There are several easy steps you can take to reduce your contribution to climate change in your day-to-day life.
Most greenhouse gas emissions in the United States are produced to provide electricity to buildings and homes. By using this energy more efficiently, we can reduce our consumption, lower our emissions, and save money on energy bills. Turn your thermostat down while you are away. Many electronic devices still consume electricity when shut down, so be sure off and unplug electronics that are not in use.
Energy efficient light bulbs can use 75% less energy than standard, incandescent lighting. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, if every U.S. household replaced just one regular incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb, it would prevent 90 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, the equivalent of taking 7.5 million cars off the road. These light bulbs will also often last over 10x longer and reduce the cost of your energy bill.
Use water efficiently! Energy, water, and climate change are inextricably linked. It takes a considerable amount of energy to heat, treat, and deliver clean water to your home. In fact, running your faucet for only a few minutes can use about as much energy as letting a 60-watt light bulb run for 22 hours (1). Using water more efficiently cannot only save money off of your monthly bills, but it can also help you mitigate your impact on climate change.
Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle! According to the EPA, “approximately 42 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are associated with the energy used to produce, process, transport, and dispose of the food we eat and the goods we use… Increasing our national recycling rate from its current level of 28% to 35% would reduce GHG emissions by 9.8 million metric tons of carbon equivalent, compared to landfilling the same material.”
When you chose to compost your organic material, you are taking a small step towards the mitigation of climate change. In the landfill, these materials would undergo anaerobic decomposition causing the release of methane gas. With compost, these materials decompose in the presence of oxygen, causing them to produce CO2. While both methane and carbon dioxide are greenhouse gasses, methane is significantly more efficient at trapping heat in our atmosphere.
Transportation is the second largest source of of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. We can reduce our impact on climate change by changing the way we get around. Walk or bike whenever possible. Public transportation and carpooling are also options for getting around more efficiently. For more information on getting around UW-Madison and beyond, visit the Transportation Services Website.