CO2 to the atmosphere each year. Does this need a sentence on how diet contributes? Vegetarian diets contribute half that, but you can still cut about a thousand pounds of carbon output just by cutting red meat out of your diet.

Make sure your refrigerator is on the carbon diet too. Fridges made before 2001 are much less efficient than today's Energy Star models, which cut over 500 lbs of CO2 from your annual total. But all fridges need good maintenance to be energy efficient. If the seal in your refrigerator door can't hold a dollar, you'll be leaking carbon and money as well as cold air, so get it fixed. Clean your refrigerator's coils, defrost regularly if necessary, and here's something you might not know-- keep the top clear of clutter.

All these steps can trim your carbon output by over 700 pounds a year. And of course you should be recycling. Recycling paper, plastic and glass cuts 1000 pounds of CO2 emissions each year.

And finally, some simple steps in the laundry room can help too. 90 percent of the electricity a washing machine uses goes to heat the water. If you wash just half your loads in cold water, you'll drop at least 500 lbs from your carbon total. But the dryer is the big culprit here. Drying just half your loads on a line or a rack will save 723 pounds of carbon emissions.

If you make all these changes -- give yourself a pat on the back -- you will have stopped more than 2 tons of harmful CO2 from polluting our atmosphere. Thank you. I'm Patty Kim from the Green Guide for howdini.

meet theexpert
  • Patty Kim

    Patty Kim Correspondent, National Geographic's The Green Guide Patty Kim is an award-winning filmmaker and journalist. She is served as a host and anchor for National Geographic as well as reporting for the PBS television program “Nova Science Now.” more about this expert »

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