How to Reduce Your Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Four Methods:Reducing Your Carbon FootprintRethinking TransportationSaving Electricity and EnergyChanging Consumption Habits

When we burn fossil fuels like coal and petroleum gas, carbon dioxide and other gases are released into the atmosphere. These emissions trap heat close to the earth, causing what is known as the "greenhouse effect." The earth's rising temperature has led to higher sea levels, extreme storms and other problems that stem from a changing climate. If we all work together to drive less, conserve electricity and create less waste, we can reduce our carbon footprint and help fight global warming.

Method 1
Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

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    Find out how big your carbon footprint is. A person's "carbon footprint" is the amount of carbon he or she is responsible for releasing into the atmosphere as a result of his or her daily habits. The more fossil fuels you're responsible for burning, the bigger your footprint. For example, someone who bikes to work might have a smaller footprint than someone who drives each day.
    • To find out how big your footprint is, use a free carbon footprint calculator.[1] Your driving habits, spending habits, diet, and a number of other factors are taken into account to calculate how much carbon you're responsible for releasing into the atmosphere.
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    Look for ways to make it smaller. Since you're concerned about reducing your greenhouse gas emissions, you'll want to find ways to shrink your footprint until it's as small as possible. Reflect on the areas that could use some improvement and strive to make long-term changes. Even small lifestyle changes can make a big difference.
    • For example, eating meat every day can lead to a larger carbon footprint, since the process of getting meat from the pasture to your table requires a lot of energy and fuel.[2] Participating in Meatless Mondays or going meat-free for awhile will reduce your footprint.
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    Know that changing your lifestyle is just the first step. Individuals like you who want to pitch in to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions can make a big impact, but in order for global warming to cease to be a threat, it's important to speak up to make sure corporations get on board with curbing emissions, too. Research shows that just 90 companies are responsible for two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions.[3] Look for ways you can help beyond changing your personal habits.
    • For example, you could write a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) telling them to limit carbon pollution from existing power plants.[4]
    • Next time you vote in an election, choose the candidate who's most committed to limiting your town's emissions and stopping global warming.

Method 2
Rethinking Transportation

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    Use your car less often. Car-related emissions are a major cause of global warming. The manufacturing of cars and roads for them to drive on, the production of fuel, and of course the burning of that fuel all play a part.[5] While stopping driving altogether might not be practical, finding ways to cut back on how much you use your car is one of the most straightforward actions you can take to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions.
    • Instead of driving to the grocery store every day, make one trip a week and stock up on everything you need.
    • Carpool with other people to school or work.
    • Every time you need to go somewhere, consider if there's a way to get there without using your car.
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    Take the bus, subway or train. These vehicles still produce emissions, but since they carry so many people, they're much more efficient than individual cars. Get familiar with your city's bus, subway or train routes and commit to using only public transportation at least once a week. Work up to using it as much as possible. You might even come to like it better!
    • If your community doesn't have reliable public transportation, consider going to city council meetings to speak up about the problem.
    • If other people in your town share your concerns, you may be able to make a difference together.
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    Try walking and biking more often. It feels good to use your own energy to propel you where you want to go, and you can rest easy knowing that your transportation is completely emission-free. Any time you need to go somewhere within a few miles of your house, consider walking or biking instead of taking another mode of transportation. Sure, it'll take you longer to get there, but you'll have more time to think and enjoy the world on the way.
    • Try walking to places that are within a five-minute drive of your home.
    • Use your city's bike lanes. If it doesn't have any, you can write letters to the editor, attend city council meetings and coordinate with your city's bicycle/pedestrian coordinator to improve bike safety.[6]
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    Keep your car in good condition. If you neglect your car's upkeep, it will end up producing more greenhouse gas emissions. Have it smog-tested once a year, and if it fails, be sure to make repairs promptly to fix the problem. Here are other ways you can keep your car in tip-top shape so it has a lower impact on the environment:
    • Fill up your gas tank in the early morning or late evening, when it's cool outside. This way less gas will evaporate in the heat of the day.
    • Use energy-conserving motor oil.
    • Don't idle in drive-thrus; park and walk in instead.
    • Make sure your car's tires are inflated to the recommended pressure.

Method 3
Saving Electricity and Energy

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    Turn off your lights and appliances. The electricity that powers these items is generated by emissions-producing energy plants. Using your lights, appliances and anything else powered by electricity as infrequently as possible will reduce your carbon footprint.
    • Rely on natural light during the day; open up your blinds and let the sun shine in. That way you won't have to turn your lights on.
    • Turn off your TV when you're not using it, rather than keeping it on in the background.
    • Shut down your computer when you're finished with it.
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    Unplug appliances when you aren't using them. Even when they're switched off, appliances sap energy as long as they stay plugged in. Go around the house and unplug the appliances in your kitchen, bedroom, living room, and so on. Even a phone charger left plugged in can use energy.
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    Use energy-saving large appliances. Large appliances are responsible for a big portion of a household's energy use. If you're using outdated appliances, you might want to replace them with energy-saving models. You'll save money and reduce your carbon footprint. See if you can replace the following appliances with a more efficient version:
    • Refrigerator
    • Oven and stovetop
    • Microwave
    • Dishwasher
    • Washer
    • Dryer
    • Air conditioner
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    Examine your heating and cooling habits. Heat and air conditioning units are another big household energy sink, so look for ways to cut back on how much you use them. In addition to getting energy-efficient heating and air conditioning systems, try the following:
    • Adjust your thermostat to 68 °F (20 °C) in the winter, and 78 °F (26 °C) in the summer.[7]
    • Let your body naturally acclimate to the weather, so you can go longer without heat in the winter and without air conditioning in the summer. Wear warm sweaters and slippers indoors in the winter, and use hand fans in the summer.
    • When you go out of town, turn off the heat or air conditioning so you aren't wasting energy while you're away.
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    Limit your use of hot water. It takes a lot of energy to heat water for showers and baths. Take shorter showers and take baths less frequently, since baths typically use more water than showers.
    • You can also limit your hot water use by turning your water heater to 120 °F (49 °C), so the water never gets unnecessarily hot.
    • Use the cool setting on your washing machine; it's better for your clothes, anyway.

Method 4
Changing Consumption Habits

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    Eat less meat. If you can't completely become a vegetarian, try to eliminate meat for a few days a week, or at least a few meals a day. The meat industry uses a lot of energy to raise the animals, process the meat, and keep it from spoiling, all before it even makes it to your kitchen. Growing vegetables requires less energy.
    • Buy the meat you do eat from a local farm.
    • Consider raising chickens so you have access to your own meat and eggs!
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    Make food from scratch. Instead of buying pre-packaged meals, which require a lot of energy to manufacture, make as much from scratch as possible. For example, if you want to have tomato sauce for dinner, make it from fresh tomatoes and garlic instead of buying a jar. It's better for the environment and healthier for your body, too.
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    Become a homesteader. The practice of mass-producing, packaging and shipping goods to make them available in stores is responsible for major industrial emissions, and making your own stuff allows you to avoid all that. You don't have to go all the way back to Little House on the Prairie, but consider making some of your household goods instead of buying them. For example,
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    Buy goods that were locally made. If something was made close to your home, that means no emissions were produced to transport it to a store near you. Buying food that was locally grown and other items that were made nearby is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Here are some ways to do it:
    • Shop for food at farmer's markets
    • Cut back on online shopping, since the shipping always requires multiple vehicles
    • Support local businesses
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    Choose items with less packaging. The plastic, cardboard, and paper used in packaging is manufactured in great big emissions-spewing factories, so try to buy items with as little packaging as possible.
    • For example, if you need to buy some rice, buy it in bulk instead of getting several smaller boxes.
    • Bring a reusable shopping bag to the grocery store instead of taking everything home in bags.
    • Buy loose, fresh produce instead of canned or frozen.
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    Reuse, recycle, and compost. These are all great ways to cut back on the trash your household produces and reduce your carbon footprint. Once you get into the habit of using these three strategies, you won't want to go back to throwing everything away.
    • Anything made of glass can be reused over and over again. Beware reusing plastic too many times, since it can degrade over time and contaminate your food.
    • Follow your jurisdiction's recycling policies to recycle your glass, paper, plastic and other items.
    • Compost your food scraps and yard waste by placing them in a designated bin or pile, and mixing it every few weeks to help it degrade faster.


  • Planting trees is a great way to offset the carbon emissions you produce.

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Categories: Pollution Prevention