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Small Steps at Home Can Combat Climate Change, Study Says


It’s time to sweat the small stuff—at least when it comes to global warming.

So says a new study that gives teeth to those oft-heard energy-saving suggestions, such as installing low-flow showerheads or carpooling to work.

If everyone adopted these habits, we could slash carbon emissions now—and prevent an estimated 123 metric tons of carbon from being released by the tenth year, according to the study. That would save about 7.4 percent of U.S. national emissions.

All, supposedly, without any skin off our noses.

The authors’ argument is pretty basic: Act today with simple strategies, instead of waiting for complicated laws to be set in motion.

Take the 1,400-page U.S. Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, whose recommendations will likely take a long time to get rolling, the researchers say.

And some experts are already pessimistic that a global climate pact will be hashed out in Copenhagen in December. (Read things you should know about the new U.S. climate bill.)

In the meantime, opportunities to cut emissions now have been “relatively neglected,” the authors say.

The team—led by Michigan State University sociologist and environmental scientist Thomas Dietz—measured 17 things most people can do without reducing “well being.”

Those include drying clothes on lines, changing HVAC air filters, tuning up air conditioners, maintaining cars, setting back thermostats, weatherizing buildings, and installing efficient water heaters, among others.

First the researchers estimated how much we would reduce emissions if everyone in the U.S. got on the carbon-slashing bandwagon.

Then the team guesstimated “plasticity,” or how many of us can be convinced to take action, based on real data of the most effective and proven interventions.

This gave them the rate of RAER—or the “reasonably achievable emissions reduction.”

Why does this matter? Pretty much because our homes are carbon factories. U.S. households spew out more carbon—626 million metric tons in 2005—than total carbon emissions of every country other than China, according to the study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. (Check it out here.)

To borrow a hackneyed expression, apparently small steps can make a big difference.

Christine Dell’Amore

tn_Christine DellAmore_03.jpg

Related Green Guide links:

–Test your global warming IQ.

–Go on a carbon diet.

Photograph by Steve Raymer, NGS


  1. Emanprinting
    July 23, 2010, 9:04 am

    Really great steps i like it thanks for share it.
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  2. Chris Harris
    July 11, 2010, 1:54 pm

    Things have become so tough that it’s really tough to combat climate change, still I am optimistic that some sort of miracle will happen and things are going to get just fine!!Pump in style advanced

  3. botha
    July 3, 2010, 4:01 am
  4. John
    June 30, 2010, 4:19 am

    This sounds really good. There are so many energy efficient technologies that are regularly updated.
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  5. inter4522
    June 18, 2010, 2:55 pm

    I think these techniques will work for everybody. People need to do this to help our world for the future. It does not take a lot of effort to do this.
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  6. Linda
    May 27, 2010, 6:32 am

    The go-green technique is getting easier now. Power savers and energy savers are getting into market slowly. People should be aware of these new stuffs so that they can implement the idea without investing too many efforts.
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  7. Ca Mortgage
    January 24, 2010, 8:21 pm

    We need to be more vigilant concerning about our environment, let keep it clean and let reduce our emission.
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  8. The Window Man
    January 17, 2010, 12:26 pm

    This is a nice anecdote Andy.
    “I am here to serve.”
    The Window Man

  9. Andy Kadir-Buxton
    January 3, 2010, 2:14 am

    From the moment that we switch our radiators on half of the heat given off by them is lost as it goes into the wall behind them. We can, however, get around this problem with an invention from a then schoolboy that got onto the ‘Tommorow’s World’ program decades ago. He had learned from School that heat is given off by way of conduction, convection, and radiation, so when his Grandmother had problems meeting her heating bills the schoolboy reasoned that heat loss due to conduction and convection could be stopped by putting a lining of cardboard covered with silver cooking foil behind his Grandmother’s radiators. Heat loss through the wall is now slashed, and rooms heat up faster when the heating comes on. The Fire Brigade said at the time that the cardboard was not a fire hazard as behind the radiator is the least damaged part of a room in the event of a fire. And this saving cuts the CO2 emissions of your house. I have done this, why don’t you? In the UK this would cut CO2 emissions equivalent to 4 power stations if everyone did it.

  10. Green Communist
    November 9, 2009, 6:08 pm

    Nice article! I also have some ideas about saving nature. They are maybe a bit unusual but still they would work.
    Check them out on my blog at http://www.GreenCommunist.com

  11. The Window Man
    November 7, 2009, 8:42 pm

    Replacing your light bulbs can really help cut down on energy consumption.
    “I am here to serve.”
    The Window Man

  12. aknate
    October 28, 2009, 6:06 pm

    I love the picture it was a simple reminder to setup a clothes line next summer. Little steps cover great distances over time.