The average U.S. household spews 26,000 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air every year. That's not just bad for the environment; it's bad for your pocketbook, too.
Why? The energy you're using to create all that carbon dioxide is costing you roughly $1,400 a year. By taking some simple steps to cut carbon dioxide, you're also cutting your energy bills -- a win-win if there ever was one.
How to do it? The very first rule, says Judi Greenwald, director of innovative solutions at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, is simply to think about your energy use.
"My father got really angry when we left lights burning," she says -- and he was right. So turn off the lights, turn down your thermostat, get out of the shower a little quicker. Tiny changes, but they all add up.
And there are bigger changes you can make with very little expenditure of either time or money. Video: Visit Ann's home
1. Use power strips. Nowadays we've got more than lights to worry about. At least when you turn a light off, it's off. Not so with your TV, your computer, your VCR and dozens of other appliances.
Don't believe me?
Wait until your laptop is shut down and check it out. Light's still on, right? And check out the power adapter. Maybe it's warm? That's because it's still using electricity. It's called phantom power, but on your electric bill, it's definitely real -- a few bucks a year per plug. If you have as many electronic gadgets as I do, that adds up fast. To save that money -- and the environment -- use power strips, and turn them off when you're not using what's plugged into them.
2. Buy fluorescent bulbs. If you've tried fluorescent bulbs before and hated them, it's time to try again. Video: See the new fluorescents
They're not the huge, clunky, slow-to-turn-on pains in the you-know-what they used to be. The newest ones -- twisted like a soft-serve ice cream cone -- turn on instantly and cast a warm light. Yes, they're more expensive (around $4-$5 each), but they use about a quarter of the electricity of a traditional incandescent bulb and last 10 times as long, so they end up saving you a ton of money.
Replacing just six incandescent bulbs will cut your annual carbon dioxide emissions by 600 pounds and trim your electric bill by as much as $35 each year. And if you still don't like the color, take a tip from high-end decorator Jamie Drake: Buy paper lampshades and paint the inside with nonflammable pink paint.