Homeowner

Homeowners can do any number of things to reduce their carbon footprint. You can take action that have a great impact and with little cost. Access and print this handy checklist of residential energy saving tips (PDF).

Check Your Home's Energy Efficiency
Assess your home's energy efficiency quickly and easily using the Energy Star Home Energy Yardstick. Collect a year's worth of utility bills and access the resource. The Energy Star Home Energy Yardstick will ask you to type in the utility bill information along with the square footage of your home, the number of persons in the home, and the year it was built. The yardstick will use that information and give your home a score of between 1 and 10 with 5 denoting an average in terms of energy efficiency.

Weatherize Your Home or Apartment
For a very small investment, you can cut your heating and cooling expenses and reduce the burning of fossil fuels. Use weatherstripping to seal drafts around windows and doors. If a draft comes through electrical outlets or switches on outside walls, install foam draft blockers behind the cover plates. Use covers (inside or outside) on air conditioners during cold months. and make sure your home has adequate insulation. Many older homes don't have enough, especially in the attic. You can check the insulation yourself or have it done as part of an energy audit, provided by many utility companies.

Install Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs
Electricity production is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., and lighting accounts for about 25% of American electricity consumption. Standard incandescent lights are notoriously inefficient and easily available alternatives can save you money, energy, and pollution. Check your local home-supply store for low mercury, compact fluorescent lightbulbs that fit your various light fixtures (they now come in all shapes and sizes, including ones that look exactly like incandescents). By replacing 4 standard bulbs with CFLs, you can prevent the emission of 5000 pounds of carbon dioxide and reduce your electricity bill by more than $100 over the lives of those bulbs. If only 1,000 of us each replace 4 standard bulbs with CFLs, we can prevent the emission of 5 million pounds of carbon dioxide and reduce our electricity bills by more than $100,000 over the lives of those bulbs.

CFLs last longer than incandescent bulbs, but when they do expire, be sure to recycle them at a CFL recycling center, like Home Depot.

Buy Energy-Efficient Appliances
Use your consumer power when buying appliances by shopping for energy-efficient models. You may spend a little more up front, but you'll save a lot on electricity, and you'll reduce pollution produced by power plants. Look for the ENERGY STAR label, which identifies the most efficient appliances. You can also use the energy guide labels to compare the efficiency of specific models. Remember that refrigerators consume the most electricity in the home. Today's refrigerators consume less than 1/4 the energy of models built 30 years ago, so an upgrade could mean huge energy savings for your household. The Natural Resources Defense Council has a very helpful website, "How to Reduce Your Energy Consumption".

Reduce Home Water Usage
The average household uses more than 22,000 gallons of water per year just for showers and baths. This water is almost always heated, resulting in increased energy consumption. Visit your local hardware store and pick up faucet aerators for $2 to $5 a piece and a high-efficiency showerhead for less than $20. (These devices give excellent showers and are not to be confused with primitive flow restrictors that simply reduce flow.) In less than a year, you'll make that money back through lower utility bills.

Doing More

Interested in doing more? The U.S. Green Building Council has prepared a helpful list of 16 Ways to Green Your Home (PDF). Access this resource to learn more and put your knowledge to use.