Ten things you can do

A report from Sierra Club's Global Warming & Energy Program

The choices we make and the products we buy test our commitment to maintain a healthy planet. When we burn fossil fuels—such as oil, coal, and natural gas—to run our cars and light our homes, we pump carbon dioxide (CO2) into the air. This thickens the heat-trapping blanket that surrounds the planet, causing global warming. Choosing modern technology can reduce our use of fossil fuels and help protect the planet. These ten steps will help curb global warming, save you money, and create a safer environment for the future.    

Smart Car

Courtesy Carlos Paes

1 Drive Smart! A well-tuned car with properly inflated tires burns less gasoline—cutting pollution and saving you money at the pump. If you have two cars, drive the one with better gas mileage whenever possible. Better yet, skip the drive and take public transit, walk, or bicycle when you can.

2 Write your leaders now. Urge them to raise fuel economy standards to 40 miles per gallon.  Modern technology can make our cars and trucks go farther on a gallon of gas. It’s the biggest single step we can take to curb global warming. The less gasoline we burn, the less CO2 we put into the air. Taking this step would also save nearly 4 million barrels of oil a day—more oil than we currently import from the Persian Gulf and could ever extract from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge combined. And by saving gas, you save nearly $2,000 at the pump over the life of your car. 

wind power

Courtesy Ricardo Cardoso Reis

3 Support clean, renewable energy.  Renewable energy solutions, such as wind and solar power, can reduce our reliance on coal-burning power plants, the largest source of global warming pollution in the United States. Call your local utility and sign up for renewable energy. If they don’t offer it, ask them why not? 

4 Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. Especially those that burn the longest each day. Compact fluorescents produce the same amount of light as normal bulbs, but use about a quarter of the electricity and last ten times as long. Each switch you make helps clean the air today, curb global warming, and save you money on your electricity bill.

compact flourescent

Courtesy Wikipedia Commons

5 Save energy at home. Saving energy at home is good for the environment and for your wallet. Start with caulking and weather-stripping on doorways and windows. Then adjust your thermostat and start saving. For each degree you lower your thermostat in the winter, you can cut your energy bills by 3 percent. Finally, ask your utility company to do a free energy audit of your home to show you how to save even more money. 

6 Become a smart water consumer. Install low-flowshowerheads and faucets and you’ll use half the water without decreasing performance.  Then turn your hot water heater down to 120ºF and see hot-water costs go down by as much as 50 percent. 

7 Buy energy-efficient electronics and appliances. Replacing an old refrigerator or an air conditioner with an energy-efficient model will save you money on your electricity bill and cut global warming pollution. Look for the Energy Star label on new appliances  or visit their website at www.energystar.gov to find the most energy-efficient products. 

Tree on hillside

Courtesy morguefile

8 Plant a Tree, protect a forest.  Protecting forests is a big step on the road to curbing global warming. Trees “breathe in” carbon dioxide, but slash-and-burn farming practices, intensive livestock production, and logging have destroyed 90 percent of the native forests in the United States. And you can take action in your own backyard—planting shade trees around your house will absorb CO2, and slash  your summer air-conditioning bills. 

9 Reduce! Reuse! Recycle!  Producing new paper, glass, and metal products from recycled materials saves 70 to 90 percent of the energy and pollution, including CO2, that would result if the product came from virgin materials. Recycling a stack of newspapers only 4 feet high will save a good-sized tree.

Please...buy recycled products! 

10 Mount a local campaign against global warming.  Educate your community about how it can cut global warming pollution.  Support measures at the national, state, and local level that make automobiles go further on a gallon of gas; accelerate the use of clean, renewable energy  sources,  such as solar and wind; increase energy efficiency and conservation; and preserve forests around the world.        

Published November 2005