Here are ten simple steps you can take at any time to reduce your personal and household emissions of carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas contributor to climate change. Annual carbon dioxide savings are estimates for the described activity or an average household.

  1. When replacing your car, choose a more fuel-efficient vehicle. See the U.S. Fuel Economy Ratings. Annual carbon dioxide savings if your new car gets only three miles per gallon more than your old one: 3,000 pounds. (For additional fuel-saving ideas, see Drive Smart from MassDOT.)
  2. Recycle as much waste as possible. Learn about recycling programs in your community. Annual carbon dioxide savings of recycling half of your household waste: 2,400 pounds.
  3. Set your thermostat 2° Fahrenheit lower in winter and 2° higher in summer. Heating and cooling account for half of all energy use at home. Annual carbon dioxide savings: 2,000 pounds.
  4. Wrap an insulation blanket around your water heater. While you're at it, set the unit's thermostat to no higher than 120° Fahrenheit. Annual carbon dioxide savings: 1,850 pounds.
  5. Avoid products with excessive packaging. This simple step can reduce the amount of trash you need to recycle or throw away by 10 percent. Annual carbon dioxide savings: 1,200 pounds.
  6. Schedule a home energy audit. Many utilities check customers' homes, provide simple energy-saving devices for free, and offer suggestions on improving insulation and energy efficiency. Annual carbon dioxide savings: 1,000 pounds (plus a 30 percent savings on your home heating and cooling bill).
  7. Use less hot water. Heating water consumes a lot of energy. Try installing a low-flow shower head and washing your clothes in cold or warm water instead of hot. Annual carbon dioxide savings: 850 pounds.
  8. Vacation closer to home. Air travel is more popular than every and jet fuel combustion is a major contributor to climate change. Carbon dioxide savings from not taking one round-trip flight of 1,600 miles: 720 pounds.
  9. Walk, ride your bike, carpool with a friend, or take mass transit whenever possible. Learn more about transportation options in your area from MassRIDES. Annual carbon dioxide savings from avoiding just 10 miles of driving per week: 500 pounds.
  10. Replace regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps. New fluorescent bulbs use 60 percent less energy than old-style incandescents. Handle them carefully, as they contain small amounts of mercury. Annual carbon dioxide savings: 300 pounds.

Calculate your personal or household impact on climate change using the Nature Conservancy Carbon Calculator. Find out how your home electricity use affects air quality and global climate change with the EPA Power Profiler.