NPS/Benjamin Drummond and Sara Joy Steele
"Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect."
Interested in having a "green" home or community? Each of us can do much to shrink our carbon footprint—also known as reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These are not rules or regulations; they are suggested actions rooted in scientific studies and common sense. If you choose to participate in even one of these, you will be taking a positive step toward developing a more efficient home and a healthier community. You will also derive personal benefits from practicing these steps at home—you can save on your utility bill, spend less on fuel, hear more sounds of nature, get some exercise, breathe cleaner air, relax more, and perhaps gain a sense of satisfaction from helping make a difference.
- Keep an energy efficient home - When purchasing new appliances and light bulbs look for the ENERGY STAR® label to ensure you are getting a product with higher efficiency. Replace incandescent bulbs in the five most frequently used light fixtures in the home with bulbs that have the ENERGY STAR® rating. If every household in the United States takes this one simple action, we will prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to the emissions from nearly 10 million cars, in addition to saving money on energy costs.
- Adjust your thermostat - Lower the thermostat in the winter and raise it in the summer (even 1-2 degrees makes a big difference in energy use). This same concept can be applied when doing laundry; wash clothes in warm or cool water rather than hot and line dry.
- Use renewable energy sources - Many power companies now offer programs that allow you to purchase all or some of your power from renewable energy such as wind, solar, or geothermal. Find out what options are available to you.
- Recycle - Many cities now offer recycling waste pick-up at your home or have a drop-off recycling center. Find out what is available in your area. You may be able to recycle drink containers, paper, newspapers, electronics, and other materials. In addition, consider recycling old furniture and clothes at a thrift store.
- Purchase carbon offsets - If renewable energy sources are not available to you or you would like to contribute to lessening the collective carbon footprint even more, you can purchase carbon offsets or energy credits, which will be used for planting trees or investing in low-carbon technologies. These are available from a number of online sources as well as some local power companies.
- Use alternative forms of transportation - Use public transportation or carpool if available (many employers may even pay for this service), walk, or ride your bike.
- When purchasing a new vehicle, consider fuel efficiency or a hybrid vehicle - These vehicles will save you money on fuel costs and will put fewer pollutants in the air.
- Engage and encourage community actions - Encourage community leaders to set a good example by using energy-efficient products and building design and supporting recycling and mass transit. Let leaders know you support such actions.
- Buy local foods - Buy local goods and services that minimize emissions associated with transportation.
- Smart shopping - Buy products that use less packaging or recyclable materials. Use products made from recycled paper, plastics, and aluminum, which uses 55–95 percent less energy than products made from new materials. Purchase items that can be reused like travel coffee mugs or reusable canvas grocery bags to reduce use of disposable products.
- Talk to your family and friends - Climate change and climate friendly practices will be talked about for years to come. Chances are your friends or family may be looking for guidance or advice on how to lower their carbon footprint. Lead by example and offer your support.
- Plant a tree - Nature has its own way of sequestering carbon through the growth of trees. The shade they provide may also help reduce cooling costs.
- If you are rehabilitating a historic building, the National Park Service Illustrated Guidelines on Sustainability for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings can help. Sustainability case studies also provide examples and inspiration.