Turn on the news or the radio, or open up an internet browser, and you will be overrun with news about climate change and the disastrous effects that human activity is producing on the environment. We have all enjoyed the music of the Live Earth concerts as the artists strove to spread the message of climate change and how we all can reduce our carbon footprints on the world. By now, everyone realizes that the choices we make every day will have lasting impacts on generations to come. We can admire at Al Gore as he warns about climate change and tells us about how he is installing solar panels on his house or marvel at George Clooney as he speeds by in his Prius; but, what can the average, middle income American family reasonably do to reduce its carbon intake and help our environment?
A 5 person family will be squished in a subcompact car, and besides, that family is probably not done paying for its minivan… A mom with kids would love to buy a more efficient washer and dryer, but she cannot afford to buy a new set, and besides, the one she has is perfectly capable… An environmentally-conscious dad wishes he could install solar panels on his house, but gasps at the costs for such an endeavor (and besides, he lives in an area with inadequate sunlight for solar panels!)… What is the average family to do? Following are some simple suggestions for lowering your family’s pollutants that are fairly easy to institute, yet can substantially reduce your environmental impact.
Turn your thermostat down (or up) one degree
If you do not honestly think that your family can completely turn your air conditioner (or heater) completely off, try a minor adjustment. As our summers get hotter and hotter, you may be tempted to turn the air down more and more… Take a step back and realize that it is the pollutants that come from appliances-such as the air conditioner-that are changing our climate. So, turn that air up (or the heater down), and dress accordingly. In the summer, wear lightweight clothing as much as possible, and take the blankets off of the bed. Have salads and fruit for meals so that you do not heat your home up with your oven. In the winter, layer up-both yourself and your beds. Your family will eventually adjust to not having your home constantly at the most ideal comfort level. Remind everyone that it was only about 2 generations ago that no home had air conditioners and heaters…
Change your light bulbs to fluorescent
This is probably one of the easiest things you can do to begin to make your home more environmentally-friendly. However, fluorescent bulbs can be a bit costly, so you may have to slowly save up to purchase them; perhaps by buying them a few at a time instead of for your entire home at once. While these bulbs have a higher initial cost, they will last you several years, so you save money in the long run.
Stop using paper plates and napkins
For working parents, paper plates have become a staple of meals. However, using paper plates and napkins greatly increases your trash contribution, in addition to contributing to the power used to make such conveniences. Invest some money in a good everyday set of plates and cloth napkins and use them for every meal. The minor inconvenience of washing the plates and napkins can become a fun family tradition, especially if everyone helps clean up after the meal.
Find a neighbor and carpool…