Reduce Carbon Emissions: Sweat the Right Stuff

Don’t sweat the small stuff when transitioning to a low-carbon lifestyle. It is more important to sweat the right stuff with the help of these low-cost and no-cost carbon-reducing tips.

| August 15, 2012

  • Reduce Carbon Emissions
    "Cooler Smarter," by the Union of Concerned Scientists, is an empowering guide that shows which changes in our lifestyles will make the biggest difference to the climate. 
    Cover Courtesy Island Press
  • Average American's Emissions
    This chart is based on average emissions, and these results may vary substantially from person to person. Nevertheless, it’s a useful tool for thinking about the problem of global warming, and finding a starting place for the solution.
    Chart Courtesy Island Press

  • Reduce Carbon Emissions
  • Average American's Emissions

While routine decisions that shape our days — what to have for dinner, where to shop, how to get to work — may seem small, collectively they have a big effect on global warming. Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living (Island Press, 2012), based on a comprehensive two-year study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, explains how to make the biggest impact and when not to sweat the small stuff. The following excerpt is taken from chapter 2, “Sweat the Right Stuff.” 

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Cooler Smarter.

Sweat the Right Stuff

“Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”

— Mark Twain 

What are the most effective steps each of us can take to reduce our carbon emissions? This is the question the Climate Team at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) set out to answer in this book. Of course, the best steps for you depend to some extent on how you live now. Some of us drive big cars, others ride the bus; some live in large houses, others in tiny studio apartments. The United States is a big country, and geography makes a difference, too: in colder climates, home heating naturally accounts for a far greater share of a household’s emissions; city dwellers, meanwhile, tend to be less reliant on cars, with far fewer emissions in the transportation category than their rural counterparts.

While there is no single, one-size-fits-all solution to reducing carbon emissions, the first step is to look closely at your emissions and set a goal to reduce them. Whatever your current circumstances, we suggest that you aim to reduce your carbon emissions by 20 percent over the coming year.

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