You know what a carbon footprint is -- a measurement of greenhouse gases emitted as a result of human activities -- and you know that a smaller carbon footprint is better for the environment. You even know that you can reduce your carbon footprint by flying less, buying local products and driving a fuel-efficient car.
But your carbon footprint isn't based solely on your travel and shopping habits. If you're like most people, about 40% of your carbon footprint comes from your home. Shrinking your home's carbon footprint has the added benefit of reducing home energy use (and costs). Expect to knock at least $100 off your annual electricity expenses just by making a few small changes -- and if you go whole hog (see below), your next electric bill could be zero. So how do you reduce the carbon footprint of your house?
Start by figuring out your home's carbon footprint. For a two-person household in the U.S., the average carbon footprint is 41,500 pounds. To determine yours, consult a calculator at the EPA's climate change Web site, Low Impact Living or the Nature Conservancy.For a more detailed assessment of your home's energy use, get an energy audit. An energy auditor won't be able to calculate your home's carbon footprint, but she will tell you how much energy your home consumes and how you can make it more efficient.
Go whole hog
If you're ready -- and able -- to make your home's carbon footprint a mere shadow of its former self, go off the grid. Stars like Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Will Ferrell, Daryl Hannah and Ed Begley Jr. run their homes on solar power.