Econundrum: Household Conservation Smackdown

Photo: Wikimedia Commons


Q: If I could only choose one thing to do in my lifetime to reduce my carbon footprint, what should it be?

A: Switch out your bulbs. Insulate your house. Recycle. Cinderelly, Cinderelly. Frankly, it’s all a little overwhelming. Wouldn’t it be great to know which personal conservation activities get you the most carbon-reducing bang for your buck? Researchers at Oregon State University calculated the lifetime impact of a few popular ones. Here’s what they found:

  • Recycling newspaper, magazines, glass, plastic aluminum, and steel cans: 19 tons of CO2 saved
  • Replacing old refrigerator with energy-efficient model: 21 tons saved
  • Replacing ten 75-w incandescent bulbs with 25-w Energy-efficient lights: 40 tons saved
  • Replace single-glazed windows with energy-efficient windows: 133 tons saved
  • Reducing miles driven from 231 to 155 per week: 162 tons saved
  • Increasing car’s fuel economy from 20 to 30 mpg: 163 tons saved

So: If you can’t afford to replace your fridge (or you’re emotionally attached to your avocado green late ’70s model), drive 10 fewer miles a week. If you rent and can’t persuade your landlord to upgrade your windows, drive 62 fewer miles a week (um, time to buy a bike).

The bottom line: Keep recycling. Switch out those lightbulbs. But whatever you do, cut down on your car time, and if you must drive, do it in a fuel-efficient car.

 

THE BIG QUESTION...

as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot. That's what Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein tackles in her annual December column—"Billionaires Are Not the Answer"—about the state of journalism and our plans for the year ahead.

We can't afford to let independent reporting depend on the goodwill of the superrich: Please help Mother Jones build an alternative to oligarchy that is funded by and answerable to its readers. Please join us with a tax-deductible, year-end donation so we can keep going after the big stories without fear, favor, or false equivalency.

THE BIG QUESTION...

as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot.

Please read our annual column about the state of journalism and Mother Jones' plans for the year ahead, and help us build an alternative to oligarchy by supporting our people-powered journalism with a year-end gift today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.