Ways to Conserve Fossil Fuels

by Jennifer Russon
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Grzegorz Kieca/iStock/Getty Images

Until we find alternative energy sources that are kinder to the environment, there are plenty of small changes we can make in our lifestyle, at the office and at home that burn less fuel. Beyond having fewer children and buying less, we can decrease carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in subtle ways, too, with changes to indoor lighting, appliances, diet and the way we travel.

The Why and How of Conserving Fossil Fuels

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Oil, coal and natural gas are fossil fuels converted into energy on a constant and daily basis. The Union of Concerned Scientists and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warn that our energy demands are greater than what nonrenewable fossil fuels can supply. Eventually, we’ll run out; that is why a global effort, by legislators and citizens alike, exists to curb usage and reduce our carbon footprint.

Public Transport and Hybrid Vehicles

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It’s no surprise that transportation is a major energy consumer, and the environment would be helped if we simply biked, walked or took public transport everywhere we went. Transportation authorities report that if just one in every 10 Americans commuted on public transport, our reliance on foreign oil would decrease by 40 percent. Until the majority of commuters see the benefits of rail, hybrid vehicles are worth another look. The current hybrid drives and refuels like a standard car, with no need to recharge the battery. Hybrids can offer a savings of up to $11,000 a year in gasoline. No matter what you drive, checking tire pressure and keeping inflation levels adequate burns less gas, and the less gas you use, the more money you'll have in your pocket.

Bright Ideas at Home and in the Workplace

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Imagine getting the same amount of light but keeping more than 1,000 tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere. By simply replacing every 75-watt incandescent bulb with a less expensive 20-watt compact fluorescent, you’re doing the Earth a favor and saving money. Millions of homes and businesses can make this simple change.

Go Green in Your Kitchen and Laundry Room

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If you want to reduce your washing machine’s energy use by 75, the change couldn’t be simpler: wash everything in cold water and hang it on the line to dry. In doing this, your clothes last longer and you save more than 2,000 lbs. of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. Adjust the switch on your refrigerator; it won’t be as cold, but neither you nor your food will notice, and you could save as much as 25 percent on your energy bill. Visit EnergyStar.gov for Earth-friendly appliance tips.

Condition Yourself to Save Energy

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If you set your thermostat three degrees warmer in summer, you can save an average of 470 lbs. of carbon dioxide per year. Seal leaks in your home. Energy Star and non-profit environmental advocacy groups such as the Environment Action Coalition say home insulation is important; it can be made of organic materials and make your home a toxin-free place.

Spread the Word in Your Community and Among Legislators

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Political action at the grassroots level works. One prime example is Florida's high-speed rail, for which the governor approved billions in funding thanks to citizens contacting the right congressmen and signing petitions.

Go Veggie

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The U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization reports that 18 percent of greenhouse gases come from worldwide livestock production. The digestive processes of cows and sheep emit environmentally harmful methane and nitrous oxide and deplete our water and food supply. Raising cattle for slaughter requires a lot of energy and burns a lot of fuel. Statistics published by the Vegetarian Society show nutritional and environmental merits of removing red meat from your diet.

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