In the United States, approximately 6.6 tons (almost 15,000 pounds carbon equivalent) of greenhouse gases are emitted per person every year. And emissions per person have increased about 3.4% between 1990 and 1997. Most of these emissions, about 82%, are from burning fossil fuels to generate electricity and power our cars. The remaining emissions are from methane from wastes in our landfills, raising livestock, natural gas pipelines, and coal, as well as from industrial chemicals and other sources. (Source: US EPA).
With this said, also keep in mind that emissions vary based on the country and state in which you live. At the present time, the United States emits more greenhouse gasses per person than any other country. Emissions also vary by state as they are based on the many factors such as the types of fuel used to generate electricity, the total population of a state, and the amount of (and distance traveled by) commuters.
As an individual there are three areas where we can make the most impact in reducing carbon emissions - the electricity we use in our homes, the waste we produce, and the transportation we choose to use. According to the U.S. EPA, you can affect the emissions of about 4,800 pounds of carbon equivalent, or nearly 32% of the total emissions per person by the choices we make in these three areas. The other 68% of emissions are affected more by the types of industries in the U.S. the types of offices we use, how our food is grown and other factors (source: U.S. EPA). Below are tips on how to reduce carbon emissions and help stop climate change.
Ten Basic Tips To Help Stop Climate Change
Don't have a lot of time, but want to take action? Here are ten, simple, everyday things each of us can do to help stop climate change. Pick one, some, or all. Every little effort helps and adds up to a whole lot of good.
Change a light. Replacing a regular light bulb with a compact fluorescent one saves 150 pounds of carbon dioxide each year.*
Drive less. Walk, bike, carpool, take mass transit, and/or trip chain. All of these things can help reduce gas consumption and one pound of carbon dioxide for each mile you do not drive.
Recycle more and buy recycled. Save up to 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide each year just by recycling half of your household waste. By recycling and buying products with recycled content you also save energy, resources and landfill space!
Check your tires. Properly inflated tires mean good gas mileage. For each gallon of gas saved, 20 pounds of carbon dioxide are also never produced.
Use less hot water. It takes a lot of energy to heat water. Reducing the amount used means big savings in not only your energy bills, but also in carbon dioxide emissions. Using cold water for your wash saves 500 pounds of carbon dioxide a year, and using a low flow showerhead reduces 350 pounds of carbon dioxide. Make the most of your hot water by insulating your tank and keeping the temperature at or below 120.
Avoid products with a lot of packaging. Preventing waste from being created in the first place means that there is less energy wasted and fewer resources consumed. When you purchase products with the least amount of packaging, not only do you save money, but you also help the environment! Reducing your garbage by 10% reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 1,200 pounds.
Adjust your thermostat. Keeping your thermostat at 68 degrees in winter and 78 degrees in summer not only helps with your energy bills, but it can reduce carbon dioxide emissions as well. No matter where you set your dial, two degrees cooler in the winter or warmer in the summer can mean a reduction of 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.
Plant a tree. A single tree can absorb one ton of carbon dioxide over its lifetime.
Turn off electronic devices when not in use. Simply turning off your TV, VCR, computer and other electronic devices can save each household thousand of pounds of carbon dioxide each year.
Stay informed. Use the Earth 911 Web site to help stay informed about environmental issues, and share your knowledge with others. Together, we can and do Make Every Day Earth Day!
* Carbon emission figures from climatecrisis.org.