Econundrum: Household Conservation Smackdown

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Q: If I could only choose one thing to do in my lifetime to reduce my carbon footprint, what should it be?

A: Switch out your bulbs. Insulate your house. Recycle. Cinderelly, Cinderelly. Frankly, it’s all a little overwhelming. Wouldn’t it be great to know which personal conservation activities get you the most carbon-reducing bang for your buck? Researchers at Oregon State University calculated the lifetime impact of a few popular ones. Here’s what they found:

  • Recycling newspaper, magazines, glass, plastic aluminum, and steel cans: 19 tons of CO2 saved
  • Replacing old refrigerator with energy-efficient model: 21 tons saved
  • Replacing ten 75-w incandescent bulbs with 25-w Energy-efficient lights: 40 tons saved
  • Replace single-glazed windows with energy-efficient windows: 133 tons saved
  • Reducing miles driven from 231 to 155 per week: 162 tons saved
  • Increasing car’s fuel economy from 20 to 30 mpg: 163 tons saved

So: If you can’t afford to replace your fridge (or you’re emotionally attached to your avocado green late ’70s model), drive 10 fewer miles a week. If you rent and can’t persuade your landlord to upgrade your windows, drive 62 fewer miles a week (um, time to buy a bike).

The bottom line: Keep recycling. Switch out those lightbulbs. But whatever you do, cut down on your car time, and if you must drive, do it in a fuel-efficient car.

 

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Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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