Green Living

Tips on Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

Tips on Reducing Your Carbon FootprintSimple changes in our everyday lives can help slow climate change — including reducing our energy consumption, choosing to travel sustainably, and being conscious of what we purchase.

Tips on Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

  • Cleaning your dryer’s lint filter can slash its energy usage by as much as 30%!
  • Older showerheads can use three gallons per minute or more. New, efficient models cut this down to two GPM or less. Look for showerheads that deliver water in multiple small streams, rather than a fine mist; they keep water warmer and make rinsing easier. Please avoid designs with multiple heads that compound water waste.
  • Situating your water heater as close as possible to the point of highest use (bathroom or kitchen) will save both water and energy by reducing the time it takes for hot water to reach the tap or shower.
  • Laundry activities are the second-biggest water user in a home. Newer energy-efficient machines can save big on utility bills, and the technologies employed in those machines also can be gentler to your clothes. They will help you use less detergent and reduce drying time.
  • The efficiency of a furnace for turning energy into heat is described as Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. Older furnaces may have an AFUE rating as low as 50 percent. New models may have an AFUE of 90 percent or higher. Additionally, old furnaces often have pilot lights that burn fuel 24/7. New models feature electronic ignition, eliminating this waste. Look for Energy-Star-qualified furnaces with a high AFUE.
  • Refrigerators and freezer units account for one-sixth of a home’s energy use. Select energy-efficient models when buying a replacement.
  • Install a programmable thermostat that lets you automatically lower the temperature when no one is home or when the family is asleep. The Energy Star people say this device can save a family budget up to $150 a year.
  • A laptop uses just a quarter of the power required by a desktop computer.
  • Contaminants are tracked into homes on the soles of shoes. Consider becoming a shoe-free household.
  • If you use cold water to wash your clothes you can save up to 80 percent of the energy required to wash using warm water.
  • Generating enough electricity to cook for an hour in a standard electric oven creates 2.7 pounds of carbon dioxide. Here’s a list of what can do it for less: Toaster oven, 1.3 pounds over 50 minutes, Slow cooker, 0.9 pounds over seven hours, Microwave, 0.5 pounds over 15 minutes
  • If a vehicle’s tires have less than recommended air pressure, gas mileage will suffer. You can find the manufactures recommendation imprinted right into the tire.
  • Wrapping a water heater with insulation can keep as many as 1,000 pounds of global-warming CO2 a year out of the upper atmosphere. Along with a reduction in CO2 emissions is the cost of heating this water.
  • Walk, ride your bike, use the bus more; this is good for you and reduces your carbon footprint.
  • Some commercial air fresheners use chemicals that can be harmful to a baby’s development. Instead, lightly spritz with vinegar.
  • Vinegar will clean out deposits clogging a steam iron or coffeemaker.
  • Use a cup of vinegar to clean your washing machine. Run it through a regular cycle, not with clothes of course. If using vinegar as a cleaning agent, pick the white variety.
    Create a tub-scum cleaner, mix baking soda and a “green” liquid soap until you have a honey-thick consistency. Apply with a little elbow grease and perhaps a splash of white vinegar.
  • Save an average of $90 a year by shutting down a home computer every night.
  • There are three household hazardous-waste drop-off sites in Seattle and Bellevue. For details and directions in your area consult the website for your local government for locations and specific guidelines. Be careful about what you put in the landfill.
  • Turn off the engine of your automobile. An idling vehicle burns more fuel than a simple restart. The added benefit is you won’t be polluting when the engine is off.
  • Have a plugged or slow-draining sink? Search a hardware store’s plumbing shelves for a bacteria-based product. Its goal is to establish colonies of goop-eating, human-friendly bacteria that are supposed to keep drainpipes clear. To allow the critters time to establish themselves, pour in a little just before bedtime, after everyone has quit using the sinks.
  • Pipe insulation will hold a hot-water pipe’s heat for up to an hour after the tap was last used. This really stretches your energy dollar and saves water.
  • Develop a long-range, strategic home-improvement plan that takes energy and resource efficiency into account. It may be possible to make energy-saving improvements part of ongoing required maintenance; this really reduces the overall cost of going green.
  • When you are shopping for a home, look for a residence that requires you to pare down and simplify, rather than encouraging sprawl. Larger homes require more resources to heat and maintain — and more stuff to fill the extra space.
  • When evaluating a home for purchase, look for green features, such as Built Green and Energy Star certifications. Check the windows, kitchen appliances, furnace, etc. Ask to see the utility bills to get a sense of the home’s current efficiency.
  • A home’s location directly affects your ecological footprint. Consider your work commute and transportation needs.
  • Buy locally, especially building products when available; ask retailers to expand offerings of regionally produced goods.
  • Formaldehyde, an irritant and cancer-causing agent, is a common additive in interior-grade plywood and particleboard. It also can be present in drapery and upholstery materials. So look for products with few or no warnings about use and exposure.
  • An aerator — that cylindrical device that threads onto the end of a faucet — reduces the amount of water needed to do jobs such as hand washing and dish rinsing. Look for an aerator at the hardware store; it will be marked with the flow it permits, measured in GPM. A 2.0 GPM aerator is ideal for kitchen faucets, while a 1.0 GPM version works great for the bathroom sink.
  • If you are upgrading the plumbing consider using PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) pipe rather than copper. PEX pipe has a smaller interior diameter, meaning hot water gets to the point of use faster.
  • If your project calls for fiberglass insulation, look for products that are free of formaldehyde.
  • If using solid wood for a project, select products with the Forest Stewardship Council label, certifying the wood was responsibly grown and harvested. Or find salvaged and recycled wood products at local used-building materials retailers. In cycle we are fortunate to have the REStore in Ballard and Second Use in Seattle.
  • Contamination from lead-based paint is especially hazardous in homes with pregnant women and small children. Paints produced before 1978 contained lead, sometimes in astonishing quantities. Sanding painted surfaces, removing trim and working on window frames are common sources of lead dust. Lead released in the home during remodeling can linger for years, especially in carpet. Visit to learn how to protect from lead exposure.
  • The average American home contains two televisions, a VCR or DVD player, and three phones. These home electronics can use more energy than you think. As you replace existing equipment, look for Energy Star models that help reduce carbon emissions. Reducing the number of these items would also probably be a positive lifestyle change.
  • Carpeting acts as a collector for toxins tracked into the home and those released from indoor sources, such as lead-based paint dust. It also harbors dust mites and other allergens. Reduce this hazard with a weekly vacuuming schedule.
  • Many vacuums redisperse small bits of dust. Instead, look for vacuums with HEPA filters (high-efficiency filters that catch tiny particles) and dirt sensors signal when a carpet’s clean.
  • Look for products free of added perfumes. Many scented products contain chemicals that can compromise indoor air quality and irritate skin and lungs.
  • The options for green home and office furnishings are growing. Even mainstream retailers are greening up their lines with responsibly harvested Forest Stewardship Council wood, natural and organic fabrics and floor coverings and more.
  • Garages often contain combustion byproducts (including carbon monoxide) from car engines, as well as pesticides, paints and other hazardous household products. Make sure the door from the house to the garage has a high-quality seal around the entire perimeter, including the threshold.
  • Plain water on a cloth works great for the vast majority of dusting chores. If in need of something more powerful, choose the least-toxic product for the job at hand.

Additional Information

Sustainability Tips

25 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint



  1. Hmmm. I don’t have a washer, a dryer or a refrigerator! Haven’t had a television or telephone for 14 years, and I love where there’s no need for heating or air conditioning. There’s no need for ceiling fans, a natural breeze blows daily – in fact I have to close windows to keep things from blowing across the rooms!

    Of course, I live in a tropical area and am proud to have simplified my life. Your list is a good one, and I hope that many learn to be more attentive to helping our planet heal.

    After all, we need to save paradise from those parking lots!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


CommentLuv badge