We live in a time when climate change has become abundantly evident. Even people who were doubtful a decade ago now understand that we all need to do what we can to live a greener lifestyle. But for some people, that’s easier said than done.
If you or someone you know are ready to begin living a more eco-conscious life, it doesn’t require totally changing your current lifestyle. There are plenty of small, easy things that can be done to reduce your carbon footprint little by little.
Eco-Conscious Travel Tips
Driving around in a car is often the biggest part of a person’s eco-footprint. In the past we’ve provided easy green travel changes that can be used immediately, and here are a few more to add to the list when you’re traveling by vehicle.
Eco routing is an easy way to reduce mileage, limit pollution and make the trip easier to navigate. The idea is that you use an online eco-routing tool (no physical equipment means a smaller eco-footprint) to create the most fuel-efficient routes. You can even plan out routes with multiple stops.
Keep Your Tires Properly Inflated
Deflated tires reduce your miles per gallon. The Energy Department notes that you can improve MPG by 3% simply by keeping your tires properly inflated. The standard recommendation for tires is 30 to 35 p.s.i.
Follow Driving Best Practices
All those things your driver’s ed teacher taught you can help you lower the ecological impact of driving. Quickly starting and stopping, speeding and aggressive driving can lower your gas mileage by as much as 40%.
Eco-Conscious Utility Tips
Another factor of life that makes an individual’s eco-footprint larger is utility use. Electricity, water and gas service all require the use of natural resources. You may not be able to install a solar power system or forgo utilities all together, but there are things you can do to lower energy use.
- Look for green energy providers. In deregulated areas where consumers are able to select their utility providers, you may have the option to get electricity that’s generated by renewable resources.
- Change out incandescent light bulbs. Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and LEDs are much more energy efficient and the last years longer. You’ll save energy and reduce waste at the same time.
- Start using smart power strips. Smart strips go a step further than regular power strips by allowing users to connect different devices so they turn off and on together.
- Connect electronics to an app. With today’s technology, lights, appliances and more can be synced with a smartphone app so you can turn things off even when you aren’t at home.
- Use your windows strategically. Many people don’t realize that curtains can be used to reduce lighting, heating, and cooling. All you have to do is open and close curtains or blinds at the right time of day.
Eco-Conscious Cooking Tips
The third place where you can make huge improvements with small changes is in the kitchen. Food consumption is a major contributor to carbon emissions. On average, U.S. households contribute 8.1 metric tons of CO2e strictly from food consumption.
- Start a vegetable garden – when veggies only have to travel a few feet from the yard to the kitchen there are no extra carbon emissions.
- Whenever possible use a countertop toaster oven in place of the regular oven.
- Go meatless one or two days a week. Meat is by far the biggest contributor to food consumption carbon emissions.
- Keep your refrigerator full. When the refrigerator is full it uses less energy to stay cold.
- Use a kitchen composter. You don’t have to create some complex system to start composting. There are compact kitchen composters that can help you repurpose waste for your garden rather than adding to a landfill.
- Consider replacing appliances that are over a decade old. As an appliance ages, it usually becomes less energy efficient. Replacing an old appliance with an Energy Star model can help you save energy without even trying.
Every little thing counts when you’re reducing your carbon footprint. Instead of putting off big changes, start implementing some of the smaller steps to get the process going.
Build, Buy, Or Retrofit? 3 Green Housing Considerations
Green housing is in high demand, but it’s not yet widely available, posing a serious problem: if you want to live an eco-friendly lifestyle, do you invest in building something new and optimize it for sustainability, or do you retrofit a preexisting building?
The big problem when it comes to choosing between these two options is that building a new home creates more waste than retrofitting specific features of an existing home, but it may be more efficient in the long-run. For those concerned with waste and their environmental footprint, the short term and long term impacts of housing are in close competition with each other.
New Construction Options
One reason that new construction is so desired among green living enthusiasts is that it can be built to reflect our highest priorities. Worried about the environmental costs of heating your home? New construction can be built using passive solar design, a strategy that uses natural light and shade to heat or cool the home. Builders can add optimal insulation, build with all sustainable materials, and build exactly to the scale you need.
In fact, scale is a serious concern for new home buyers and builders alike. Individuals interested in green housing will actively avoid building more home than they need – scaling to the square foot matter because that’s more space you need to heat or cool – and this is harder to do when buying. You’re stuck with someone else’s design. In this vein, Missouri S&T’s Nest Home design, which uses recycled shipping containers, combines the tiny home trend with reuse and sustainability.
The Simple Retrofit
From an environmental perspective, there’s an obvious problem with building a new home: it’s an activity of mass consumption. There are already 120 million single-family homes and duplexes in the United States; do we really need more?
Extensive development alone is a good enough reason to intelligently retrofit an existing home rather than building new green structures, but the key is to do so with as little waste as possible. One option for retrofitting older homes is to install new smart home technology that can automate home regulation to reduce energy use.
Real estate agent Roxanne DeBerry sees clients struggle with issues of efficiency on a regular basis. That’s why she recommends tools like the Nest Thermostat, which develops a responsive heating and cooling schedule for the home and can be remotely adjusted via smartphone. Other smart tools for home efficiency include choosing Energy Star appliances and installing water-saving faucets and low-pressure toilets. These small changes add up.
Ultimately, the most effective approach to green housing is likely to be aggressive retrofitting of everything from period homes to more recent construction. This will reduce material use where possible and prevent further aggressive land use. And finally, designers, activists, and engineers are coming together to develop such structures.
In the UK, for example, designers are interested in finding ways to adapt period houses for greater sustainability without compromising their aesthetics. Many have added solar panels, increased their insulation levels, and recently they even developed imitation sash triple glazed windows. As some have pointed out, the high cost of heating these homes without such changes will push these homes out of relevance without these changes. This is a way of saving existing structures.
Harvard is also working on retrofitting homes for sustainability. Their HouseZero project is designed for near-zero energy use and zero carbon emissions using geothermal heating and temperature radiant surfaces. The buildings bridge the gap between starting over and putting up with unmanageable heating and cooling bills.
It will take a long time to transition the majority of individuals to energy efficient, green housing but we’re headed in the right direction. What will your next home be like? As long as the answer is sustainable, you’re part of the solution to our chronic overuse – of land, energy, water, and more.
How the Auto Industry is Lowering Emissions
Currently, the automotive industry is undergoing an enormous change in a bid to lower carbon emissions. This has been pushed by the Government and their clean air plans, where they have outlined a plan to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.
Public Health Crisis
It is said that the levels of air pollution lead to 40,000 early deaths in the UK, with London being somewhere that is particularly bad. This has led to the new T-Charge, where heavy polluting cars will pay a new charge on top of the existing congestion charge. Other cities have taken action too, with Oxford recently announcing that they will be banning petrol and diesel cars from the city centre by 2020.
It is clear that the Government is taking action, but what about the auto industry? With the sale of petrol and diesel plummeting and a sharp rise in alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is clear that the industry is taking note and switching focus to green cars. There are now all kinds of fantastic eco-friendly cars available and a type to suit every motorist whether it is a small city car or an SUV.
Of course, it is the cars that are currently on the road that are causing the problem. The used car market is enormous and filled with polluting automobiles, but there are steps that you can take to avoid dangerous automobiles. It is now more important than ever to get vehicle checks carried out through HPI, as these can reveal important information about the automobile’s past and they find that 1 in 3 cars has a hidden secret of some kind. Additionally, they can now perform recall checks to see if the manufacturer has recalled that particular automobile. This allows people to shop confidently and find vehicles that are not doing as much damage to the environment as others.
With the rise in sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is now becoming increasingly more common to see them on UK roads. Public perception has changed drastically in the last few years and this is because of the air pollution crisis, as well as the fact that there are now so many different reasons to switch to electric cars, such as Government grants and no road tax. A similar change in public opinion has happened in the United States, with electric car sales up by 47% in 2017.
The US is leading the way for lowering emissions as they have declined by 758 million metric tons since 2005, which is the largest amount by far with the UK in second with a decline of 170 million metric tons. Whilst it is clear that these two nations are doing a good job, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in order to improve the air quality and stop so many premature deaths as a result of pollution.
With the Government’s plans, incentives to make the change and a change in public perception, it seems that the electric car revolution is fully underway.