Our use of energy—particularly in the form of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas—has a profound impact on the environment.
The burning of these fossil fuels, paired with the effects of the clearing of tropical forests and some agricultural practices, releases tremendous amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. And scientists know that greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, leading to growing levels of climate change, with warmer temperatures, increasing severe weather events, and sea level rise around the world. Beyond the impacts of greenhouse gases on our climate, carbon dioxide also dissolves in seawater, contributing to the ocean acidification currently wreaking havoc on marine life like corals and shellfish.
Our homes, schools, workplaces, and transportation systems represent enormous opportunities to reduce climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions by using energy more efficiently and shifting to safe, renewable energy sources.
There are many ways to reduce electricity use in our homes and apartments, especially in lighting, refrigeration, and air conditioning. Renters and homeowners can also choose clean, renewable electricity sources by selecting solar or wind power from local utility providers.
We can all try to drive and fly less and use public transportation more often. The next time you consider buying a car, look for a highly-efficient vehicle. Many cars today get more than 40 miles-per-gallon or are purely electric.
Heating and cooling living spaces—and heating water—takes a lot of energy. Weather-stripping and insulating offer inexpensive energy savings. Update older heating and cooling systems with more efficient models, set water heaters to about 120°F (49°C), and wash laundry in cold water.