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clean air curb emissions

Our collective little steps are finally changing the climate change picture, but we can all do more. Here are some areas to focus on at home and work.

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For the first time in 40 years, in 2014, planet Earth managed to hold steady and not have an increase in carbon monoxide and greenhouse gas emissions. This is huge, and very encouraging, news.

We’re not out of the tough times yet, though, because global warming will continue despite the steadying output. Fact is, the polar ice caps are essentially past the tipping point, and that’s how it goes. But we’re also learning that there’s more hope than ever that we will find adapt to our “new normal.”

Part of the success of getting there will come from continuing to change how we live. Every bit of waste — from garbage to energy — can add up, but so can the savings when we cut back.

Here are a few easy, effective ways that you can keep emissions in check by simply living more consciously and less wastefully, both at home and at work.

Windows & air

If you don’t have great windows at home, that’s something that you should start a budget for. It’s an expensive project, but from peace and quiet through to energy savings, there’s no better investment to make than good quality windows with efficient framing.

Opening and closing windows, and even curtains, also impacts how much energy you’re using. My neighbor complains about the building heat being too low all the time yet leaves her windows open during windstorms. It baffles me. If I’m cold, I close windows before I crank the heat. Ditto for when the weather’s heating up. Air conditioning really isn’t necessary below 85 degrees at least. It’s a huge emissions reduction when you cut back on air conditioning and heat.

Smart energy

From programmable thermostats to Energy Star appliances, newer choices have far higher emission reduction than even products made a decade or so ago. When you can upgrade, it’s a good idea to do so. If disposing of older items, please do it in a responsible manner.

Turning everything from the printer to the coffeemaker off when they’re not in use, that’s an obvious savings right there, but I know that even I’m guilty of leaving some things turned on for convenience or quick power-up, like my laptop, but what’s more important — the planet, or my 30 seconds of convenience?

And even if these appliances are turned off, some might still do what’s called “vamping” energy. This is when plugged-in items leech energy despite being turned off. New, smarter power bars will allow you to turn off this vamped energy. It might be a small contributor, but remember: Every Bit Counts.

Kick your paper habits

A lot of utility companies are now charging you if you want a paper bill. Did you know that? I save $8 a month just by not having paper bills sent to me. Instead, I download the PDF and save it to a file I call “taxes” and it’s there when I need it for year-end finances with the accountant. When I do print bills off, I only print off the page that shows the monthly charge and taxes, since the rest is just for my verification purposes.

Getting electronic files is the way to go. Reducing your mailing is also a great way to cut down on unneeded emissions. Did you know you can often sign legal documents and send them through as a photo from your phone, because the resolution is high enough these days? No fax, no scanner — that’s a reduction in energy use too. Also, consider using someone like 41pounds.org to help end the junk mail reaching your door.

Lighten up

So many offices don’t have a central light control. You walk out at night and leave your light on, it stays on. I know, since I live across from a government office building that often has 40-50% of its lights left on overnight. Homeowners tend to have on-all-night lights too, outside the house, but couldn’t a motion detector provide the security lighting needed?

Between smart bulb choices like LED and CFC, light-switch dimmers, motion sensors, and programmable switches, there are a lot of ways to keep lighting at a minimum. I try to keep myself limited to one light on at night. I use nightlights with motion sensors too, and they’ve got me covered for quick kitchen and bathroom visits.

Rethink your lighting options and uses, because as we keep saying, Every Bit Counts.

Don’t be disappointed by small changes

Your efforts may seem small, even trivial, when it comes to making such minor changes, but you have to take that into consideration with everything else you’re doing. Do you walk a little more? Bike a little more? Bus occasionally? Use less paper? Use less plastic?

Then you’re doing something… and you’re doing it often. That’s all we ask.

The important thing is to keep it up, and keep current on new technology and practices that could help you make further changes down the line. These small changes are the proverbial drop in the bucket.

When every bit counts, it’s important to think about the end game, and how many people are adding drops to those buckets, further helping change our outcome. We can do this if we work together.

What do you think are the biggest changes you’ve incorporated at home? What are you still trying to change?

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.