5 ways to fight climate change—and save money

Small solutions to a global issue

Published: May 09, 2014 10:45 AM

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The National Climate Assessment report released this week by the federal government brings new urgency to the issue of climate change. Forget the polar bears—well, don’t forget them, but don’t focus only on them. Climate change is in all of our backyards, in the form of higher temperatures, epic droughts, and severe flooding. It's argued that major policy change is needed to combat the problem, but individual acts can definitely make a difference. If you’re not already doing these five things, you should start.     

Plug air leaks. Spend a few hours this weekend plugging leaks around windows, doors, and electrical outlets with caulk, weather stripping, and expandable foam sealant. If your heating and cooling system uses forced air, having the ductwork sealed properly could lower your bills by about $400. Ask your utility company for a free energy audit. 

Stop wasting hot water. About 15 percent of the average household’s energy goes to heating water. Multiply that by 130 million or so households, and you’re talking huge consumption. If you’re still rinsing dishes before loading them into the dishwasher, stop. They’ll come out clean without this water-wasting step. And put a 5-minute limit on showers. Lastly, consider an upgrade to a hybrid water heater if your current unit is nearing the end of its life.  

Lose the incandescent lights. These inefficient bulbs are being phased out, but they’re still on store shelves, and your home probably burns bright with them. Switching to CFLs or LEDs could save you upwards of $100 per year. Several top-performing LEDs in our lightbulb Ratings sell for under $20, and prices keep falling.

Take charge of the thermostat. Hopefully you already have a programmable thermostat. If so, it’s time to reset it for the warmer months ahead. Every degree you adjust the temperature during sleeping and working hours translates into 2 percent savings. That means you’ll pocket another $200 while doing your part to turn climate change around.

Don’t drive like a maniac. Dropping your driving speed from 65 to 55 mph could improve your fuel economy by 5 mpg. That will save you well over $100 this year, assuming you drive the typical 9,600 highway miles annually. (Check our guide to alternative fuel vehicles if you're considering an electric or hybrid car.)

—Daniel DiClerico (@dandiclerico

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