Going Green, Family Style
20 metric tons. That’s the average carbon footprint of the average American family, according to researchers at MIT. If that sounds hard to quantify, picture this: it’s a almost an entire football field full of C02-filled balloons. Even more shocking: it’s twice the average carbon footprint families globally.
Obviously, American families have work to do. So what can yours do to cut your carbon footprint? There are a number of actions you can take, but one that’s vital: whatever you do, do it together. Families who embark on challenges together get closer, find common purpose, and in this case, free up the family budget for more exciting expenditures. As one researcher put it, “When you save energy, you save money.”
No People, No Lights
We have a bad habit in America of leaving lights in rooms, regardless of whether or not they’re being used. Retrain your habits by having a 21-day “no people, no lights” rule for each room in your house. Anyone found in violation has to stop whatever they’re doing, return to the room, and turn out the lights. Want to make it even easier? If you have a voice-controlled speaker, purchasing a voice-controlled outlet for around $20 can help you turn off an entire room full of electronics with a simple command.
Every family has different definitions of “normal” when it comes to temperature. Some believe they should be able to a be perfectly comfortable in a tank top during the coldest of months. Others enjoy sleeping in a frigid room, even as the summer sun beats down. Need a third party to call the shots? The Department of Energy recommends a daytime setting of 68 degrees in the winter and 78 degrees in the summer, adjusting the temperature even further when you’re away from the home.
Electric Bill Challenge
As with any challenge, goals and incentives can make a world of difference. Luckily, you happen to already have a scorecard hitting your mailbox every couple of months: the electric bill. For every dollar saved from last year’s bill for the same month, put a percentage into a fund for a family outing, such as a favorite restaurant or movie night. The arrival of the electric bill will be met with more thrill than ever before.
Carpool Like it’s 1950
There they are: all four of your family’s cars, sitting in the parking lot of the school recital. Sure, there were great excuses. But the result is a major energy waster. That ends this month. Make a goal of taking one car to shared events. Sister taking too long in the shower? Looks like the family will be 5 minutes late together.
The Incredible Shrinking Garbage Can
Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. We know the words, but the practices somehow escape us. Week after week, the garbage can is packed to the brim. Plastic containers we just didn’t feel like washing out, old clothes that surely no one wanted, and food we didn’t get around to consuming. It’s time to make the garbage can the absolute last resort. In order to do it, put it on display. Yes, get a clear, small container and put it front and center in the kitchen. Make a goal of emptying it just once a week. Recycling, upcycling, and donating could quickly become a habit.