Green America: Growing the Green Economy for People and the Planet

Climate & Energy

Economic action to stop global warming



Turning off the lightConservation is simply using less.

Conservation won't cost you a penny; in fact, all it can do is save you money and spare the atmosphere some carbon.

All of the lights, appliances, electronics, and water we use on a daily basis are run or warmed using electricity that likely comes from a coal-fired power plant. All of the goods you consume - clothing, paper, plastics, cleaning supplies, all those appliances and electronics that consume power themselves - take massive amounts of energy to produce.

Driving contributes a huge amount of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere with all the gas it burns. Using less electricity and water, buying less, and greening your transportation mean less fossil-fuel burned, and fewer carbon emissions. Even small changes in your consumption habits can make a significant difference.

Drive Less

  • Walk or bike - you'll be surprised that it doesn't take much longer than driving to many places, and it's exercise.
  • Take public transportation - it's running whether you're on it or not.

Buy Less

  • You really don't need all that stuff! Just buy what you need, and save money.
  • Repair broken or damaged itms instead of just buying new.
  • Or, buy used: not only is it much cheaper, it's recycling!

Turn It Off

  • Turn off any lights, appliances, and electronics that you don't need at the moment, and whenever you leave the room. Don't forget decorative things that do nothing but consume electricity.
  • Unplug it: many appliances and electronics draw what's called a phantom load. They suck power from the outlet even when they are "off" - chargers, televisions, DVD players, and more. Unplug things you're not using, especially overnight. It's even easier when many things are plugged into a power strip that you can turn off with one touch.
  • Turn it down: use less heating and air conditioning. Leave the thermostat at 68 degrees or lower in the winter, and at 72 degrees or higher in the summer. If it's a comfortable temperature outside, turn the heat or A/C off and open the windows!
  • Don't let the water run while you're washing dishes or brushing your teeth.

Use Less Water

Using less water reduces the need for energy to heat that water.  The average American household expends about 14 percent of its energy usage on heating water. That adds up to nearly 4 percent of the country's total energy use and emits about 260 million tons of CO2 [Source: NRDC].

  • Install low-flow shower heads, low-volume toilets and water efficent washers.
  • Even better than a bath, a short shower saves the most water. Turn the water off while you're soaping up or shaving your legs.
  • Only run the dishwasher or washing machine if there is a full load.

Harness Natural Power

  • Instead of relying on lightbulbs, utilize natural light during the day. If sunlight does not readily enter your home or office, take some work outside! You'll find that it's better for you, too.
  • Give the dryer a break and let the wind dry your clothes. Air-dry your dishes, too.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

  • Resource extraction, manufacturing, and waste disposal are all energy-intensive processes.  Cutting down on the waste stream cuts down on all of these processes, which cuts energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Reduce the amount you consume to begin with.  Reuse everything you can, from magazines to packaging to yard waste.  Recycle paper, plastic, glass, aluminum, battery, textiles, and electronics. 
  • Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to power a TV for three hours, and recycling one glass bottle saves enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for four hours.  Check out the EPA's "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" guide.

Don't Be Disposable

  • We rely on many one-time-use products these days, and not only does that generate tons of waste, it takes immense amounts of energy to create in the first place. Save some energy and some money by trying:

    – Cloths instead of paper towels and wipes

    – Cloth diapers

    – Real dishes and cutlery instead of paper and plastic

    – Canvas bags instead of paper or plastic

    – Tupperware instead of plastic wrap and foil

    – Reusing disposable goods that do cross your path

    – Washing and saving food containers to use as Tupperware

    – Carrying a travel mug or water bottle

    – Using the blank side of once-used paper