what they’ll buy — decisions that all have
an impact on the amount of energy they
use and on the amount of carbon dioxide
released into the atmosphere.
Veazey, who now lives in Knoxville,
Tenn., has incorporated the conservation
mentality so thoroughly that it seems like
second nature, and she finds it hard to list
the many strategies she uses to protect the
environment. One is living only a mile
and a half from her workplace so she can
bike to work, which she enjoys. Though
she owns a car, she tries not to drive
much. She doesn’t use air conditioning at
home and tries not to use much heat in
winter. Aside from a fridge, she has few
appliances — no dishwasher, for instance,
and no TV — and she makes it a practice
to turn off lights and unplug electric
items she’s not using. Consequently, she
uses little electricity at home. What she
does use she buys from the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Green Power Switch program, which produces electricity from
wind and solar power and methane gas.
Those are effective moves. Together,
home energy use and personal transportation account for 60 to 70 percent of the
energy people use in their lifetimes, says
Douglas Crawford-Brown, director of
UNC’s Institute for the Environment.
“The envelope of their house and how
it has to be heated and cooled is much
more important than the light bulbs and
the fridge they choose,” he said. To lessen
their environmental impact, people might
also reconsider their mode of transportation. “Are they getting around in a single-occupant vehicle or by public transit? If a
single-occupant vehicle, what kind of
mileage are they getting?”
And they might consider the embodied carbon of products.
“If you buy something, say a chair,
there’s obviously no carbon dioxide coming off it, but it was manufactured somewhere,” he observes — energy was consumed both in its manufacture and in
shipping it to the store. The concept of
embodied carbon is relatively new, and
researchers are still struggling to understand how large its impact is. It also
applies to food, which takes energy to
raise and transport.
That’s an area where Gantt is trying to
improve his carbon footprint, the measure
of how much carbon dioxide his choices
What YOU can do…
■ Replace incandescent light bulbs with
compact fluorescent bulbs.
■ Keep your place just a little cooler in
winter and a little
warmer in summer. Consider
for night and when you’re regularly
away during the day.
■ Have a home energy audit, which
local utilities will often provide free.
■ Seal air leaks, install energy-efficient
windows and make sure your walls
and ceilings are well-insulated.
■ Have your heating and cooling equipment tuned annually.
■ Put an insulation blanket around your
■ When you’re buying a new appliance,
choose an energy-efficient model.
■ Use a low-flow showerhead to save
both water and the energy used to
■ Repair toilet and faucet leaks immediately.
■ While shavi ng
or brushing teeth,
■ Check whether you can get some or
all of your energy from renewable,
nonpolluting sources. The Green
Power Network at
www.eere.energy.gov is one place to
■ Consider installing a solar panel.
Whether you want to reduce your
impact on the environment, improve the
nation’s energy independence or just save
a few dollars, here are some strategies.
Some are easy and free, others take a little
more effort. Adopting even one or two
beyond those you already follow will
lower your energy use and in some cases
your utility bills.
…in your home
■ Turn off your
and other electronics when
you’re not using
them to save
■ When you leave a room, turn off the
■ Keep the air filters on your furnace
and air conditioner clean.
■ Wash your clothes in cold or warm
water. Dry them on a clothesline.
■ Run your dishwasher only when it’s
full, or wash and rinse your dishes in
dishpans in the sink.