Reduce Your Carbon Footprint and Save Money

Wayne National Forest Solar Panel Construction

Contrary to what some people might tell you, alternative energy isn’t simply a pipe dream. It’s also a way that you (yes, you) can reasonably and realistically save money in the present, especially as the winter approaches. While it may seem prohibitive to put solar panels on top of your house or build a windmill (with the probable mountain of regulations designed to stop you from doing so), there are plenty of ways to refrain from using fossil fuels for transport or to heat your home without suffering in the process. As an added bonus, you reduce your carbon footprint substantially in doing so.

For example, depending on your town or city’s infrastructure and the demands of your commute, it may be possible to get around easily by bicycle, which has two benefits: you get an opportunity to exercise on your commute and to save money on gasoline, which isn’t quite as expensive as it was before the crash of late 2008, but has been steadily rising in cost since it was reduced from almost $5 to $1.50 a gallon. Additionally, with so many cities’ budgets proving increasingly impossible to reconcile, drivers are starting to feel the brunt of this; the city of Chicago privatized parking in an attempt to raise funds for its Olympics bid, prompting astronomical rises in costs and mass frustration, and the city of Seattle is looking to raise its downtown parking rates to $4 an hour, the highest in the country, prompting divided responses.

Compare this to getting around on a bike, which can be free (after purchasing a good lock and supplies to replace or patch flat tire tubes), or using public transportation, which is often cheaper and doesn’t require you to park anything or pay for parking (though, of course, public transportation can be much slower in some places and comes with its own set of drawbacks, such as not being able to make your own schedule and having to weather delays and cancellations, sometimes on short notice).

Furthermore, heating bills can be killer in the wintertime. Even small houses and apartments can be billed for hundreds of dollars per month if the heat runs at even temperatures as low as 63 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit all winter. While I have friends who never run their thermostats above 48 degrees, compromise can both bring down costs and make life inside bearable when it’s too cold out. Temperature-regulating thermostats bring down costs considerably by keeping houses cold when you’re gone and warm when you’re in, and putting on coats, sweaters and long underwear makes running a house at lower temperatures exponentially more bearable.

Both of these will help to save you money and bring down the amount of carbon your habits produce on a regular basis. Though there are countless other factors, transportation and heat are substantial portions of one’s output, and choosing to use motor vehicles to travel as infrequently as possible, and to keep down heat, has a huge impact on your influence and your bills.

A. Hall is a guest blogger for Dog Ate My Blog and a writer on masters in social work online for Guide to Online Schools.