energy efficiency

If you’re reading this, you’re probably someone who is concerned about the climate crisis. And you might have wondered, “But what can I do about it?” (or “What should I be urging government and business leaders to do about it?”) If so, you’re not alone. These are excellent and frequently asked questions. And answers are out there—but some are more informed, concrete, and constructive than others.

Often, these questions are asked by people who either: A) have been too busy dealing with other responsibilities or activities in their lives to spend much time learning about climate issues, and who genuinely don’t know what the primary causes and solutions to climate change are, or B) are highly informed about climate issues and are overwhelmed by the wide range of contributing factors and potential solutions, to the point of decision paralysis. Regardless of whether the questions stem from a lack of relevant knowledge or an abundance of knowledge and overwhelm, almost everyone wants to know which climate actions would be the best, most effective uses of their limited time and money.

A small percentage of people who ask “What can I do?” are only asking in a rhetorical way, and they don’t really want answers or plan to do anything. Some folks are so attached to the status quo that they would rather say that “nothing can be done” than consider changing any norms or habits. But we know the situation is not hopeless and we are not helpless. We all have agency to make a difference, and most of us realize that widespread inaction will consign us and future generations of all species to a wretched future.

Fortunately, most people really do care and want to do something (or want our leaders to do more). A study found that most of us wildly underestimate other people’s level of climate concern and their support for climate action. But the vast majority of people in the world—more than 76% of Americans, and more than 86% of people worldwide—are concerned about the climate, approve of pro-climate social norms, and want more political action on climate. (See: 2024 study published in Nature Climate Change, and an article about it in Carbon Brief).

That said, concern, good intentions, pledges, and commitments are not enough. These must be converted into actual action. And we can’t leave it to others (or rely solely on our leaders) to do this for us. There’s no more time for delay. We need all hands on deck now—which brings us back to the “What can I do?” question. I think that the moment after this important question gets posed is the critical juncture where climate progress too often gets stuck. Too many people are not seeing/hearing (or finding) answers that are specific or substantive enough, in the media or online or from peers. Many people don’t have the time, energy, or knowledge base to do this type of deep research or to figure out how to interpret or implement vague or wonky recommendations. That’s why my aim is to provide some clear guidance and direction—nuts-and-bolts information that can help people move forward and turn climate concerns into concrete actions. Thus, I’ve provided a Climate Action Starter Pack (below).

There are so many ways we can make a difference, on our own or as part of a collective effort. Each of us can take actions within our various roles: 1) as citizens, who have the power and responsibility to engage with and speak up to our representatives, governments, and other institutions, 2) as members of our assorted social circles, networks, and communities, including our workplace; and 3) as individuals, family members, and consumers. As I see it, those roles translate into these general categories:

  1. Systemic/Civic Actions
  2. Social/Community Actions
  3. Personal/Household Actions

Arguably, the changes we push for and achieve in those first two areas—influencing and working with others, and demanding policy changes and actions from government, businesses, institutions, and other entities—will have the biggest impacts and are therefore the most necessary. Clearly, one household’s lifestyle changes won’t be enough to change the world or stabilize the climate. However, there is an interplay among all three of these areas, and we should not discount the powerful ripple effects that our personal actions and choices can generate. They can set a needed example for and inspire our peers (people are much more likely to do something if they know someone who has already done it) and they send beneficial demand signals to “the market.” And admittedly, it can be easier and more immediately gratifying to make personal/household changes that are well within our control than to try to shift policies and systems, which requires a sustained, collective effort. Ideally, we can each find a good balance of actions within all of these realms, from macro to micro.

Climate actions and choices can include things To Do and things Not To Do. They can be high-tech or low-tech/no-tech (which is often preferable). And they can be no-cost, low-cost, money-saving, or higher-cost (and high payoff) investments. Many people assume that all climate-smart choices are going to be expensive or complicated or require huge sacrifices. But many of them are none of those things. Some climate actions might require a little thought, effort, or time, but many will save you (and society) money and improve quality of life.

There are literally thousands of things any of us could be doing to mitigate climate change, but it’s not possible for any of us to do all of those things, let alone all at once. All we can do is start somewhere, where we are, and do whatever each of us can do, and then do more when we can. We don’t all need to do the same things, but we do all need to do something, and it makes sense to try to do some of the things that will make the biggest difference.

Climate Action Starter Pack

This guide includes some of the most important climate actions you can take, some of which are also easy and money-saving. This is not an exhaustive list of actions. It’s a set of recommended actions—a menu of options that can help you build your own Climate Action Plan. Many are basic, beginner level actions and some are intermediate (i.e., they might require more time or money).

You may already be doing a number of things that help slow climate change. You might find it motivating to make a list of the things you have done or are doing and check off the suggestions below that you already engage in, and then identify some ways you want to build on those steps.

No one would expect anyone to take every action in this post. I recommend picking 2-3 actions to focus on at first, to make it manageable. Then once you make progress on those, add a couple more. You could set reminders and deadlines for yourself and regularly update your plan. Aim to add more actions each month, quarter, or year. It could be helpful to do this with others in your household or with a group of friends (or neighbors), for support and accountability.

Every climate advisor’s list of top actions will look a little different. I have developed these suggestions using a combination of sources, including Project Drawdown’s scientific analysis of top climate solutions, plus the Emergency Brake measures they identified (which are ways to make the deep emissions cuts that are needed immediately), as well as a Swedish study on the most effective individual actions for climate mitigation. And I’ve added my own commentary throughout on other important actions and “low-hanging fruit” (i.e., easy/quick, or free/low-cost choices), and some practical tips (and links) on how to implement the solutions.

I have presented these suggestions within the three main categories I mentioned above, in the following order: Personal/Household first, and then Social/Community, and Systemic/Civic actions. But please feel free to switch up the order and start with the broader systemic or community-level actions first! Or better yet, pick at least one solution within each of these categories when creating your own Climate Action Plan:

I. Personal/Household Actions (and Choices)

To take actions that make the biggest difference (in terms of climate impact), you could prioritize your actions based on Project Drawdown’s science-based solutions. Two of the most effective, high-impact solutions that they identified through their methodology are related to food: Reduced Food Waste and Plant-Rich DietsThese are some personal actions you can take in those two areas:

  1. Reduce food waste, refer to the numbered list in our recent Food Waste post.
  2. Shift to a more plant-based diet, i.e., eating less (or no) meat and dairy (a shift which also happens to be good for our health—as well as for the welfare of animals, and for land and water conservation): It’s easy to find delicious recipes online for meatless/vegetarian and dairy-free, vegan dishes, as well as vegetarian and vegan restaurants (those are search categories on Yelp), and plenty of information on protein-rich, plant-based or “plant-forward” diets. I’ve shifted to a mostly vegetarian and increasingly vegan diet. It’s gotten easier to do over time and I don’t feel like I’m depriving myself; I almost never crave meat anymore.

Click here for other top solutions identified by Project Drawdown. One of the other top solutions is Family Planning and Education (which I will cover in a later post).

Drawdown has also identified some “Emergency Brake” measures: “the fastest, largest, lowest-cost climate solutions we can deploy—right now” to make the deep emissions cuts that are needed immediately. I’ve listed below some specific personal actions you can take to effect change within each of the Emergency Brake areas. Some of these actions are easier and cheaper than others; you might put a couple of these in Phase II of your Action Plan, and many are best addressed through Systemic/Civic actions (which appear later in this post):

  1. Reduce deforestation: Only buy paper products (e.g., toilet paper, printing paper) that are FSC-certified or 100% recycled content, and reduce your use of disposable paper towels and napkins by using sponges/rags and washable cloth napkins. Only buy wood products (e.g., lumber, furniture, etc.) that are FSC-certified or reclaimed or used. Also, avoid products that contain palm oil (or non-organic soy, which is often grown in the Amazon region), when possible; palm oil and soy plantations—along with cattle grazing—are some of the primary drivers of global deforestation.
  2. Reduce potent, short-lived greenhouse pollutants such as nitrous oxide, “black carbon”/soot, and methane: Don’t use synthetic/chemical fertilizers and pesticides (which produce high levels of nitrous oxide), and do buy (or grow) organically grown food. Replace gas-powered lawn equipment (mowers and leaf blowers) with battery/electric equipment (or even better, reduce or eliminate your need to mow by replacing your grass lawn with native groundcovers or a garden, and “leave the leaves” or use them as mulch on your plants); and avoid using vehicles fueled by diesel and avoid burning wood (and coal) as much as possible (because these contribute to “black carbon” emissions). And if/when you can, switch from “natural gas” (methane) to electric equipment and appliances (e.g., stoves, furnaces).
  3. Increase energy and fuel efficiency: Switch to highly energy-efficient equipment and appliances (e.g., Energy Star certified), which sometimes qualify for utility rebates or tax credits/deductions, weatherize/insulate your home, and adopt energy-saving habits (note: conserving water also helps save energy). To avoid excessive energy consumption, also avoid buying cryptocurrency/bitcoin or using unnecessary AI tools. Choose fuel-efficient vehicles (non-oversized vehicles that ideally are electric or hybrid; or electric bicycles and scooters/motorcycles)—or better yet, drive less overall, e.g., telecommute or reduce your commute distance, ride a bike, walk, take mass transit, or carpool.
  4. Reduce all types of waste: Reduce your purchases of new materials/products, and reduce material and packaging waste (as well as food waste—see above). Always reduce first (i.e., don’t buy what you don’t need), then reuse/repair what you have and buy used or salvaged items or borrow/rent items when you can. (Note: There are local Buy Nothing groups all over, where people give their used items away for free, and some places have “tool libraries” or other venues where sharable items can be loaned or rented out). Lastly, recycle what you can. But be aware that many things are not readily recyclable, most plastics never actually get recycled and are shipped overseas, and recycling requires energy, plus melting down some materials—like plastics—can produce toxic emissions. It’s particularly important to avoid buying new plastic items (especially single-use, disposable items and all PVC items) and products with plastic packaging, as much as you can; I know this one isn’t easy, since plastic is everywhere. Plastics are made from toxic petrochemicals (fossil fuels) and they are a massive threat to environmental and public health, as well as the climate.

I want to expand on #4. I think it’s accurate to say that Buying Less Stuff is one of the most important things that all of us can do. In America, in particular, we are constantly pushed to buy, buy, buy—by companies and their advertisers, and also by our peers (or just from feeling like our status depends on “keeping up with the Joneses”). People in the U.S. consume much more, on average, than people in any other country. The ultra-wealthy consume the most by far, but most of us middle-class Americans also buy way more than we need. Our materialism and gross over-consumption greatly affect our climate and cause the degradation of all aspects of our environment. A study published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology found that, globally, the stuff we consume (buy) is responsible for up to 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions and between 50 and 80% of total land, material, and water use. Everything that’s made has its own carbon footprint (“embodied energy”) and environmental impacts—throughout each stage of its lifecycle, from raw materials extraction through manufacturing and use and finally disposal, via landfill or incineration (neither of which makes anything go “away”—it just ends up in our air or soil and water).

Using a different methodology than Project Drawdown, an earlier study from Sweden— which specifically focused on identifying the most effective individual actions for climate mitigationfound that the choices that will most affect your own contributions to climate change are:

  • how many kids you have (particularly if you live in a high-income, high-consumption, high-waste country like the U.S.)—This decision has a much bigger climate impact than any other we can make as individuals.
  • how much (how often and how far) you drive and fly;
  • how much energy you use in your home and how much of the energy you/your utility company use is from clean, renewable sources vs. dirty sources [Note: If your utility does not use much renewable energy yet, they might offer a program you can sign up and pay for that helps support the development of renewable energy projects in your region, an option that would be considerably less expensive than adding solar panels to your own home, though that’s also a great solution and investment if you have the means, as is getting a highly efficient heating/cooling system, e.g., a “heat pump”];
  • how fuel-efficient your vehicle (or the vehicle you are driven in) is; and
  • how much meat you eat.

Many of those synchronize nicely with Project Drawdown’s top 5-10 solutions, even though Drawdown’s are not solely focused on personal, individual-level actions. For more details on the Swedish study’s findings, click here (and scroll down to Part II of that post).

The final suggestion I would add to this list of Personal Actions is to think about which particular sectors or types of climate solutions you are most interested in or passionate about. Project Drawdown breaks the sectors down into: Electricity; Food, Agriculture, and Land Use; Industry; Transportation; Buildings; Land (Carbon) Sinks; Coastal and Ocean (Carbon) Sinks; Engineered Carbon Sinks; and Health and Education. You also might want to think about the skills, strengths, and resources you have that you can apply to the climate effort. Check out Ayana Elizabeth Johnson’s Climate Action Venn Diagram (and her TED talk) to jump-start your brainstorming. And OneGreenThing offers a free, quick “Service Superpower Assessment” quiz that could help you identify the “service type that best suits your personality.” Tools like these could help you pinpoint specific actions or approaches that are a good match for you and your unique set of interests and attributes.

Also check out the Climate Action Resources section towards the end of this post for links to tools and resources that provide additional guidance on taking climate actions.

II. Social/Community Actions

These are some ways to engage socially and as a member of your various social circles, networks, and communities (online and off), to help contribute towards cultural shifts:

  1. One of the best ways to get started is to plug into one or more of the many climate groups or initiatives that already exist. (This suggestion also has relevance to the Personal and Systemic categories of actions.) Find a couple of climate organizations that have a tone or strategy that resonates with you or that seem like a good match for your particular interests. Follow a few groups, and then join or support at least one group (it could be national, international, or local). Also start following/reading some good climate information/news outlets: see the Climate Resources list at the end of our previous post, and go to the last section of this post for links to some Climate Action Groups, Apps, Newsletters, and Books.
  2. Next, start sharing climate information from the organizations and media you follow with your friends and social networks, online or off. Or you could start by sharing some of the information provided in this post. Also talk about and share your own climate concerns and feelings with your friends and family; in addition to alleviating some of the weight of those feelings, expressing them will help let others know they aren’t alone (since most of us underestimate other people’s level of concern). Also share some of the actions you are taking and offer encouragement and support for others to take their own actions.
  3. Look into whether a local climate (or environmental) group has been established at your workplace, school, church/place of worship, and/or in your neighborhood or town. If not, you could consider starting one. (One idea: Form a Book/Action Group.) To identify specific actions to implement with your group, you could refer to the actions suggested in the Personal/Household and Systemic/Civic sections of this post, and discuss ways to apply a few of those within your group or community.
  4. Check out Project Drawdown’s Job Function Action Guides (for various types of employee roles and positions), to find ways to “make your job a climate job.” (Also, IT specialists, therapists, and architects can find job guides in this Climate Action Resource Library.)
  5. Food-based solutions: When hosting a group (or having a party), serve plant-based (vegetarian and vegan) foods. Or host a potluck where everyone brings some plant-based (and/or locally-grown or organic) foods to share. And if you have a lot of food left over at the end, send leftovers home with any of the guests that can use them. If you don’t have many food containers you can give away, you could ask people to bring some of their own.

And last but definitely not least

III. Systemic/Civic Actions

The following are some of the most vital and influential actions you can take—pushing for big societal, institutional, and systems-level shifts:

  1. VOTE for climate champions (and pro-democracy champions) at all levels of government: local, state, and national. Vote out climate deniers and “fossil fools.” Even if you don’t do any of the other things listed in this post, please vote in every election. It’s the least any of us can do. To go a little further, inform your friends about campaigns, candidates, and ballot issues. And regularly encourage people (especially young people and fellow enviros) to register to vote, to check their registration status (and their state’s voter ID requirements), and to vote. Additionally, if you are able to, support or volunteer with a campaign, or a voting/election group that helps with voter registration or Get Out the Vote efforts, or volunteer as a poll worker.
  2. Move your accounts out of the big banks (which include Chase, Citi, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo—for those of us in the U.S.), where your money is used to fund oil and gas projects (among other unsavory projects). Move your money into more socially and environmentally responsible banks (e.g., local credit unions or “fossil-free” banks). And if your employer offers a 401k or pension program (or you have your own stock-based investment accounts), find out whether they include fossil fuel company stocks; switch to, or ask that your employer offers, a fossil-free, socially responsible investment fund.
  3. Participate in actions organized by the climate organizations you follow. Actions could be online (e.g. signing on to petitions and letters to your representatives or others in positions of power) or offline (e.g., calling your representatives, or boycotting certain companies) as well as in-person/direct actions (e.g., sit-ins, marches, protests; or meeting with your representatives). If you’re not seeing good, current petitions or letters to sign onto, directly contact your federal, state, and local representatives and officials to demand that they urgently support, create, and enforce policies that treat climate destabilization as the emergency that it is, through executive and legislative actions that: end fossil fuel subsidies, stop permitting new fossil fuel infrastructure (including “natural gas” and petrochemical/plastics infrastructure), commit to >95% renewable energy goals and the rapid phase-out of fossil fuel use, and develop (and incentivize the development) of public and private renewable energy projects. I like to remind my government reps that the primary purpose of government is to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public for the common good. You can also urge your county to create a Community Choice Energy program, and pressure your electric utility company to rapidly make the transition to clean, renewable energy (solar, wind, no-dam hydro).
  4. Send messages and comments to media/news outlets (national and local), asking them to report more on climate change and climate solutions, and asking reporters to regularly interview climate scientists and experts who can accurately connect the dots between worsening “natural” disasters or extreme weather events and our destabilized, rapidly changing climate. (See Covering Climate Now for more ideas and resources.) You can also submit Letters to the Editor to your newspapers, about the climate crisis and solutions.

To address the two top food-related solutions identified by Project Drawdown, in a systems context:

  1. Reduce food waste: See the first section of our post on How to Reduce Food Waste (paragraphs 4-6) for some actions that focus on the systemic aspects of this problem. Also, if your city/county doesn’t have a local compost collection program, ask them to start one.
  2. Reduce meat consumption: Ask your state or city governments and school district to institute policies requiring the provision of non-meat options in government and school cafeterias and through their food vendors. You could also ask your local restaurants (and your workplace cafeteria program, if relevant) to provide more non-meat options. Cafeterias could do “meatless Mondays” (or even go meatless every other day or always). I would also suggest that they should try to procure organic (and local) foods.

As for Project Drawdown’s Emergency Brake measures: There are many ways to address these systemically, only a few of which I’ll mention here. You might pick one or two of these for your initial Action Plan, and add others to later phases:

  1. Reduce deforestation: Send letters/sign petitions to federal and state government agencies and officials, asking them to stop allowing the clear-cutting of large forest areas, and to ban further logging in the few remaining old-growth and mature forests; ask the state, local, and/or federal government to amend their purchasing policies to specify FSC-certified wood products and 100% recycled-content and/or FSC-certified paper products. Also ask your local lumber and home improvement stores to sell FSC-certified lumber (and other types of wood products), and ask other retailers (e.g., office supply and grocery stores) to offer and promote 100% recycled (or FSC) paper products.
  2. Reduce methane, nitrous oxide, and “black carbon” emissions: Tell your federal and state representatives to require and enforce the plugging of all abandoned wells and methane leaks; to support laws and programs that drastically reduce farmers’ use of nitrous-oxide-producing fertilizers and pesticides (and support/incentivize the transition to organic farming); and to incentivize the phase-out of heavy-duty/commercial diesel trucks in favor of electric or low-emissions trucks. You could also ask your city or state to phase out and eventually ban the sale or use of gas-powered lawn equipment, at least on public properties (something that more and more communities are doing).
  3. Increase energy and fuel efficiency: Ask your representatives (or at your least your workplace) to require that all non-essential lights and equipment be turned off in buildings after hours, and to push for high-efficiency requirements in your state building code, as well as to regulate or rein in cryptocurrency/bitcoin “mining” and unnecessary uses of AI, which are creating enormous energy demands for server/data centers. Also, ask your state and city representatives to replace vehicles in their fleets (including school buses) with electric or fuel-efficient/low-emissions vehicles, and ask your City Council or County officials to add more bike paths/lanes and bike racks throughout your area.
  4. Reduce waste: Tell your federal, state, and local representatives to support zero-waste programs and zero-waste procurement (including packaging and plastics reduction) specifications within their government agencies, with an emphasis on source reduction and a ban on (or phase-out of) single-use, disposable products, particularly plastic products.

There is no definitive, one-size-fits-all list of the climate actions that each of us should take. This Climate Action Starter Pack provides a general primer that includes a bunch of actions that most people can take. I also recommend taking a look at some of the Climate Action Resources in the next section, for other ideas and ways to get or stay engaged.

One’s climate actions and choices become more obvious and automatic as one’s climate and environmental ethic or mindset deepens. Gradually, you find yourself looking at almost everything you do and choose through a climate (and planetary health) lens. This doesn’t need to be seen as a burden; it is simply living within the reality of ecological limits. We already apply all sorts of other filters to our decisions (e.g., cost, aesthetics, convenience). It’s important to include climate and environmental considerations and shift towards prioritizing those over less consequential considerations.

I’m preparing a PDF checklist that summarizes all of the actions that I’ve suggested above. If you would like professional assistance with creating a customized Climate Action Plan for your household, workplace, or company/organization or other group, or if you want more prescriptive, step by step instructions or guidance on exactly how you can implement the strategies in your plan, I am a climate and sustainability advisor and I offer those services.

Climate Action Resources

The following are links to existing climate action groups, articles and guides, newsletters, apps, and books that might help you put your climate action plans into practice.

Climate Action Groups

These essentially function as support/action groups:

To find other types of group-based activities within climate organizations, see our larger list of Climate Organizations and peruse some of those groups’ websites.

Climate Action Articles and Guides

Climate Action Newsletters

Climate Action Apps

Climate Action Books

For lists of other books (plus films and videos) related to climate and other environmental topics, click here.

Again, if you would like professional assistance with creating a customized Climate Action Plan for your household, workplace, company/organization or other group, or if you want more prescriptive, step by step instructions or guidance on exactly how you can implement the strategies in your plan, I am a climate and sustainability advisor and I offer those services.

 

Related posts:

Share

April 8, 2024
[Click here to comment]

I much prefer focusing on preventive health than on emergency triage. I’d rather be writing about how to prevent climate destabilization and global heating from getting worse (and I’ve been doing that for years and will continue to do that), but tragically, we have entered the age of climate consequences, and adaptation has become necessary. The climate outcomes that scientists have been warning us about for decades are here, now, everywhere, and getting worse every year. Climate instability is already causing widespread suffering, misery, displacement and migration, medical emergencies, and death. If people continue to accept and allow the burning of fossil fuels (and the degradation of our natural environment) going forward, we will get to where we are headed: we will turn our once quite habitable and hospitable Earth into an uninhabitable planet more like Mars. We are creating Hell on Earth.

Globally, this has been the hottest summer on record (which has included the hottest day, hottest week, and hottest month ever recorded)—and it’s not just because of El Niño. The last decade (which included years with a heat-tempering La Niña) has also been the hottest decade ever recorded. Unlike the “heat waves” of the past, we are now experiencing more frequent “heat domes” with unprecedented, sweltering, record-shattering daytime and night-time temperatures, across large swaths of the planet, lingering for longer periods of time. The air, land, oceans and most other water bodies are now hotter than ever, with devastating and cascading consequences for all living things.

When we’re extremely hot, it can be hard to move, hard to work, hard to think, hard to function, hard to cope, and sometimes even hard to stay alive. Heat typically kills more people than any other type of extreme weather event in the U.S.  The number of heat-related deaths is often greatly underestimated, as heat is not usually listed as the “cause of death,” even when heat is what precipitated the organ failure or heart attack or other final outcome. This study estimated that there are approximately 12,000 premature deaths from heat exposure in the U.S. each year, and it projected that that number will rise to 50,000-110,000 premature deaths per year due to increased warming. Another study found that heat killed approximately 61,000 people in Europe during the summer of 2022. Correspondingly, emergency room visits skyrocket during heat waves.

Our bodies (and the bodies of other living organisms) can only survive temperatures within a certain range. High humidity can make it even harder to withstand high temperatures (which is why weather reports typically include a “heat index” or might even talk about the “wet-bulb” temperature.) Air pollution also tends to worsen during periods of excessive heat, which makes heat waves even more deadly. Studies show that the risk of a fatal heart attack may double during heat wave days and fine particulate pollution days.

Prolonged exposure to excessive heat can cause heat cramps, heat rash, dehydration (note: severe dehydration requires immediate medical attention), heat exhaustion, and heat stroke (which also requires immediate medical attention and can be fatal). See the graphic above for tips on how to tell the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and what to do if someone is showing symptoms of these.

Those who are particularly vulnerable to the dangers of extreme heat include: homeless/unhoused people (and their pets), older people, people who work outdoors (e.g., farmworkers, landscapers, construction and road workers, etc.), people who work and/or live in non-air-conditioned spaces, people who live or work in urban areas or “heat island” zones (areas that have a lot of dark and unshaded surfaces, such as asphalt pavement and roofs, and relatively few trees or green spaces), infants and young children, people with pre-existing health conditions or disabilities, pregnant women, incarcerated people, first responders, and athletes, as well as livestock, pets, and wildlife.

Basic tips for survival, health, and greater comfort in high heat:

  • Always stay well-hydrated (i.e., drink plenty of water throughout the day). Keep a water bottle with you wherever you go (but don’t leave plastic bottles in hot cars or sitting in the sun, where the heat will soften the plastic, which will then leach into your water). Also eat foods that are hydrating (e.g. fresh fruits, such as watermelon and cucumber). Avoid drinking alcohol or caffeinated or super-sugary drinks.
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothing.
  • Avoid going out into the heat (or exercising, watering your garden, or driving) during the hottest parts of the day (afternoon through early evening). Cancel or reschedule activities as needed. Early morning is the coolest time of day.
  • If you’ve been sweating a lot, drink even more, eat something salty, and make sure you’re getting plenty of electrolytes (potassium, sodium, calcium) and other minerals and nutrients.
  • If you’re feeling too hot, wipe a cold, wet washcloth on your face and body and/or run cold water over your feet and hands or head; or put some water in a spray bottle and spritz yourself as needed; or when you can, take a cool shower or bath. Or you can sit in front of a fan with a cool, damp towel on you or between you and the fan. If someone is over-heating (e.g., showing signs of heat exhaustion), put cold water (or ice/ice water) on the neck, armpits, inner thighs, and other places where heat gets trapped and a lot of blood vessels are just beneath skin, to help cool down the person faster.
  • No one should be left sitting in a non-air-conditioned, stationary car when it’s hot out (especially infants, children, elderly people, and pets). Rolling the windows down does not keep cars cool enough when the sun is beating on them.
  • If you’re outdoors: Stay in the shade as much as possible, and drink extra water. Take regular breaks from any physical exertion, or avoid it if possible. If you have a hand free, use a parasol (or an umbrella) to shade yourself from the sun.
  • If you’re indoors and you don’t have air conditioning (or you’re trying to minimize your use of the A/C to conserve energy or money, or to keep the grid from collapsing): Use fans (or evaporative “swamp” coolers in really dry climates). Cover your windows by closing the shades, blinds, curtains, or shutters. If you don’t have opaque or thermal window coverings, you could temporarily put up big sheets of cardboard or rigid foam or hang thick blankets or tarps inside or outside your south- and west-facing windows (and/or your windows that get the most direct sunlight) to keep the heat/sun out. Avoid running the oven, stove, dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer on the hottest days, and especially during the hottest hours of the day. Turn off any lights that aren’t needed (especially any lamps that are still using old incandescent bulbs or halogen bulbs, as they emit a surprising amount of heat). Unplug appliances or electronics that you aren’t using. If it gets cool at night—or any time it’s cooler outdoors than in—open your windows to get a cross-breeze; you can also use one fan as an exhaust fan to help push the warmer indoor air outside. It can be too hot to share a bed with someone else; if there’s nowhere else to sleep, you might find that sleeping on a floor is the coolest place to be. If you have a basement, that is probably the coolest area in your house.
  • Make sure you have a lot of ice (and/or ice packs) in your freezer and/or coolers, especially in case there is a power outage and you need to use the ice to keep yourself cool until you can get to an air-conditioned space.
  • If your house is too hot and you’re able to drive somewhere close, spend some of the afternoon hours in air-conditioned spaces, such as a library, mall/store/cafe, movie theater, or community center.
  • Click here for additional ”Tips from readers on keeping cool without A/C” (NPR).
  • Conventional air conditioners (especially old window units) use a lot of energy (and are therefore expensive to operate). And every time we use air conditioners to cool interior spaces, we’re heating the planet up even more. Much better air conditioning technologies now exist, and even better ones may be available soon. One option to consider is having a “heat pump” installed (also known as a ductless mini-split system). These are much more efficient than traditional air conditioners, and there are tax incentives and rebates that you might be eligible for. Or in very dry climates, many people use evaporative “swamp” coolers rather than air conditioners. Whole-house attic fans can also help reduce the need for air conditioning. (Note: If you are replacing/getting rid of an old air conditioner, make sure that your HVAC company properly recovers and disposes of its refrigerants. A/C refrigerant emissions are a major contributor to global warming!)
  • Scroll down to the section below on “Design strategies and investments,” for additional suggestions for keeping your home cool.
  • Check on your neighbors and friends, especially elderly or disabled people and people who don’t have air-conditioning (or who are experiencing a power outage). Make sure they are not showing signs of dehydration, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke (see graphic above). If you have air conditioning and a little extra space, invite others who don’t have A/C to come over to your house. Or let others borrow or keep any extra fans you may have.
  • Share information about local cooling centers that are open in your community or county. Print and post/distribute that information at homeless shelters and service centers, senior centers, soup kitchens, food banks, and libraries (and through social media and community websites, e.g., NextDoor). Find out if there are local Mutual Aid groups or others who are helping distribute water or assisting people in need. If your town does not provide a cooling center (or a mobile cooling bus), contact your Mayor or city council or local emergency services department to request one, or help find a location that could serve as one (e.g., community center, church, etc.).
  • You could leave some bottles/gallons of water in front of your house, in a fully shaded area, with a sign letting people know they can take one if they need it. And you could donate non-disposable (and disposable) water bottles (or clean gallon jugs with caps) to a local homeless shelter or organization.
  • On days/nights with particularly extreme heat, if you are able, you could offer to pay for (or you could crowd-fund) an air-conditioned motel room for a homeless person or family or for people who don’t have air conditioning. Or make a donation to a homeless/low-income services group that is assisting people in your area or in a region that is even hotter.

Animals

  • Pets: Do not make pets stay outside (or in a dog house) if it’s cooler in your house. When they must be outside, make sure they can remain in full shade and have plenty of water (you could even fill a small kiddie pool for them to sit in or drink from). Do not walk dogs on artificial grass or on hot pavement (especially black asphalt, but on any pavement when it’s hot out); it will burn their paws. Do not leave pets unattended in your car without air conditioning running. Click here for information on hot weather safety (and signs of heat stroke) for pets. If you see someone else’s pet in distress or in danger, call 911 or your local Humane Society or ASPCA.
  • Livestock and horses: Give them plenty of water every day (making sure they never run out) and access to shaded and well-ventilated areas (with a good cross-breeze and if indoors, also fans, if possible). If they have no shade trees (or not enough to shade all of them throughout the afternoon) or a large-en0ugh shade shelter outside, put up some type of shade canopies (e.g. canvas carports) for them. Hose them off with cool water when you can, or provide ice blocks for them to lick, or sprinklers, wading pools, or water misters when possible.
  • Wildlife: Put a bowl of clean water out daily for wildlife in your area (ideally in both your front and back yards); thoroughly wash the bowl out every day, if possible. I like to use a light-colored ceramic (or white plastic) bowl that won’t absorb much extra heat. (Note: Absurdly, many outdoor hoses have lead in them. Buy/use a lead-free hose, or get drinking water directly from a faucet.) Don’t set out deep buckets of water that tiny animals could fall into and not be able to climb out of. You can also leave fruit and vegetable scraps and other healthy food out for wildlife. And if there is no shade in your yard, you could put up a shade canopy/sail or make a temporary shade shelter (e.g., with old sheets or large cardboard boxes). Shade as much of your paved areas as you can to reduce the heat absorption on your property. If you see an animal in distress or in danger, contact your local wildlife rescue group.

Plants & Trees

  • Water plants at their base (near the roots) early in the morning. (On especially hot days, they might also need some water in the evening, but don’t soak plants too much before night-time.) Young trees (and new plants, planted within the last couple of years) especially will need more watering during heat waves. Older, established trees may need some water every few days during heat waves.
  • Move potted (portable) plants to shadier areas or cooler areas (e.g. a shaded potting shed).
  • On especially hot/sunny days, you could put shade cloth over the most vulnerable plants, or shade them with an umbrella.
  • Put a few inches of mulch (e.g., grass clippings, fallen leaves, wood mulch) around the base of plants (and place mulch several inches away from the base of trees). Do not buy peat.
  • Do not prune (or fertilize) plants on hot days.
  • Crops can benefit from having solar panels placed between rows for shading.
  • Organically grown crops and plants (and native plants) have been shown to have greater resilience to heat than chemically-grown (and non-native) crops and plants.
  • Some plants will simply not be able to survive the increase in temperatures, and we’ll need to replace some plants with more drought- and heat-adapted plants over time.
  • You can find lots of additional tips regarding how to protect plants and trees during heat by doing an online search.

———————————————–

Design strategies and investments:

The tips above mostly cover immediate or short-term steps you can take to protect yourself and other living things from heat. Here are some design strategies and investments to consider, which require a little more planning or preparation time:

  • Put thermal window coverings on your windows (e.g., thermal honeycomb blinds or shades), particularly on large windows and west- and south-facing windows.
  • Add shade trees, awnings, or overhangs to your property (particularly outside of west- and south-facing windows and over dark, paved surfaces).
  • Make sure your home has enough insulation (especially in the attic and walls). This will also help you during cold periods.
  • When it’s time to replace your roof, choose light-colored roofing (and/or solar roofing tiles, or solar panels to shade the roof).
  • When it’s time to repave your driveway (or pathways), choose a light-colored paving material or pavers (rather than black asphalt paving), or better yet, replace some paved areas with light-colored pervious materials or vegetation. (Also ask your city to use light-colored paving materials.)
  • When choosing a car, in addition to choosing an electric or hybrid vehicle, choose one that’s a light color (e.g., white, silver) so it will not absorb as much heat.
  • Do NOT use artificial turf (fake grass). It becomes incredibly hot, even hotter than black asphalt, in the sun, and it can cause burns. Replace astroturf with native or adapted drought-tolerant plants, groundcovers, or a clover lawn. Replace astroturf sports fields with real (but drought-tolerant) grass.
  • Solar photovoltaic panels can provide shade over roofs, pavement, and between rows of crops.
  • Consider getting an electric battery backup system for your home; ideally, this would be tied into a solar photovoltaic system to keep your power (and cooling) on during extended power outages. You can also get an electric/solar generator to use during power outages (or off grid).
  • When designing any new home (or building), designers should consider incorporating passive cooling techniques. One ancient, passive cooling technique is the “wind catcher” design. And some building materials, such as rammed earth, have thermal properties that help keep homes cool in summer and warm in winter.
  • There are SO MANY things we can all do (and our society, government, and industry must do) to try to stop global heating from getting worse. Please check out and commit yourself to some of our climate solutions in our other posts.

————————-

Sign this petition:

Urge OSHA to implement immediate heat standards
(Note: These standards also must be enforced everywhere.)

Articles:

Useful resources on heat health/safety:

Related posts:

Share

July 27, 2023
[Click here to comment]

Cities, towns, counties, states, regions, and countries all over the world are making large strides towards shifting to renewable energy sources (e.g., solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower, biomass, and wave/tidal energy). In early 2018 we published our original post on this topic. This new post provides an update on where things stand three years later, in early 2021:

Within the U.S., the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 program reports that (to date, as of early 2021), more than 170 cities, more than 10 counties, 8 states, and 2 territories have adopted the ambitious goal of 100% clean energy (for at least electricity). Note: This is quite a bit more than just three years ago, when the stats were 50 cities, 7 counties, and only 1 state (Hawaii).  As of this year (so far), the 8 states and 2 territories that have committed to this goal are: California, Hawaii, Maine, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Virginia, Washington, as well as Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico!  The counties that have made this commitment are located in California, Colorado, Idaho, North Carolina, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington state.

Whereas three years ago, only five towns in the U.S. had achieved this impressive goal (generating 100% of their electricity from non-polluting, renewable sources), now five counties (unincorporated county areas) in California, as well as 47 cities and towns across the U.S. have achieved this goal. Most of those cities and towns are in California. The non-California towns are: Aspen, CO; Greensburg, KS; Rock Port, MO; Kodiak Island, AK; and Georgetown, TX. You can use the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 map to see if your city/town/county or other municipalities in your state have committed to or achieved these renewable energy goals.

Worldwide, many other cities and countries are also approaching and even reaching 100% renewable electricity goals. The Global 100 RE Strategy Group says that “To date, 11 countries have reached or exceeded 100% renewable electricity; 12 countries have passed laws to reach 100% renewable electricity by 2030; 49 countries have passed laws to reach 100% renewable electricity by 2050; 14 U.S. states and territories have passed laws or executive orders to reach up to 100% renewable electricity by between 2030 and 2050 [Note: That is more than the 10 identified by the Sierra Club above]; over 300 cities worldwide have passed laws to reach 100% renewable electricity by no later than 2050; and over 280 international businesses have committed to 100% renewables across their global operations.”

Countries that are powered or almost entirely powered on renewable energy (>90%) include: Costa Rica, Iceland, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Norway. Other countries with very high percentages of renewables include Portugal, Germany, Scotland, New Zealand, and Austria. Islands that now have >90% renewable electricity include: Eigg and Orkney (Scotland), Tasmania (Australia), Tokelau (New Zealand), Tau (American Samoa), and Samso (Denmark).

Note: Some of these countries, cities, and islands use primarily hydropower; large dams are controversial, as they are environmentally destructive to ecosystems and habitats. Some biomass (and landfill gas) sources can also be controversial. It definitely does not make any sense or pencil out (climate-wise/carbon-wise or otherwise) to cut down trees en masse (let alone ship their wood or wood pellets across the world) in order to make energy.

Some programs that help cities, regions, countries, and other entities move towards 100% include:

Also see these other resources on 100% renewable energy efforts:

We should all ask the leaders of our cities, towns, counties, states, and countries (mayors, city council members, county supervisors, governors, state legislators, congressional representatives, Senators, and President) to commit to a 100% (or at least 90%) renewable energy goal (as well as carbon-neutral and net-negative emission goals), and to enact forward-thinking policies right away to move rapidly towards those goals. You can share these program links with them, so they will be aware of networks they can join and resources they can use in setting their policies and meeting their renewable energy goals.

One way to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy sources at a local level is to create a county-wide, city-wide or regional Community Choice Energy (AKA Community Choice Aggregation, CCA) program. Per The Climate Center, “Community Choice agencies are local, not-for-profit, public agencies that provide electricity services to residents and businesses. Community Choice introduces competitions and consumer choices into the electricity sector with a focus on local, renewable energy to stimulate rapid innovations in clean energy systems.” According to Local Power, Community Choice energy programs now serve more than 30 million Americans, in more than 1,500 municipalities across the country. As of early 2021, there are 23 Community Choice energy programs established in California alone, serving more than 11 million people, providing more than 3,800 megawatts of new renewable energy capacity, and avoiding 940,000+ metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year! In addition to California, eight other states have also authorized Community Choice programs (so far): Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Virginia.

The Climate Center is also running the Climate-Safe California campaign, to try to push the state to set and achieve the goal of net-negative emissions by 2030 in California. You can read and endorse the platform via that link.

Energy efficiency is also critical. It is as important as shifting to renewable energy sources, because the less energy we need/use/waste (i.e. the lower the demand), the less we have to produce (supply) from any source. Simply adding renewable energy sources to the existing non-renewable sources will not help reduce pollution or slow climate change; renewable sources need to start to replace the existing fossil-fuel-based (oil, coal, and gas) sources. (All types of energy production, even non-polluting renewables, require material inputs and have some impacts.) The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) published a 2020 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, which concluded that “For the first time in four years, California took first place nationwide, edging out Massachusetts, the leader in the Northeast…. Rounding out this year’s top 10, are…Vermont (#3), Rhode Island (#4), New York (#5), Maryland (#6), Connecticut (#7), Washington, DC (#8), and Minnesota and Oregon (tied for #9). …Other regional leaders include Colorado in the Southwest, and Virginia in the South.”

 

This was our previous post on this topic:
Cities and Towns Achieving (or Approaching) 100 Percent Renewable Energy (2018)

Other related posts:

Share

February 23, 2021
[Click here to comment]

logoNEW: 2021 update: Municipalities, States, and Countries that are Achieving, Approaching, or Committed to 100% Renewable Energy

Cities, towns, counties, states, regions, and countries all over the world are making large strides towards shifting to renewable energy sources (e.g., solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower, biomass, and wave/tidal energy).

Within the U.S., the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 program reports that (to date, as of early 2018), more than 50 cities, 7 counties, and the State of Hawaii have adopted the ambitious goal of 100% clean energy. The first five cities to hit their targets, generating 100% of their electricity from non-polluting, renewable sources, are:

In addition, Georgetown, TX is expected to hit its 100% renewable goal this year (2018). And the city of Palo Alto, CA currently provides 100% carbon-neutral electricity and carbon-neutral natural gas, by supplementing their use of renewables with carbon offsets (renewable energy certificates, which help fund renewable projects in other areas). Meanwhile, the other 50+ cities that have committed to achieving 100% renewable energy include several large cities, such as Atlanta, GA, San Diego and San Francisco, CA, and St. Louis, MO.

Worldwidemore than 40 cities now get all of their electricity from renewables, and more than 100 cities (including Seattle, WA, and Eugene, OR in the U.S.) now get more than 70% of their electricity from renewables; that is more than double the number of cities that met that threshold in 2015. Here’s a full list of the cities studied by the CDP (Climate Data Project). (Note: Some of these cities, especially in Latin America, use primarily hydropower; large dams are controversial, as they are environmentally destructive to ecosystems and habitats. Biomass & landfill gas sources are also sometimes controversial.)

A few of the countries that are leading the way on using renewable energy sources are: Iceland, Costa Rica, Germany, Uruguay, Scotland, Kenya, Portugal, and New Zealand.

Some programs that help cities and regions move towards 100% include:

Let’s all ask the leaders of our cities, towns, counties, and states (mayors, city council members, county supervisors, governors, and state legislators) to commit to a 100% (or at least 90%) renewable energy goal, and enact forward-thinking policies right away to move rapidly towards that goal. You can share these program links with them, so they will be aware of networks they can join and resources they can use in setting their policies and meeting their renewable energy goals.

One way to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy sources at a local level is to create a county-wide or regional Community Choice Energy program. Per the Center for Climate Protection, “Community Choice agencies are local, not-for-profit, public agencies that provide electricity services to residents and businesses. Community Choice introduces competitions and consumer choices into the electricity sector with a focus on local, renewable energy to stimulate rapid innovations in clean energy systems.”

Energy efficiency is also critical. It is as important as shifting to renewable energy sources, because the less energy we need/use (the lower the demand), the less we have to produce (supply) from any source. (All types of energy production, even non-polluting renewables, require material inputs and have impacts.) The Union of Concerned Scientists ranks states by their energy efficiency progress.  In 2017, they found that the most energy efficient states were: Massachusetts, California, Rhode Island, Vermont, Oregon, Connecticut, New York, Washington, and Minnesota.

 

For more information on cities with 100% renewable energy goals, see:

Also see these other 100% renewables efforts, for other sectors (beyond cities and towns):

 

Also see: 2021 update: Municipalities, States, and Countries that are Achieving, Approaching, or Committed to 100% Renewable Energy

Share

March 26, 2018
[Click here to comment]

The following are the posts on The Green Spotlight that provide information and links that are related to climate or energy/power—with a strong focus on solutions. (Scroll to the bottom for a list of organizations and media focused on the climate emergency and related issues.)

SLB102_Blk_LimeGrThese posts are the most directly related to climate and energy:

And these posts are also related to energy and climate issues, in ways that might be less obvious but are equally important:

In the future, we will be adding posts on community solar and microgrids; solar-wind hybrid systems; the most efficient, quiet, and bird-safe types of wind turbines; carbon farming and other natural carbon sequestration initiatives; family planning, reproductive rights, women’s rights, and population; and other important efforts to slow/mitigate the progression (and severity) of climate change.

Here are some organizations and online resources for good information related to climate change and climate solutions:

Also see the topic-specific links/sections related to Organizations within the posts that are shown in the first section of this post.

Share

September 21, 2014
[Click here to comment]

The 13 buildings that are highlighted in this post are among the greenest building and renovation projects of recent years. They include Living Building Challenge certified projects (and a couple of projects that are currently pursuing that certification), as well as some of the highest-scoring LEED Platinum certified projects around the world. (Bear in mind that many traditional and indigenous structures were built using more sustainable materials and methods than those that are typically used in these modern times, so many of the world’s greenest buildings were constructed long before the advent of green building certification systems.) The following projects were all built or renovated within the past decade.

Living Building Challenge Projects

The Living Building Challenge, administered by the International Living Future Institute, is widely recognized as the most rigorous certification system for green buildings; it can also be applied to infrastructure and other types of development projects. It goes beyond most of the LEED requirements. In their own words, “It calls for the creation of building projects at all scales that operate as cleanly, beautifully and efficiently as nature’s architecture. To be certified under the Challenge, projects must meet a series of ambitious performance requirements, including net zero energy, waste and water, over a minimum of 12 months of continuous occupancy.”

So far (as of late 2013), these are the only four buildings to have achieved the full Living Building certification:

Bertschi School’s Living Building Science Wing
Seattle, WA

More Info

Hawai’i Preparatory Academy’s Energy Lab
Kamuela, HI
This building also achieved LEED Platinum certification under LEED for Schools v2007.
More Info

Omega Center for Sustainable Living
Rhinebeck, NY
This building also achieved LEED Platinum certification under LEED NC v2.2.
More Info

Tyson Living Learning Center
(at Washington University’s Tyson Research Center)
Eureka, MO

More Info

[February 2014 Update: A fifth building has now achieved the full Living Building certification:
Smith College Environmental Classroom
, Northampton, MA]

These two ultra-green buildings have also been completed and their project teams are currently pursuing the Living Building Challenge certification:

Bullitt Center (Bullitt Foundation office building)
Seattle, WA

(Living Building certification pending)
More Info

Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes
Pittsburgh, PA

This building achieved LEED Platinum certification under LEED NC v2.2.  (Living Building certification pending)
More Info

 

Top-Scoring LEED Platinum Certified Buildings

So far (as of late 2013), the following projects have achieved the highest scores among all LEED certified projects with the Platinum rating (LEED’s highest rating level). Some are new buildings; some are renovations. And a couple of the projects involve interior spaces (office or store interiors) only.

In the United States

LaraSwimmerPhotoSt. Martin’s University, Cebula Hall Engineering Building
Lacey, WA

LEED Platinum NC (New Construction) v2009
(97 out of 110 points)
Info
More Info

Integral Group’s Deep Green Office (remodel)
Oakland, CA

LEED Platinum CI (Commercial Interiors) v2009
(102 out of 110 points)
Info
Video Tour

The Bridge Building (historic renovation)
Nashville, TN

LEED Platinum CS (Core & Shell) v2009
(99 out of 110 points)
Info
More Info

502 Second St. NW office building (historic renovation)
Grand Rapids, MI

LEED Platinum NC (New Construction & Major Renovation) v2.2
(66 out of 69 points)
Info
More Info


In other countries

Pixel office building
Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

LEED Platinum NC (New Construction) v2009
(105 out of 110 points)
Info
More Info

The Change Initiative store
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

LEED Platinum Retail CI (Commercial Interiors) v2009
(107 out of 110 points)
Info
More Info

ITC Green Centre office building
Gurgaon, Haryana, India

LEED Platinum O&M: EB (Existing Buildings) v2009
(99 out of 110 points)
Info

To see other Platinum projects, check out our listing of LEED Platinum Certified Buildings, Offices, and Homes worldwide.

This post has provided a selected, not a comprehensive, list of super-green buildings.  If you know of another completed, ultra-green building that you’d like others to know about, please mention it in the Comments, with a link to information about the project.

Related posts:

LEED Platinum Leaders: January 2012 Update of Top-Ranking States and Countries

Model Sustainable Neighborhoods: LEED ND Developments in the U.S., Canada, and China

Share

December 11, 2013
1 comment

Saving energy saves money. Reducing your energy use will reduce your gas and electricity bills (which frees up funds for other, more meaningful things). It also benefits the environment and your health in a variety of ways. For example, using less electricity reduces power plant emissions from burning fossil fuels, which reduces air and water pollution, and that helps protect everyone’s health and our shared natural resources. It also reduces the emission of greenhouse gases that are contributing to climate change.

This checklist outlines a number of ways that you can conserve energy at home (or at work), by changing your household (or workplace) products and practices related to Heating and Cooling, Appliances and Equipment, Lighting, etc. Most of these strategies are easy and low- or no-cost, and saving energy helps save you money down the road.

HEATING AND COOLING

  • Program/adjust your thermostat to provide less heating or cooling at night and during the daytime hours when your home/building is not occupied. If you don’t know how to change the settings on your programmable thermostat, read the manual or ask someone for assistance.
  • On hot and sunny days, cover your windows by closing the shades, blinds, opaque curtains, or shutters; and turn off any lights that aren’t needed (especially any lamps that are using conventional incandescent bulbs, as they emit a surprising amount of heat). Avoid running the oven, stove, dishwasher, or washing machine (or opening the refrigerator a lot) on hot days, and especially during the hottest hours of the day.  And if you live in an area that regularly has hot summers, consider adding shade trees, awnings, or overhangs (particularly outside of west-facing windows) and putting a light-colored roof on your home when it’s time to replace the roof (and a light-colored driveway material if you need to repave your driveway).
  • Avoid or minimize your use of air conditioning, when possible. Air conditioners use a lot of energy, making them expensive to use. In warm weather, try using ceiling fans, floor fans, or a “whole house” attic fan (or in dry regions, an evaporative “swamp” cooler) instead of AC. On cool nights, open the windows to let the cool air in, and then close the windows by 9 AM to keep the cool air inside. These options can often provide adequate cooling.
  • Follow the recommended maintenance procedures for your heating and cooling systems. Replace or clean air filters as specified in the owner’s manuals. Have your furnace or air conditioner serviced if it isn’t operating properly or efficiently.
  • Keep your heating/cooling vents dusted.
  • Keep furniture, curtains, and other objects away from heater/air conditioning outlets, to allow conditioned air to flow freely into the room.
  • Make sure your windows close properly. Fix any broken window panes, seals, or latches.
  • Don’t leave the heat or air conditioning on if you open a window.
  • Weatherize your doors and windows by using weather stripping or seals to minimize air leaks and drafts.
  • Make sure your home is well insulated. Insulate your hot water pipes and water heater, and add insulation (if needed) to your attic, walls, or basement.
  • Hire a home performance contractor to do a home energy audit; they will inspect your home and identify any inefficiencies and seal up air leaks. In many homes, fixing air leaks can save more energy and money than installing a high-efficiency furnace. (One very experienced company that offers these services in California is Advanced Home Energy, formerly called Recurve.) You can search here for a contractor near you who has been accredited by the Building Performance Institute. If you live in California, check out the information provided by Energy Upgrade California.
  • When purchasing a new furnace, air conditioner, ceiling fan, water heater, windows, or doors, choose products that have a high Energy Star efficiency rating. (For windows, at a minimum, make sure you choose double-paned glass.)

Please continue reading. The rest of this post includes tips on lighting, appliances, electronics, and more:

[CLICK HERE to CONTINUE]

Share

May 29, 2013
1 comment

Below is a listing of companies that offer green dwellings in the form of modular, prefab/manufactured, compact and/or mobile structures. These days, there are many such options available that are not only green, but also beautiful, well-made, and often low-cost. Some of these structures are homes or cabins/cottages, while others can be used as an addition, a backyard studio, office, in-law unit/guest house, or some other type of “accessory dwelling unit.”

They come in a wide range of sizes, from teeny-tiny one-room spaces (e.g., 100 sq. ft.) and small units (see the Tiny/Compact Structures section below) to conventionally sized homes. They are also available in a wide variety of styles; some have traditional designs, while others have a very modern look. Some are available as plans and/or DIY kits, and others have designated builders. Many can be modified or customized.

Prefab (factory-built) homes have many benefits. They can be built more efficiently (e.g., less material waste), more quickly, with more precision and durability (i.e., higher quality), and they typically have more predictable costs (and often cost less) than site-built homes.

Note: The levels of greenness vary among the following options, but all of them tout some green features.

This is not a comprehensive listing; there are many other companies that make similar types of green structures. I’ve provided links below to other directories that list additional options. If you know of another green modular, prefab, mobile, or small home designer or manufacturer that you would recommend, please share it in the Comments.

Note: The asterisk (*) shown after certain listings indicates that those companies seem to offer at least one low-cost/affordable option. Some of the other companies might also offer such options, but specific pricing isn’t available on all of the websites; in some cases, one must contact the company for pricing information. Scroll down to the second half of the post for a listing of companies that specialize in tiny/compact homes or structures.

Acre Designs (based in CA)

Blu Homes (offices in CA, MA, and MI)

CaliPassiv (based in CA)

Clayton i-house

Clever Homes (based in CA)

Deltec Homes (based in NC)

FabCab

Flex House (by Shelter Dynamics; based in CA)

GreenTerraHomes (based in Canada; steel-framed)

IdeaBox (based in OR)

Jot House *

Lindal Cedar Homes (see Mod.Fab and Lindal Architects Collaborative; Lindal has an international network of dealers) *

Living Homes (based in CA)

Marmol Radziner Prefab (based in CA)

Method Homes (based in WA)

New Old Green Modular Home (from New World Home)

OHOME (Healthy Buildings Technology Group; based in CA)

OMD (Office of Mobile Design; based in CA)

Piece Homes (Davis Studio Architecture + Design; based in CA)

Plant Prefab (multiple design partners; based in CA)

Rocio Romero LV series (based in MO) *

Stillwater Dwellings (based in WA) *

Studio 101 Designs (based in CA)

2morrow Studio (based in VT) *

weeHouses (Alchemy Architects, based in MN, with factories around the country) *

ZiaHaus (based in CA & OR)

ZipKitHomes (based in UT)

For a listing of MANY other types of modular/manufactured homes (some of which have green features), see this compendium.

Books on green prefab homes:

Prefabulous + Almost Off the Grid: Your Path to Building an Energy-Independent Home, by Sheri Koones

Prefabulous + Sustainable: Building and Customizing an Affordable, Energy-Efficient Home, by Sheri Koones

Prefab Green, by Michelle Kaufmann

Prefab, by Allison Arieff


Tiny / Compact Structures  *

Many of the companies listed above offer one or two options for small dwellings, while the following companies specialize in small structures (some of which are mobile):

Ecopods (based in Ontario, Canada)

GreenPods (based in WA)
[See this 2016 article on these homes.]

kitHAUS (based in CA)

L41 Home (based in BC, Canada)

Leaf House (based in the Yukon, Canada)

Little House on the Trailer (based in CA)

Modern-Shed (based in WA, with dealers in all states)

Tumbleweed Tiny House Co. (house plans and some pre-built homes; some are mobile)

Wee Cabins (based in MN)

weeHouses (Alchemy Architects, based in MN, with factories around the country)

YardPods (based in CA)

ZipKitHomes (based in UT)

m-ch (Micro Compact Home; based in Germany)

To see many other types of small homes (some of which have other green features), see the Tiny House blog.

Also take a look at this article on 3 prototypes of Tiny Houses that Let You Live Green and Off the Grid[Added to this post in 2016]

Resources on small homes:

Tiny House Blog

The Small House Book, by Jay Shafer

Little House on a Small Planet: Simple Homes, Cozy Retreats, and Energy Efficient Possibilities, by Shay Salomon

And here’s a listing of other books on compact design.

 

* Low-cost/affordable option(s) available

Share

July 30, 2012
5 comments

Green Building & Design is one of this blog’s main content categories. The following are some of the posts on green building-related topics that have been published on The Green Spotlight or on its sister site (M. Landman Communications & Consulting):

On green building projects:

On green products and materials:

On other green building topics:

A lot of new green building content will be added to the blog in coming months. These are some of the topics that we’ll cover in upcoming posts:

  • Green product certifications, eco-labels, standards, and lifecycle data
  • LEED ND certified projects: Update of completed neighborhood developments
  • One Planet Communities
  • Green operations & maintenance practices for households (and for building managers)
Share

February 28, 2012
1 comment