Posted by: A Part of the Solution | September 17, 2010

10 Easy Ways to Shrink Your Carbon Footprint

This isn’t a Top Ten List, since there are many, many things one may do to shrink the ol’ carbon footprint. But these are easy things to do, and while they won’t change the ebb and flow of your daily life by much, they will shrink your ongoing footprint and get you to thinking about other small changes you might make. High impact, low stress–life is tough enough!

1) Clean your fridge coils. The refrigerator is on 24/7/365. It draws about 18% of the power used in your home every day. And it works with significantly higher efficiency if you keep the coils dust free. So dust back there two to four times a year, and watch your electricity bill drop–without having to buy a Brand NEW Refrigerator!

2) Line Dry One Load a Week. The average American family uses the clothes dryer 4 to 7 times a week. If you switch to line drying just one load a week, you’ll find you have significant savings on your electricity bill, and you’ll reduce wear and tear on your clothing dramatically. If you’re worried about softness of your line-dried items, put a few tablespoons of distilled vinegar into the BLEACH cup on your washer (instead of bleach, obviously)–the results are impressive!

3) Join the local public library. Don’t buy the latest Whodunit or Howto Best Seller. Check it out of the library. You’ll be saving trees while you entertain your mind. And with on-line reservations and in-stock notifications, you’ll have plenty of say in what you read and when. And you’ll be able to renew your reads on-line as well!

4) Eat Seasonal Vegetarian Once a Week. How small does your carbon footprint get when you eat seasonal vegetarian food? SO SMALL! But seasonal is the key. If you live in Massachusetts and you’re having an Avocado Mango Smoothie to go with your Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich with Pineapple-Cottage Cheese Salad for lunch, you haven’t really shrunk the carbon footprint by much because the petroleum count on your meal is through the roof. Which brings me to…

5) Use the Farmers Market or Join a CSA. You don’t have to figure out what’s seasonal, the farmers already have that nailed for you. All you have to do is support these locavore enablers regularly. Whatever you find for sale (at a GROWERS ONLY market) will be fair game. Bonus points for selecting Organic/Transitional/Sustainably Grown products.

6) Switch to Vinegar. Consumer Reports tested leading glass cleaners, and came to the conclusion that vinegar diluted in water cleans your glass as well as any version of the Blue Stuff out there. Vinegar is less manufacturing intensive than the Blue Stuff–so the carbon footprint associated with it is smaller. And it costs a whole lot less, as well as being less toxic–and still available packaged in glass.

7) Stack your Errands. Keep a running list of what you need and where it comes from. Don’t get into your car to run one errand at a time–save up the short trips and plan a logistically sensible loop to accomplish a number of do-list items on the same run. The efficiency of reducing your traveled miles lengthens your car’s life while shrinking your carbon footprint in the short-term too!

8) Put on a Sweater. And if necessary, thick socks, a scarf and even a hat in the house as the weather cools down. All that heat comes from one form of non-renewable energy or another in almost every case. And you’ll save three percent on your heating bill for every degree under 72° you keep your thermostat. One of those magnificent (though not expensive) programmable thermostats increases your savings (and shrinks your carbon footprint) even more, by automatically shifting temperatures when you leave for work or go to bed.

9) Plant a Tree. Trees are great windbreaks. Trees provide good shade in the summer time. And both these functions can help you to keep your home, office, or rental property more comfortable with less use of energy off the grid. Not to mention the oxygen with which they provide us!

10) Ride your Bike. If you can, replace one errand done in the car with one done on a bike. Maybe it’s your trip to the gym. Maybe it’s your regular library visit. Maybe it’s taking the kids to the park. Identify one cyclical activity you could manage with a bike, and give it a shot for a month–even if you can’t make the trip by bike in the winter or at the height of summer, you’ll still be shrinking your carbon footprint by a ton. Or, if you’re more like me, just walk there.



  1. Check, check, check, check…etc. But I needed the fridge coil reminder (I keep fergetting).

    I’ll try the vinegar for the wash thing. I’ve resorted to commercial liquid fabric softener for my summer line drying, and I’d welcome an alternative.

    • I started it b/c I was afraid my towels would be stiff and scratchy, ditto sheets. But it works. I was surprised and delighted both!

  2. That’s a great list!! Did you write that? I’m so glad I’ll see you Friday. Love, Gail

    • Where would I have stolen it from?

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