When you turn your thermostat down a few degrees despite the cold weather, purchase an energy-efficient washing machine, or replace your incandescent bulbs with LED lamps, you know you’re reducing your power bill. But are you meaningfully helping to reduce the nation’s carbon footprint? It appears so.
A study published in the November issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that these minor changes in household behavior can have a large cumulative impact. The study evaluates 17 simple lifestyle and household changes such as weatherization, line drying clothing, reducing water heater temperature, purchasing energy-efficient appliances, and carpooling. Researchers found that, if these measures were implemented across the country, we could reduce US carbon emissions by 7.4% within ten years. US household emissions account for 8% of total global carbon emissions, so this figure is significant: about 123 million metric tons.
Michael Vandenbergh, a co-author of the study, says that the impact of these home behaviors could be significant even without complete compliance by every US citizen. Furthermore, the study does not assume that all of these 17 actions would be practiced all the time. Vandenbergh says that he and his fellow researchers assumed that, for many behaviors, people would practice the more eco-friendly alternative less than 35% of the time.
To hear more from Michael Vandenbergh on the implications of these simple lifestyle changes, check out his interview with Robert Siegel on NPR’s All Things Considered.