Climate change: What you can do
You release greenhouse gases as a result of using energy to drive, using electricity to light and heat your home, and through other activities that support our quality of life like growing food, raising livestock and throwing away garbage. Greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced through simple measures like changing light bulbs and properly inflating your tires. This site provides over 25 easy steps you can take to not only reduce your greenhouse gas emissions, but also reduce air pollution, increase the nation's energy independence and save money.
- Waste: Reducing, reusing and recycling solid waste can decrease the amount of heat-trapping greenhouse gases you release.
- Agriculture and forest land: Different management practices for agricultural land areas and forest lands can affect greenhouse gas emissions. Find out more about practices and programs to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to these sectors.
MNN Public Information from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Change 5 lights
Change a light, and you help change the world. Replace the conventional bulbs in your 5 most frequently used light fixtures with bulbs that have the ENERGY STAR and you will help the environment while saving money on energy bills. If every household in the U.S. took this one simple action we would prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions from nearly 10 million cars.
- Look for ENERGY STAR qualified products
When buying new products, such as appliances for your home, get the features and performance you want AND help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. Look for ENERGY STAR qualified products in more than 50 product categories, including lighting, home electronics, heating and cooling equipment and appliances.
- Heat and cool smartly
Simple steps like cleaning air filters regularly and having your heating and cooling equipment tuned annually by a licensed contractor can save energy and increase comfort at home, and at the same time reduce greenhouse gas emissions. When it's time to replace your old equipment, choose a high efficiency model, and make sure it is properly sized and installed.
- Seal and insulate your home
Sealing air leaks and adding more insulation to your home is a great do-it-yourself project. The biggest leaks are usually found in the attic and basement. If you are planning to replace windows, choose ENERGY STAR qualified windows for better performance. Forced air ducts that run through unconditioned spaces are often big energy wasters. Seal and insulate any ducts in attics and crawlspaces to improve the efficiency of your home. Not sure where to begin? A home energy auditor can also help you find air leaks, areas with poor insulation, and evaluate the over-all energy efficiency of your home. By taking these steps, you can eliminate drafts, keep your home more comfortable year round, save energy that would otherwise be wasted, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Use green power
Green power is environmentally friendly electricity that is generated from renewable energy sources such as wind and the sun. There are two ways to use green power: you can buy green power or you can modify your house to generate your own green power. Buying green power is easy, it offers a number of environmental and economic benefits over conventional electricity, including lower greenhouse gas emissions, and it helps increase clean energy supply. If you are interested, there are a number of steps you can take to create a greener home, including installing solar panels and researching incentives for renewable energy in your state.
- Reduce, reuse, and recycle
If there is a recycling program in your community, recycle your newspapers, beverage containers, paper and other goods. Use products in containers that can be recycled and items that can be repaired or reused. In addition, support recycling markets by buying products made from recycled materials. Reducing, reusing, and recycling in your home helps conserve energy and reduces pollution and greenhouse gases from resource extraction, manufacturing, and disposal.
- Be green in your yard
Use a push mower, which, unlike a gas or electric mower, consumes no fossil fuels and emits no greenhouse gases. If you do use a power mower, make sure it is a mulching mower to reduce grass clippings (PDF, 8 pp., 1.59 MB, About PDF). Composting your food and yard waste reduces the amount of garbage that you send to landfills and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. See EPA’s GreenScapes program for tips on how to improve your lawn or garden while also benefiting the environment. Smart Landscaping can save energy, save you money and reduce your household’s greenhouse gas emissions.
- Use water efficiently
Saving water around the home is simple. Municipal water systems require a lot of energy to purify and distribute water to households, and saving water, especially hot water, can lower greenhouse gas emissions. Look for products with EPA's WaterSense label; these products save water and perform as well or better than their less efficient counterparts. There are also simple actions you can take to save water: Be smart when irrigating your lawn or landscape; only water when needed and do it during the coolest part of the day, early morning is best. Turn the water off while shaving or brushing teeth. Do not use your toilet as a waste basket - water is wasted with each flush. And did you know a leaky toilet can waste 200 gallons of water per day? Repair all toilet and faucet leaks right away. See EPA's WaterSense site for more water saving tips.
- Spread the word
Tell family and friends that energy efficiency is good for their homes and good for the environment because it lowers greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. Tell 5 people and together we can help our homes help us all.
- Manage office equipment energy use better
Office equipment and electronics use energy even when idle or on stand-by. To save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions at work, always activate the power management features on your computer and monitor, unplug laptop power cords when not in use and turn off equipment and lights at the end of the day. Consider using a power strip that can be turned off when you're done using your computers, printers, wireless routers and other electronics.
- Look for ENERGY STAR qualified products for the office
When buying new products for your office at work or at home, get the features and performance you want and help reduce greenhouse gases and emissions of air pollutants. Look for ENERGY STAR qualified office equipment, such as computers, copiers, and printers, in addition to more than 50 product categories, including lighting, heating and cooling equipment and commercial appliances.
- Ask your office building manager if your office building has earned the ENERGY STAR.
ENERGY STAR-labeled buildings provide safe, healthy, and productive environments that use about 35 percent less energy than average buildings. Their efficient use of energy also reduces the total operational cost of the building.
- Use less energy for your commute
Switch to public transportation, carpooling, biking, telecommuting and other innovative ways to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on your way to and from work. Encourage your employer to offer commuter benefits that address limited or expensive parking, reduce traffic congestion, improve employee recruiting and retention and minimize the environmental impacts associated with drive-alone commuting. If you do drive, find out the fuel efficiency of your vehicle using EPA's and DOE's fuel economy Web site, and make more environmentally-informed choices when purchasing your next vehicle by using EPA's Green Vehicle Guide.
- Reduce, reuse, recycle
Recycle office paper, newspapers, beverage containers, electronic equipment and batteries. Reducing, reusing, and recycling in your office helps conserve energy, and reduces pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from resource extraction, manufacturing, and disposal. You can reduce, reuse and recycle at the office by using two-sided printing and copying; buying supplies made with recycled content; and recycling used printer cartridges. For your old electronics, investigate leasing programs to ensure reuse and recycling or donate used equipment to schools or other organizations.
Before buying a new or used vehicle (or even before renting a vehicle), check out EPA's Green Vehicle Guide and the jointly-run EPA/DOE Fuel Economy Guide. These resources provide information about the emissions and fuel economy performance of different vehicles. The Green Vehicle Guide provides detailed information on emissions (including Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gas scores for each model) and the Fuel Economy Guide focuses on fuel efficiency (including side-by-side fuel economy comparisons and a customized fuel cost calculator). These Web sites are designed to help you choose the cleanest, most fuel-efficient vehicle that meets your needs. There are a wide range of cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles available on the market today that produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
Many factors affect the fuel economy of your car. To improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, go easy on the brakes and gas pedal, avoid hard accelerations, reduce time spent idling and unload unnecessary items in your trunk to reduce weight. If you have a removable roof rack and you are not using it, take it off to improve your fuel economy by as much as 5 percent. Use overdrive and cruise control on your car if you have those features. For more tips to improve your gas mileage, visit the Fuel Economy Guide.
A well-maintained car is more fuel-efficient, produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions, is more reliable, and is safer! Keep your car well tuned, follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule, and use the recommended grade of motor oil. Also check and replace your vehicle’s air filter regularly. For more details, including potential savings from these actions, visit the Fuel Economy Guide Web site.
Check your tire pressure regularly. Under-inflation increases tire wear, reduces your fuel economy by up to 3 percent and leads to higher greenhouse gas emissions and releases of air pollutants. If you don’t know the correct tire pressure for your vehicle, you can find it listed on the door to the glove compartment or on the driver's-side door pillar. More details on the Fuel Economy Guide Web site.
Use public transportation, carpool or walk or bike whenever possible to avoid using your car. Leaving your car at home just two days a week will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 1,600 pounds per year. Whenever possible, combine activities and errands into one trip. For daily commuting, consider options like telecommuting (working from home via phone or over the Internet) that can reduce the stress of commuting, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and save you money.
Both E85 and biodiesel are renewable fuels that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from your vehicle. E85 is a fuel blend containing 85% ethanol that can be used in certain vehicles called Flex Fuel Vehicles (FFVs). FFVs can be fueled with E85 or with traditional gasoline. There are approximately 6 million FFVs on the road today. To find out if you own one of them, check the inside of your car's fuel filler door for an identification sticker or consult your owner’s manual. If you own a diesel vehicle, consider filling up with a biodiesel blend such as B5, a fuel blend containing 5% biodiesel. Biodiesel is a renewable fuel made from agricultural resources such as vegetable oils. The Department of Energy’s Alternative Fueling Station Locator can help you locate both E85 and biodiesel fuel stations in your area.
- Bring science to life: Explore the Climate Change Kids Site and watch Climate Animations that bring to life the science and impacts of climate change. The site also provides games that help students, their parents and their teachers learn about both the science of climate change and what actions they can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- High school students check your school's climate impact: High school students can investigate the link between everyday actions at their high school, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Using EPA's Climate CHange Emission Calculator Kit (Climate CHECK) (WinZip of Excel spreadsheet, 3.4 MB) students can learn about climate change, estimate their school’s greenhouse gas emissions and conceptualize ways to mitigate their school’s climate impact. Students gain detailed understandings of climate-change drivers, impacts, and science; produce an emission inventory and action plan; and can even submit the results of their emission inventory to their school district. You can also use Portfolio Manager to compare the energy use of your school with other schools nationwide, and earn the ENERGY STAR for your school if it qualifies as a top performer.
- Get involved at your college or university: College students can play an important role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions at their colleges or universities by reducing their emissions from energy they use in dorm rooms. Students can also work with school administrators to: increase energy efficiency on campus, reduce their school's greenhouse gas emissions by using green power, create a campus climate action plan, or develop an inventory of their school's greenhouse gas emissions.
- Teach students about climate change and ecosystems: Use the Climate Change, Wildlife and Wildlands: A Toolkit for Formal and Informal Educators to learn about the science of climate change and its potential effects on our nation’s wildlife and their habitats.
- Engage middle school students in estimating emissions: Enhance critical thinking skills by introducing the Global Warming Wheel Card Classroom Activity Kit (PDF, 1 pp., 86 KB, About PDF) to middle school students. A hand-held wheel card and other resources help students estimate household greenhouse gas emissions in order to encourage students to think about ways to reduce their personal, family, school and community contributions to climate change. If you are an informal educator, simply use the Global Warming Wheel Card as a part of your field activities.
- Learn from other educators: Investigate what other schools and organizations are doing to educate their audiences on climate change by clicking on Educators’ Links, a searchable database offering links to resources such as lesson plans, videos, books and toolkits.
- Save money and the environment
The least efficient schools use three times more energy than the best energy performers. By partnering with the highly successful ENERGY STAR for K-12 program and using Portfolio Manager to track and rate the energy performance of your portfolio of school buildings, school districts can serve as environmental leaders in their community, become energy efficient, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save money!
- Estimate your emissions and take the challenge
School Administrators can also work to reduce their school's greenhouse gas emissions by developing an inventory of their school's emissions or by taking the 2006 College and University Green Power Challenge.
- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Recycle school or classroom paper, newspapers, beverage containers, electronic equipment and batteries. Reducing, reusing and recycling at school and in the classroom helps conserve energy, reduce pollution and greenhouse gases from resource extraction, manufacturing and disposal. You can reduce, reuse and recycle at school or in the classroom by using two-sided printing and copying; buying supplies made with recycled content; and recycling used printer cartridges. For your old electronics, investigate leasing programs to ensure reuse and recycling or donate used equipment to schools or other organizations.