Shrink Your Carbon Footprint - Pledge to help slow climate change

What is a Carbon Bigfoot?

Carbon Yeti is a carbon bigfootIn our day to day lives, we all leave an impression on our environment. As we learn more about climate change and global warming, we see opportunities each of us can take to reduce our “carbon footprint”.

A Carbon Bigfoot is someone who has a large impact on the planet's resources and, as a result, a BIG carbon footprint.

By taking action through this pledge, each of us can shrink our individual carbon footprint and move further away from leaving and being a Carbon Bigfoot.

What is a Carbon Footprint?

Your carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide created from your everyday activities. Carbon dioxide, the most plentiful greenhouse gas, 'traps' the sun's heat and contributes to global climate change.

The United States is the world's largest source of greenhouse gases. With only 4 percent of the world's population the U.S. contributes 25 percent of global greenhouse gas pollution. (See Frequently Asked Questions - Climate Change.)

In Washington State, transportation accounts for about half of our total carbon footprint. The next largest contributors from burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) are residential, commercial, and industrial sectors (20 percent) and electricity consumption from these sectors (20 percent). Although much of Washington’s electricity comes from hydropower generated by dams, some still comes from greenhouse gas producing coal-burning plants. Depending on your energy provider, a growing amount of electricity comes from wind power, which does not produce greenhouse gas. (See Washington GHG Inventory pg ES-2. Also see Your Energy Provider carbon footprint.)

Why worry about global climate change?

Washington State is addressing climate change because its impacts go far beyond a change in the weather. Climate shapes everything — ecosystems, crops, water, forests, fisheries, economy, lifestyles, health — so even small changes can have big impacts. A few degrees in temperature may not feel like much, but it can make the difference between rain and snow, early snowmelt or late, flowing summer streams or dry creek beds, healthy or charred forests, and extreme weather floods, droughts or summer heat waves. Our state is vulnerable to a warming climate, especially our snow-fed water supplies and nearly 40 communities along our 2,300 miles of shoreline that are threatened by rising sea levels. In the past 10 years we've seen an increase in floods, droughts and wildfires. (See Issue Up Close: Facing the challenge of Climate Change and Frequently Asked Questions - Climate Change.)

An invitation to YOU!

You probably already include many of the practices outlined below in your daily routine. If so, congratulations and thank you! Now you have the opportunity to take the next steps. Everyday choices affect your personal carbon footprint and our climate. Working together we can make a difference. Our children and generations to follow will be glad we did!

Simple actions can drastically reduce the carbon dioxide produced during your daily activities. You are invited to take a pledge to reduce your personal contribution to global climate change.

Because transportation accounts for close to half of our state's carbon footprint, your biggest effect will likely come from steps taken to address your transportation choices, found at the end of the pledge. However, the pledge starts with easier steps you can take around the house.

Take the pledge!

To take the pledge, fill in the form below indicating those activities you already do or have done, and those you are willing to do next. N/A means this actions does Not Apply to me.  Print a copy for yourself and send your response back to us.

"Shrink Your Carbon Footprint" Pledge

1. In the House Living room, illustration by Tim Schlender, Ecology

  • Twenty percent of the electricity consumed in the United States is for lighting. The incandescent light bulb is so inefficient that about 90 percent of the energy it consumes is given off as heat, meaning only 10 percent is converted to light. (Source: US Dept. of Energy)
  • Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and LED lights are far more efficient and last longer than common incandescent bulbs. Note: a small amount of mercury is sealed within the glass tubing of CFLs. Do not throw CFLs out with regular household trash. Take them to your local household hazardous waste collection site or call 1-800-RECYCLE for a location.
  • Almost half of the average home's energy consumption is used for heating rooms. Another 17 percent is used for heating water, 6 percent for cooling rooms, and 5 percent for refrigeration.
  • Powering TV sets, DVD players, cable boxes and other home entertainment devices still uses energy even while they are off because of clocks and easy-on features like "standby" mode.
  • Although much of Washington's electricity comes from hydropower generated by dams, some still comes from greenhouse gas producing coal-burning plants. Depending on your energy provider, a growing amount of electricity comes from wind power, which does not produce greenhouse gas. (See: Pounds of carbon dioxide per kWh, by WA utility)

In my house, I pledge...

N/A I Do I Will Actions
A. Replace six frequently used incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs. I will take spent CFLs to my local household hazardous waste collection site or call 1-800-RECYCLE for a location.
B. Move my daytime thermostat down to 69 degrees or less in the winter and move it up to 74 degrees or more in the summer. I will drop winter thermostat settings even more at night while sleeping or while away from home.
C. Install a programmable thermostat to make day/night settings simple and automatic.
D. Plug my living room electronics into a power strip which I will turn off when I'm not using them.
E. Unplug from wall outlets all chargers for cell phones, toothbrushes, etc. once charging is complete.
F. Use passive solar to capture heat in my home by opening curtains during the day and closing them at dusk, except in summer, when I will close the curtains during the hottest hours of the day. (Besides carbon, you'll save 25 to 75 percent on your heating and cooling bills.)
G. Run ceiling fans in my home instead of air-conditioning.

2. In the Kitchen Kitchen, illustration by Tim Schlender, Ecology

Even with state of the art appliances and gadgets, the kitchen is a source of excess carbon emissions.

  • Dishwashers use 20 gallons of water each cycle; garbage disposals average 2 gallons each minute. Extra water use also means more wastewater to treat, which uses more energy.
  • The majority of household recycling happens in the kitchen.
  • Half of what is currently thrown away in King County alone, is recyclable.
  • 80 percent of the 25 billion single-serving (oil-based) plastic water bottles Americans use each year end up in landfills.
  • Americans use more than 380 billion plastic bags (made from oil) every year and the average bag is used for five minutes. Plastic bags litter our land and ocean, entangling wildlife. Paper bags are made from trees that sequester or store carbon.
  • Recycling one ton of aluminum results in 13 tons of carbon dioxide NOT being released into the air.

    If we could recover and recycle 75 percent of the aluminum cans currently being tossed into landfills, we could keep 11.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from being generated and released into the atmosphere. Recycling a ton of aluminum uses just 5 percent of the energy required to make virgin metal; aluminum can be infinitely recycled. (Source: Recycle To Save Energy — The Sooner The Better, by Greg Wittbecker, Director Corporate Metal Recycling Strategy, Alcoa Inc.)

Washington's recycling efforts for 2005 reduced greenhouse gas emissions by almost 3.2 million tons, or more than 1,000 pounds per person. This is equivalent to removing 2.5 million passenger cars from the roadway each year — equal to more than half of the passenger cars in Washington! (Source: Department of Ecology)

In my kitchen, I pledge...

N/A I Do I Will Actions
A. Run only full loads of dishes in my dishwasher to save water.
B. Clean my refrigerator's coils, defrost it regularly and keep the top clear of clutter.
C. Recycle food waste scraps in my yard waste container rather than using the in-sink garbage disposal, saving water and energy.
D. Drink tap water instead of bottled. (I can use a small counter-top filter for taste, if necessary).
E. Carry my groceries and other purchases in reusable bags (where I will store my shopping list so I remember to bring the bags with me).
F. Reduce my garbage 10 percent by recycling.
G. Buy more locally grown food to save energy from long-distance transportation.
H. Choose "Energy Star" certified when purchasing new appliances for my kitchen.

3. In the Bathroom Bathroom, illustration by Tim Schlender, Ecology

  • In the United States, 27 percent of our water is used in bathing, which also uses energy for heating water.
  • Showers commonly account for nearly 2/3 of all water heating costs.

In my bathroom, I pledge...

N/A I Do I Will Actions
A. Install a water efficient showerhead so I use less hot water.
B. Take 2 - 5 minutes off my shower time.
C. Shave in the sink, not the shower.
D. Hang my towel to dry and use it more than once (to save energy from the washer/dryer).

4. In the Home Office Home office, illustration by Tim Schlender, Ecology

  • Laptop computers use up to 80 percent less energy than desktop computers.
  • Computers can be recycled free through the new E-Cycle Washington Program. To find a recycling location near you, look it up online in our recycling database or call 1-800-RECYCLE.
  • Many electronics draw power even when they are "off," including empty chargers in standby mode.
  • Producing recycled paper requires about 60 percent of the energy used to make paper from virgin wood pulp (which comes from cutting down trees that store carbon dioxide if left standing).
  • Living trees left standing absorb (or sequester) carbon in their wood as they "breathe in" carbon dioxide and "breathe out" oxygen.

In my home office, I pledge...

N/A I Do I Will Actions
A. Use a power strip for my computer, monitor, fax, copier, iPod and cell-phone chargers and any other electronic equipment; and turn it off when they are not in use.
B. Use a laptop instead of a desktop computer whenever possible. Consider making my next computer upgrade a laptop.
C. Turn off any incandescent lights when I leave a room even for a few minutes, or if I'm using compact fluorescents, turn them off if I'm leaving for more than 15 minutes.
D. Reduce printed copies and work more electronically. Reduce the amount of paper that gets thrown away or recycled by triple-checking documents before printing. When I print drafts, I will print on the blank side of used paper to conserve carbon-storing trees ( most paper is made from 'forest fiber' in trees).
E. Recycle my home computer when it is time to upgrade.

5. Home Care Furnace, illustration by Tim Schlender, Ecology

Upgrades to existing systems in your home can not only drastically reduce your carbon footprint, but also significantly reduce your energy bills:

  • From 1990 to 1999 the U.S. increased its consumption of electricity by 21.5 percent. (Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Annual Report, Volume 1)
  • The typical U.S. home uses about 10,000 kilowatt-hours a year. Puget Sound Energy customers can pay an extra $0.0125 per kWh to purchase 100 percent green power. That totals $125 extra per year or about $10.42 per month. Avista Utilities customers can purchase 300 kWh of renewable energy for just $1 with their Buck-A-Block program, that works out to be about $33 a year.
  • Every day more solar energy falls to the Earth than the total amount of energy the planet's human inhabitants would consume in 27 years. Solar energy is a super-abundant resource that can provide hot water and even electricity, on both sides of the Cascades.
  • Weather stripping & caulking around doors and windows can plug heat leaks.

For home care, I pledge...

N/A I Do I Will Actions
A. Purchase green power from my energy provider.
B. Weatherize my home by caulking and weather stripping our doorways and windows.
C. Insulate my water heater.
D. Keep my water heater thermostat no higher than 120 degrees.
E. Change my furnace filter regularly (every 1-3 months).
F. Explore solar energy options for home hot water and/or electricity production.

6. In the Yard Yeti in the yard, illustration by , City of Bellevue

  • The air pollution from cutting grass for an hour with a gasoline-powered lawn mower is about the same as that from a 100-mile automobile ride. (Source: Journal of Environmental Science and Technology, June 2008.)
  • Climate change is expected to reduce our summer water supplies. Up to 50 percent of the water used on landscapes is wasted due to evaporation, improper sprinklers, and over-watering.
  • Trees planted on the south or west side of the house can naturally shade and cool your home in the summer. Trees also absorb (or sequester) carbon in their wood as they "breathe in" carbon dioxide and "breathe out" oxygen.

In my yard, I pledge...

N/A I Do I Will Actions
A. Use a push mower instead of a gasoline or electric mower.
B. Plant trees, especially on the southern and western exposure to shade my house from hot summer sun and help reduce my cooling costs. (Leafy trees will allow winter sun, but block summer sun)
C. Practice smart watering (in evenings and with drip systems) for healthier plants and to save limited summer water resources. Use native plants with low water needs.
D. Replace unused water-intensive turf areas with native and drought tolerant plants with low water needs.

7. Transportation Carpool, illustration by Tim Schlender, Ecology

  • In Washington State, more than half of our carbon dioxide comes from vehicles, so together we can make a big difference here! Use public transit, carpool, vanpool, bike, walk, or telework from home if possible, even if just a day or two a week. You save one pound of carbon dioxide for each mile of driving you eliminate.
  • You can reduce your carbon footprint if you buy a hybrid the next time you purchase a vehicle. Consider fuel efficiency next time you buy a car or truck.
  • For every 10 minutes you do not let your car idle, you reduce your carbon footprint by 3.2 pounds. So turn off that engine when you’re stuck in a traffic jam or waiting in line.
  • A vehicle roof rack can reduce fuel efficiency by 5 percent.
  • One gallon of gasoline from a car engine emits 20 pounds of carbon.

For personal transportation, I pledge...

N/A I Do I Will Actions
A. Reduce my weekly car travel by biking, walking, skateboarding, busing or carpooling. (Start with one or two days a week, then add more)
B. Check my car's air filter monthly and replace every 2,200 miles.
C. Maintain my car with regular tune-ups.
D. Use my air-conditioning sparingly, or not at all.
E. Accelerate gradually.
F. Use cruise control on the highway, when it's safe to do so.
G. Check and inflate my tires monthly.
H. Remove my roof rack (if I have one) when I'm not using it.
I. Buy a hybrid or clean energy vehicle when I purchase my next car.

8. Make an even bigger difference Yeti on a skateboard,illustration by , City of Bellevue

If you want to make an even bigger difference...

  • Pick a climate initiative and lobby in your community.
  • Create or support carpools, flex-car, or mass transit alternatives to single occupancy vehicle use.
  • Volunteer on a community council or for an advocacy group fighting global climate change. Conduct a campaign to convert 3,000 homes in your town to CFL light bulbs
  • Encourage your friends and neighbors to purchase green energy from their utilities. If 25,000 households switched to 10 percent renewable green energy, the carbon savings would be huge.
  • Think before you buy! You can conserve resources, save energy and prevent waste by buying products that are energy efficient; are used or reusable; are made with recycled content or are recyclable; or have no packaging or reduced packaging.
  • One person can make a difference and inspire others to do the same.

To get more involved, I pledge...

N/A I Do I Will Actions
A. Convince one friend or neighborhood family to take at least one of these Pledge actions.
B. Write letters to the editor of my local newspaper, energy supplier, and/or Department of Ecology and express my opinion in community meetings in support of strong local actions on global climate change.
C. Give away clothes, household goods, and other items I don't need to friends, neighbors, or charities instead of throwing them away.
D. Organize a clothing swap with 10 friends.
E. Join or start an environmental group at work or in my community.
F. Help my local school reduce carbon footprint using Cool School Challenge (students have already reduced more than 2 million pounds of CO2).

Thank you for taking the time to fill in your Pledge.

** Before you send your pledge form to us, please take a moment to save this file to your computer or print the page to keep a record of your pledge actions. **

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Useful Resources Thermostat, illustration by Tim Schlender, Ecology