Saving the world: step two

Step two? Where’s step one? I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this blog, you’ve seen a hundred versions of “ten easy things you can do to save the planet from greenhouse gasses, global warming, pollution, and peak oil.” You know, things like switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs, turning down the thermostat a degree in the winter, and suchlike. You’ve done that, and now you’re wondering what else to do to take the next step.

So here is the next step: figure out the single biggest waste of energy in your household and fix it. Just pick one, but fix it for good and don’t go back.

You might use some of the following tools to help you figure this out:

  • Riot4Austerity’s carbon calculator. These folks have calculated that if the whole world were to have the same, sustainable standard of living and consumption, the average American would have to cut consumption by 90%. While you might not be ready to cut 90% of your gasoline or electricity usage, this can help you see if any one area jumps out as being particularly in need of reduction.
  • BP’s carbon calculator – neat interface that lets you see instantly how lifestyle choices impact your carbon output.
  • Home energy audit with a ranked order of suggestions for improvements based on price and impact.
  • Track your gas mileage online or just keep a note of how many miles you drive in an average month. Calculate what it costs to take an average trip, say, to work or the grocery store. If you could eliminate one trip a week, how much money would you save each year?

What’s your bugaboo? Bad gas mileage or superfluous car trips? Hot water? Garbage from packaging on consumer goods you don’t really need? Imported hothouse tomatoes in January? Set yourself a concrete goal – for example, to reduce the number of miles you drive next month by 15%, or to find a commuting buddy and so halve your impact by keeping her car off the road, or to find a more local source for one major food item.

Target waste as step two. By definition, that’s stuff you don’t need, anyway. Step three, when you’re ready, will be to cut things you think you need…until you give them up. 🙂



  1. TeacherPatti said,

    May 20, 2008 at 6:49 pm

    That’s a great idea, Emily. I’m trying to “no waste” rule. I am feeding garbage to my worm bin and recycling a lot of stuff. There is still some garbage, but much less than before.
    I am also making my students recycle and they have taken to it like ducks to water.

  2. May 21, 2008 at 8:39 am

    I’ve just got a new job which will let me drive 90 miles a week instead of 90 miles a day! (More garden time!) Woohoo for me!

    Of course, now that I have that down, I guess I need to move on to the next worse offender…whatever that may be.

  3. Julie said,

    May 25, 2008 at 10:50 am

    We’re working on eliminating plastic bags from our home this year. We use them for so many things that we’ve just taken the waste factor for granted…a tough step but well worth it. It’s been a pretty creative endeavor so far!!

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