For the new year, reduce your carbon footprint
If you asked the man on the street to define a “carbon footprint” - even a year ago - you probably would have gotten a bewildered response. Fast-forward to today, and more and more people are becoming aware that virtually everything we do has an impact on the environment - from the food we buy to the vehicles we drive. A carbon footprint is a measure of the impact human activities have on the environment as it relates to the amount of greenhouse gases produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide. The average household in the United States generates annually 20.4 tons of carbon dioxide based on a variety of factors. There are Web sites now dedicated to calculating your carbon footprint. And it is fast becoming big business - buying and selling carbon credits. However, it doesn’t need to be that complicated for the average homeowner. You can reduce your carbon footprint by using less energy - generally without sacrificing comfort: • Energy Star appliances can reduce your energy consumption by 10 to 50 percent. • According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, by replacing your old refrigerator with an Energy Star model you can avoid 521 pounds of C02. • Insulate your home. In New England you should have R-49 value in the attic. Most homes today only have R-19 or less. • Use compact fluorescent light bulbs. The EPA estimates your home will produce 500 fewer pounds of CO2 by replacing five 75-watt light bulbs. • Air-dry dishes instead of using your dishwasher’s drying cycle. • Turn off your computer and monitor when not in use. • Plug home electronics, such as TVs and DVD players, into power strips. Turn the power off when the equipment is not in use (TVs and DVDs in standby mode still use power) • Lower the thermostat on your hot water heater to 120 degrees. • Take short showers instead of baths. • Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes. As you can see, most of these steps are fairly simple. Not only will they reduce the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere, but you’ll save money. Cindy Carroll is director of business and economic development for Unitil.