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Supporting a Low-Carbon Lifestyle

Are you feeling pangs of guilt about your contribution to the growing climate crisis? Here are three easy, affordable things you can do to create your own Personal Kyoto Protocol. Follow even one of them and you'll be well on your way to a low-carbon lifestyle!

1) Replace your incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents.

This is a no-brainer. Compact fluorescent light bulbs consume 66 percent less energy than conventional bulbs, and are without a doubt the low-hanging fruit of energy-efficiency options. They cost a bit more upfront, but they last up to 10 times longer, saving you a bundle in the long run. They have a soft golden glow – the same light quality as the old-school bulbs – and are the perfect stocking stuffer. You can buy them at most any hardware store.To nudge you along, consider this startling fact from the Department of Energy: If every household in America replaced one conventional light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL), it would prevent enough pollution to equal removing one million cars from the road.

2) Switch to “green power” via your local utility.

More and more local utilities these days are offering customers the option of paying a little more each month to support investment in green power – renewable sources such as solar and wind power that utilities feed directly into the electricity grid. (And it's not just available in eco-minded Northeast states. I made the “Green Power Switch” in my hometown, Nashville, Tennessee.)

You can contact your local utility directly to see if they have a program, or you can get info about nationwide green-power programs through the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which rates the best clean-utility programs in the country. You can also get great info about installing clean-energy sources on your own home at the D-I-Y info source Home Power.

3) Change your travel plan

What do we do? We have stopped flying for our holidays. We own one car between us, travel 4,000 miles a year, of which 1,000 are for work, and use bio-diesel. We cycle everywhere we can, and we do our shopping by bike or internet. Between us we cycle about 5,000 miles a year. We have had regular lodgers to share the warmth of our house, we have a solar panel for our hot water (of some use even in winter) and minimise our heating by dressing warmly, burning waste wood on a wood burning stove, and only having the radiators on in the rooms we are using. We buy our electricity from Good Energy (which obtains all its energy from renewable sources).

But even so our annual carbon dioxide emission (for personal energy use, not including our share of industrial and commercial energy use) is still two tons each — under half of the average household, but still a way to go to reach the recommended level that will combat global warming — one ton each.

And why can we do it? We both live in a city with excellent public transport links. We both have jobs in the city in which we live. We are both cyclists. We can afford to travel by train. We don’t have children to ferry to and fro and to plead with us to make the school trip when it’s raining. We aren’t fans of really hot weather and love our northern European cycling holidays.

This list of things is why you can feel a bit less guilty and have a bit of a chuckle at the absurdity of our lifestyle. But if this article does make you have a twinge of guilt then why not set yourself a small target for changing some aspects of your lifestyle? Do your own carbon audit. Raise it as an issue with others and at work.

And best of all get on your bike.

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