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5 ways to cut your carbon footprint, and save money doing it

Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Tuesday, October 23, 2018, 5:00 AM - Curbing CO2 emissions is becoming a race against time if we want to mitigate the worst-effects of human-caused climate change.

But aside from government action, there's plenty you can do by yourself to use less energy and, in so doing, reduce your personal share of emissions from power generation.

Here are five simple ways to reduce your carbon footprint.


The brightest idea on this list involves … actual light bulbs.

OK, that pun was awful, but there’s nothing awful about LED light bulbs, the superior way to both light your home AND use less energy doing it.

Unlike incandescent bulbs, LED bulbs use drastically less energy to produce the same amount of light, and last many times longer. They’re also cool to the touch, less susceptible to damage from shaking or vibrations, and most are easier to recycle than incandescents.

The downside used to be that they were markedly more expensive than regular bulbs, but costs have declined quite a bit over the past few years, and they'll likely keep getting cheaper. In any case, the energy saved over their drastically longer lifespan will more than make up for the upfront cost.

You wouldn't think lightning would use up too much energy, but when we are talking about millions upon millions of households, it definitely makes a dent, and there’s evidence switching to LEDs has a noticeable impact. One study suggests switching to LED light bulbs brought down CO2 emissions by 570 million tonnes in 2017 -- equivalent to shutting down 162 coal-fired plants.


A humble smartphone or iPad doesn't seem like it would suck a lot of power out of the grid, and for each individual device, that’s true.

But the use of devices has exploded over the past decade, such that there are now countless millions of them out there, with each having to be routinely recharged. But once fully charged, they continue to use up energy while still plugged in. 

It all adds up: NRCAN says keeping all your devices and appliances plugged in when they’re not in use or are already charged (depending on whether it’s a device or an appliance) can add as much as 10 per cent to your energy bill.

For devices, be mindful of when they’re fully charged and simply unplug. For larger things, like appliances, invest in a power bar that will let you turn them off when not in use (even sleep mode appliances can account for as much as 23 per cent of average home energy consumption, according to the NRDC). And, of course, turn off your TV and computer when you're not using them.



Though 81 per cent of Canada’s energy comes from non-greenhouse gas-emitting sources (according to NRCAN), that remaining 19 per cent can still pack a punch, emissions-wise, when you are dealing with millions of households.

Just keeping your home at a decent temperature in the winter or summer is a drain on energy, due to the weather extremes most Canadians face. That means your thermostat will account for a fair bit of your energy use.

Luckily, you have full control over your thermostat, and there’s plenty you can do to use less energy and reduce your carbon footprint.

The easiest way is to lower the temperature by a couple of degrees in the winter, and raise it a couple of degrees in the summer. The nearer your home’s internal temperature is to the outside temperature, the less work your furnace or AC has to do. You can help by closing windows and blinds to keep the sun out when you’re at work in the summer, and opening them to let the sun in during the winter. 

Of course, when you’re at work or asleep, you don’t need the temperature to be just right. Invest in a programmable thermostat that’ll reduce the temperature in the winter and increase it in the summer while you are out, and gradually bring it back to your preferred sweet spot to coincide with when you come home.


This one will be a hard sell in the wintertime, but if you clicked through to this article and have read this far, we think you’ll hear us out!

Simply: You can save a surprising amount of energy, and reduce your carbon footprint, by doing all your washing with cold water instead of hot.

We don’t just mean washing your hands, though that would be a bonus: The Smithsonian says washing up in cold water would cut CO2 emissions by 6 million tonnes in the U.S. alone, about what the nation of Barbados emits in an entire year.

But a bigger CO2 source is the power used when you wash your clothes in warm water, which can account for as much as 90 per cent of the energy used by your washer, so switching to cold water is a no-brainer. You can also make the most of the energy you DO use by only running the washer when you’ve enough clothes to fill it up -- it uses the same amount of energy regardless of how full it is.

As for drying your now-soggy laundry, ENERGY STAR recommends running low-heat cycles -- though that means a longer dry-time, it will actually use less power -- and making sure to clean the lint filter, which improves air circulation. In warm weather, you can go one better by air drying your clothes.


What you fuel up on has its own carbon footprint too, depending on what kind of food you’re eating, and where it comes from.

Meat is the worst offender, emissions-wise. The David Suzuki Foundation says livestock accounts for 18 per cent of global emissions of gases such as nitrous oxide and methane -- the latter of which is a much more potent contributor to global warming than CO2. Red meat also takes 11 times more water to produce and results in five times more emissions than poultry or pork, according to the Huffington Post.

You don’t have to go vegan, but even reducing the amount of meat in your diet will make a big difference -- as will paying attention to where it was produced, a good practice you should be trying to do for all the food you eat. 

Food that’s grown far away has to be shipped, which carries its own transportation-related emissions, compared to its locally produced version. Most meats or veggie foodstuffs have to be refrigerated for the journey, adding to the energy costs. So no matter what you’re eating, try to shop local -- you’ll reduce your carbon footprint, and your local farmers will thank you.


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