Catch phrases like “Earth Day Every Day,” “Buy Local Clean and Green,” and “Eat, Sleep, Recycle” are the mottos of the Green Revolution; they are pasted on billboards, in magazine ads, on your television screen and across the Internet. But, just thinking green and actually making changes to live a greener, more carbon free lifestyle are often not one in the same. Many towns and cities across the country are making it easier for regular citizens to recycle - in Portland, Oregon all your recycling containers are free, but oversized garbage containers come with significant costs, while the use of less garbage and smaller containers give city residents discounts (PDR, 2011). Community gardens are popping up nationwide, local grower’s markets have become more popular, carpooling is a viable option for most drivers. Being green is not a matter of changing your entire outlook on life though; there are many steps that consumers can take to reduce their carbon footprint, save money in the process and aid local businesses.

Primary Carbon Footprint Statistics

As of 2010, the United States account for approximately 25 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. That number is eclipsed only by China, now the world’s largest emitter. Carbon emissions from vehicles amount to around 22 percent of all emissions, while electricity and heat reach upwards of 41 percent worldwide (IEA, 2010). In the United States, transportation plays a larger role in CO2 emissions at close to 30 percent (CA-CP, 2006); Americans drive a lot and long-haul trucks still move most of our goods. Methane, nitrous oxide, hydro-flourocarbons and other gasses also cause global warming, but CO2 is the main culprit.

Green Cars and Calculating Your Footprint

The first step to lowering your carbon production in daily life, is figuring your approximate footprint. Sites like and the EPA’s Household Emissions Calculator will give you a reliable breakdown of your general footprint. Use a carbon footprint calculator to get a clear idea of how much you are using and how to best alleviate emissions in your daily life. The largest figure for most consumers is their car. On average, most adult U.S citizens emit around 21 tons of CO2 every year, with 30 percent of that due to their automobile (CA-CP, 2006): a 2011 Toyota 4-Runner emits around 9.8 tons of CO2 per year, while a 2011 Honda Civic Hybrid only emits 4.6 tons (EPA, 2011). Green cars are now more affordable and with advances in green fuels like bio-diesel, ethanol and natural gas even larger trucks and SUVs can make a positive environmental impact.

ENERGY STAR Appliances

The U.S Department of Energy and EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) created the ENERGY STAR system to help homeowners lower the cost of their energy bills, learn about energy efficiency and reduce harmful emissions. According to the EPA, in 2010 the increased use of ENERGY STAR rated appliances in homes saved consumers $18 billion in utility costs and lessened greenhouse gas emissions equal to 33 million cars (Energy Star, 2001). The implementation of an ENERGY STAR home requires various steps with larger initial costs for replacing old heating and cooling systems, buying of new appliances (or used appliances with ENERGY STAR ratings), installing properly rated doors and windows among just a few of the possible improvements homeowners can institute. For homeowners who cannot afford such costs, it is best to take a slower approach: add more insulation to your attic, only heat most used living spaces, seal all ducts, change old filters, install a programmable thermostat and make sure to have a professional inspect your home so you get suitable recommendations.

Buy Carbon Offsets to Keep Everything Balanced

Consumers who want to make a larger impact now have the ability to reduce their carbon footprint to zero though buying carbon offsets. Once you’ve calculated your carbon footprint, taken steps to reduce your overall emissions and want to do more, then make a significant difference and support green technologies. For example, if you own an automobile that emits 6 tons of CO2 per year and standard carbon offsets cost around $5-10 per ton, you can significantly reduce your total carbon output for only $30-60 - that’s pretty cheap (CA-CP, 2006).  There are numerous green organizations you can donate to, but not all are reputable, so do your research first and make sure they have a Green-e certification. If you have questions, organizations like and are available to help.

Small Steps for Big Change

The easiest changes to make are right in front of you. Lowering your carbon footprint doesn’t have to take an investment of thousands of dollars to replace your entire home with ENERGY STAR appliances or even buying a new car; the most significant changes can happen every day:

  • Use energy efficient light bulbs - Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) can save you money, uses around 75 percent electricity and last longer (Energy Star, 2010).
  • Use public transportation - take the bus, carpool and use other means rather than driving.
  • Recycle - This is now easy in most cities nationwide and refuse disposal companies allow you to recycle for free.
  • Buy locally - Local foods are often organically grown, help support your local economy and the decrease in transportation costs helps lower your overall carbon footprint.

Lowering your carbon footprint is no longer a goal that is difficult to attain. The advances in technology for automobiles and home appliances have made it cheaper in the long run to purchase more environmentally-friendly products. Recycling is free in most places, so recycling makes sense not just environmentally but to your pocket book as well.

Works Cited

Energy Star (2011). About ENERGY STAR. Retrieved from

Energy Star (2011). Light Bulbs for Consumers. Retrieved from

Clean Air – Cool Planet (2006). A Consumers’ Guide to Retail Carbon Offset Providers. Retrieved from

International Energy Agency (2010). CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion: Highlights. Retrieved from

Portland Disposal and Recycling, Inc. (2011). Portland Residential Garbage Rates for Single Family Residences. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Energy. (n.d.) Find a Car. Retrieved from