Climate change is a big problem—one that is going to require big solutions. But don't let the big picture make you lose sight of all the little things that each of us can do to make a big difference. Here are three easy steps that have a big impact on emissions and our wallets and that we can all take every day: not idling, taking shorter showers and turning off unused lights and electronics.
Letting your car idle for five minutes every day wastes 15 gallons of gasoline per year, costs you up to $45 (at $3/gallon), and adds an extra 293 lbs. of climate-warming carbon dioxide to the air over the course of one year. It would take roughly 34 trees to absorb carbon dioxide at that same rate. Over the next 50 years, that adds up to an extra $2,250 out of your pocket and an extra 14,650 lbs of carbon dioxide into the air!
Cutting your shower time by three minutes each day can reduce the amount of climate-warming carbon dioxide emitted by up to 715 lbs each year (assuming you have electric hot water)! That's the same amount saved by recycling 220 pounds of waste or cutting back your driving by 750 miles. It would also save approximately 5,500 gallons of fresh water and up to $73.
Television – Remember to turn off the lights and TV when you leave a room. Leaving the TV and a pair of lights on for an hour a day wastes about $14 worth of electricity each year and adds an extra 134 pounds of carbon dioxide to the air. In terms of greenhouse gases, that's the same as burning through two and a half propane cylinders with your home barbeque.
Lights – Remembering to turn off the lights can save a lot of energy! A single 60-watt bulb left on for one hour a day will waste over $4 worth of electricity and emit an extra 43 pounds of carbon dioxide. Make that two bulbs for two hours and you are wasting almost $18 in electricity and adding over 170 pounds of carbon dioxide to the air. In terms of greenhouse gases, that's more than burning through three propane cylinders with your home barbeque.
Computer, Monitor, Printer –Turn off and unplug your computer and accessories when you're not using them. Leaving your computer, monitor, and printer on can add up to $60 to your annual electricity bill. It also sends an extra 754 pounds of climate-warming carbon dioxide into the air each year, which is equivalent to burning off 39 gallons of gasoline. You would have to grow roughly 88 trees to absorb carbon dioxide at that rate.
Although the climate change problem is big, we can all take little steps that add up to a big difference.The information in this column was provided by SmartPower. In Our Back Yard is a weekly column of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.