Think Green

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How to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at home

Greenhouse gases are gases in the atmosphere that absorb and emit radiation. Water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone are the primary greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere, and according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, these gases are significant contributors to climate change.

While climate change poses a considerable threat, it's important to note that much of the increase in greenhouse gases over the last 150 years can be traced to human activities. By changing certain behaviors and practices, men and women can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The following are a few simple changes men and women can make in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their homes.

• Buy ENERGY STAR® products. A 2012 report from the United States Energy Information Administration noted that electricity production generates the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions. The ENERGY STAR® label indicates products have been tested and approved as energy-efficient, meaning they consume less electricity than other similar products. The ENERGY STAR® label can be found on a host of home appliances, including lighting, heating and cooling equipment and electronics. Homeowners who want to pitch in to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also lowering their utility bills should only consider those products that have earned the ENERGY STAR® label.

• Revisit your cooling and heating habits. Home cooling and heating systems consume a considerable amount of energy, and inefficient use of these systems is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. But cutting back on these emissions does not mean you have to sweat out sultry summer afternoons or hide under the covers upon the arrival of winter. Replacing air filters according to manufacturer guidelines and using programmable thermostats so you aren't heating and cooling your house when no one is home are some easy ways to dramatically reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that emanate from your heating and cooling systems. Such efficient use of these systems also saves you money on your monthly energy bills.

• Recycle. Recycling can greatly reduce your home's greenhouse gas emissions. Many communities now mandate that residents recycle plastics, glass containers and paper goods like newspapers and magazines. Recycling can be so simple that it's easy to forget just how beneficial it can be. When products are recycled, that reduces the need to extract resources, manufacture replacement goods and dispose of products, each of which contributes to pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. If you and members of your household have yet to embrace recycling, you're not only increasing greenhouse gas emissions, but also you may even be breaking the law. If your community sponsors a recycling program, simply separate recyclable items from the rest of your trash and leave them out on the curb on designated pickup days. If no such program exists in your community, separate items to recycle and periodically bring them to your local recycling center, which may even pay you for certain items.

• Compost food waste. Instead of discarding leftovers in the garbage can, compost that wasted food so it does not end up in landfills, where it will contribute to methane gas in the air. Composting food waste can improve the soil in your yard and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and it also makes you feel better that you're making use of wasted food that would otherwise go straight into the garbage can.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions may seem like a massive undertaking, but concerned men and women can employ several simple strategies to do their part to protect the environment.