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Ten ways you can fight climate change

Click on the numbers below to get tips on what you can do to contribute to the fight against climate change.

Tips

Turn down!

By taking small steps, you can contribute to the global climate change effort - and save money on your energy and heating bills! Learn how easy it is with these simple tips.

  • Turn down the heat. Reducing the temperature by just 1°C can cut 5-10% off your family's energy bill and avoid up to 300kg of CO2 emissions per household and year.
  • Programme your thermostat so that at night or while you are out of the house, the temperature is set low and by the time you wake up or return home, the temperature is comfortable again. This can reduce your heating bill by 7-15%.
  • Replace your old single-glazed windows with double-glazing. This requires a bit of upfront investment, but will halve the energy lost through windows and pay off in the long term. If you go for the best the market has to offer (wooden-framed double-glazed units with low-emission glass and filled with argon gas), you can even save more than 70% of the energy lost.
  • Don't let heat escape from your house over a long period. When airing your house, open the windows for only a few minutes. If you leave a small opening all day long, the energy needed to keep it warm inside during six cold months (10°C or less outside temperature) would result in almost 1 tonne of CO2 emissions.
  • Install good home insulation, one of the most effective ways to reduce CO2 emissions and to save energy in the long term. Heat loss through walls, roof and floor commonly accounts for over 50% of overall space heat loss. Insulate your hot water tanks, the pipes of your central heating as well as your wall cavities and fit aluminium foil behind your radiators.
  • Move your fridge and freezer - placing them next to the cooker or boiler consumes much more energy than if they were standing on their own. For example, if you put them in a hot cellar room where the room temperature is 30-35°C, energy use is almost double and causes an extra 160kg of CO2 emissions for fridges per year and 320kg for freezers.

Reducing the temperature by just 1°C can cut 5-10% off your family's energy bill and avoid up to 300kg of CO2 emissions per household and year.

  • Defrost old fridges and freezers regularly. Even better is to replace them with newer models, which all have automatic defrost cycles and are generally up to two times more energy-efficient than their predecessors. When buying new appliances (not only fridges, but also washing machines, dishwashers, etc.), choose those with the European Grade A+ label, meaning that it's very efficient - but also compare the energy consumption among A+ graded appliances since it can vary.
  • Be careful which settings you use - if you set your fridge on its coolest setting, you will not only consume more energy; your food will not keep fresh as long since it might be spoilt through freezing.
  • Avoid putting hot or warm food in the fridge. You save energy by letting it cool down first before placing it in the fridge.
  • Check if your water's too hot. Your cylinder thermostat doesn't need to be set higher than 60°C. The same goes for the boiler of your central heating. Remember, 70% of the energy used by households in the EU is spent on heating homes and another 14% on heating water.
  • Human activity generates six gigatonnes of carbon dioxide per year, while the Earth can recycle only three gigatonnes. The rest accumulates each year in the atmosphere, thus reinforcing the greenhouse effect. Remember to save energy!
  • Fill up that freezer!
    Help it consume less energy by keeping it full. It requires less energy to cool a full freezer than an empty one. Should you not have filled it, add some plastic bottles filled with water or even old newspapers – until you need the space!
  • Clean the dusty coils behind your refrigerator to help disperse the heat to increase the energy efficiency of the refrigerator. Dusty coils can waste as much as 30 % extra electricity!
  • The recommended temperature for a refrigerator is between 1 – 4 °C and for the freezer it should be set at -18 °C. Each degree below these temperatures makes no difference as to how well the food is preserved, but it does increase energy consumption by approximately five per cent. Place a thermometer in the refrigerator and the freezer to check the temperature!
  • Defrost your food by taking it out of the freezer the night before and placing it in the refrigerator or simply leaving it out on the counter. Avoid defrosting in the microwave and adding to your electricity bill!
  • Don't use the pre-wash cycle on your washing machine.
    Modern washing machines allow you to bypass this cycle, saving 15 % of the energy that would otherwise be used.
  • Bake in one go!
    When baking a quiche, why not profit from an already heated oven and place your apple pie in it as well? You will save 50 % on your gas or electricity consumption!
  • Switch the stove or oven off a few minutes before your food is ready and make use of the residual heat to finish cooking.
  • To save on energy when cooking, cut up your veggies into small pieces to reduce the cooking time. When boiling or steaming vegetables, boil the water in the kettle first – rather than on the hob, and use only as much water as is necessary.
  • Iron your clothes in one batch, rather than one item at a time. You will save the energy required to heat up the iron each time you want to use it.
  • Switch to LED flashlights.
    With a lifespan of almost 100 000 hours, this lamp will serve you for dozens of years without producing any waste or pollution!

Switch off!

Taking the time to flip a simple switch or turn off your tap may seem insignificant, but if everyone took the time to do it every day, the results would be considerable. Review these tips for ways to incorporate energy-saving measures into your everyday routine.

  • Switch off the lights when you don't need them. Switching off 5 lights in hallways and rooms in your house when you don't need them can save around € 60 a year and avoid about 400kg of CO2 emissions per year.
  • Use energy-saving light bulbs: just one can reduce your lighting costs by up to € 60 and avoid 400kg of CO2 emissions over the lifetime of the bulb - and they last up to 10 times longer than ordinary light bulbs. Energy-saving bulbs are more expensive to buy, but cheaper over their life span.

Switching off 5 lights in hallways and rooms in your house when you don't need them can save around € 60 a year and avoid about 400kg of CO2 emissions per year.

  • Do not leave appliances on standby - use the "on/off" function on the machine itself. A TV set that's switched on for 3 hours a day (the average time Europeans spend watching TV) and in standby mode during the remaining 21 hours uses about 40% of its energy in standby mode.
  • Unplug your mobile charger when you're not using it. Even when it is not connected to the phone, it is still draining electricity. There are estimates that 95% of the energy is wasted when you leave the charger plugged in all the time.
  • Keep cool with a fan. Air conditioners are real energy gobblers - an average room air conditioner operates at 1000 Watt, causing around 650gr of CO2 emissions per hour and costing around € 0.10 during this hour. Fans might be an alternative, otherwise use air conditioners sparingly and look for the most energy-efficient model.
  • Switch to green electricity. By doing so, you'll help strengthen renewable energy sources. Currently, only 14% of Europe's electricity is generated from climate-friendly renewable energy sources such as wind, hydro, wood, biogas, and solar - and demand creates supply! You may also want to think about fitting solar panels on the roof of your home.
  • Use the washing machine or dishwasher only when they are full. If you need to use it when it is half full, then use the half-load or economy setting. There is also no need to set the temperatures high. Nowadays detergents are so efficient that they get your clothes and dishes clean at low temperatures.
  • Use a tumble dryer only when absolutely necessary - each drying cycle produces over 3kg of CO2 emissions. Drying clothes naturally is by far the best way to do it: your clothes will last longer and the energy provided is free and non-polluting!
  • Boil less water. If you only boil just enough water for your cup of tea, you could help save a lot of energy. If all Europeans boiled just the water they needed, thus avoiding 1 litre of unnecessarily boiled water per day, the energy saved could power one third of Europe's streetlights.
  • Cover your pots while cooking. Doing so can save a lot of the energy needed for preparing the dish. Even better are pressure cookers and steamers: they can save around 70%!
  • Take a shower instead of a bath. Doing so takes up to four times less energy. To maximise the energy saving, avoid power showers and use low-flow showerheads, which are cheap and provide the same comfort.
  • Turn off your tap. If you turn off the tap while brushing your teeth, you can save several litres of water. Also, a dripping tap can waste enough water to fill a bath in one month, so make sure to check that they're turned off.
  • Let the light shine in!
    Decrease your CO2 emissions and keep your electricity bills low by making the most of natural light. Think about choosing pale-coloured walls, ceilings and floors, as well as mirrors, to reflect the daylight.
  • Switch the lights off before going on holiday.
    To save electricity, before you leave don’t forget to unplug as many appliances as is possible. If the appliances are still plugged in, they continue to use up energy. even if you switch them off.
  • Plug the electronics in your living-room
    (TV, DVD player, stereo system) into a single multi-socket electrical bar. When not in use, simply switch off the bar and save on the electrical consumption by as much as 10 % (approximately 200 000 W a year). Appliances left on standby still use quite a lot of electricity.

Recycle!

With more European governments driving recycling initiatives, it is becoming easier for everyone to recycle. Learn new and easy ways to dispose of waste as well as how to choose products and packaging that have less of an impact on the environment.

  • Bring used glass to the bottle bank and sort paper and cardboard, plastics and cans from the rest of your waste. Recycling one aluminium can saves 90% of the energy needed to produce a new one - 9kg of CO2 emissions per kilogramme of aluminium! For 1kg of recycled plastics, the saving is 1.5kg of CO2; for 1kg of recycled glass, it is 300gr of CO2; and recycling 1kg of paper instead of landfilling it avoids 900gr of CO2 emissions as well as methane emissions.
  • Reduce waste. Most products we buy cause greenhouse gas emissions in one or another way, e.g. during production and distribution. By taking your lunch in a reusable lunch box instead of a disposable one, you save the energy needed to produce new lunch boxes.
  • Reuse your shopping bag. When shopping, it saves energy and waste to use a reusable bag instead of accepting a disposable one in each shop. Waste not only discharges CO2 and methane into the atmosphere, it can also pollute the air, groundwater and soil.

One bottle of 1.5l requires less energy and produces less waste than three bottles of 0.5l.

  • Choose products that come with little packaging and buy refills when you can - you will also cut down on waste production and energy use!
  • Buy intelligently: one bottle of 1.5l requires less energy and produces less waste than three bottles of 0.5l.
  • Recycle your organic waste. Landfills account for around 3% of the EU's greenhouse gas emissions through the methane released by decomposing bio-degradable waste. By recycling organic waste or composting it if you have a garden, you can help eliminate this problem! Just make sure that you compost it properly, so it decomposes with sufficient oxygen, otherwise your compost will cause methane emissions and smell foul.
  • Print less!
    At the office, encourage your colleagues to re-use the other side of paper and print less by archiving their emails and attachments. You can also try and create paperless habits. Some studies show that office paper consumption is rising by 20 % per year and web-based technology is actually increasing the printing of documents. On average each worker uses about 50 sheets of A4 per day. Must you print?
  • Get a mug!
    Invest in your own office coffee mug instead of using disposable plastic or paper cups. If you drink two coffees a day, you would be saving approximately 400 plastic cups in one year.
  • Buy a ‘recyclable’ Christmas tree!
    If you buy a Christmas tree, buy one with roots so that you can keep it watered. When Christmas is over you can plant it in the garden. If you buy a cut tree, recycle it by having it collected by your local authorities.
  • Say no to paper towels!
    A mop or sponge will do an even better job at cleaning up a spill so why waste paper? Reduce your waste and you'll help trees.
  • Say no to plastic or paper bags!
    The plastic bags you use but for a few minutes can last for as long as 15 to 1,000 years in the environment. Don't get a new plastic bag each time you go shopping. Get a funky re-useable or cotton bag instead and say 'no thanks' to plastic or paper bags.
  • Don’t litter!
    Avoid disposing any waste on the streets, in nature, and especially not in the gutter. This rubbish can end up in the water treatment system and overcharge the decontamination process. Take advantage of city waste baskets. They are everywhere and that's what they are for.
  • Need new glasses?
    Around 10 million pairs of usable spectacles are discarded each year in Europe and North America. These can be used to help people in the developing world to afford glasses. Most opticians now act as collection points for old glasses, so drop yours off and give them a new lease on life.
  • When the time comes to change your car battery, recycle your old one.
    Check with your local authorities for their advice as they might recommend that you take it to a special disposal site, or to a garage which collects them for recycling and proper disposal.
  • Donate your old clothes to charities or collection programmes.
    Your old wardrobe will be given a second life as either second-hand clothes or shredded and recycled as raw material for textiles and packaging. This will save precious energy and our scarce natural resources.
  • Dispose with care!
    Take your electronic waste to a local collection point or give it back to the retailer so that it can be treated or recycled properly. Electronic and electric appliances contain many toxic substances. Since mid 2005, all European Member States are obliged to set up take-back systems for this waste.
  • Re-use paper!
    Instead of using a fresh piece of paper for rough work, turn over a used copy and write on the other side. Use products made of recycled paper. Remember! Every ton of recycled paper saves 17 trees compared to paper made from virgin materials.

Walk!

Walking is not only good for you; it helps the environment as well. However, we all need to use transport every now and then, so when we do, it's important to make the right choices to save CO2 emissions.

  • Try one of the following ways to get to work: cycling, walking, car-pooling, taking public transport, tele-working. On average, for each litre of fuel burnt in a car engine, more than 2.5kg of CO2 is released.
  • Try to avoid short car journeys because fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are disproportionately higher when the engine is still cold. Research shows that one in two urban car journeys is for less than three kilometres - a distance that can be easily cycled or walked.
  • Try washing your car by hand or using a pressurized water jet instead of going to a car wash. Car washes use more electricity and water than the old fashioned way.
  • If you replace your car, consider the fuel economy of your new vehicle. Under European legislation, car manufacturers must display information about CO2 emissions and fuel consumption of new cars in showrooms and advertisements.
A car that consumes only 5 litres per 100km, can save 750kg of avoided CO2 emissions year.
  • Don't let your car warm up while stationary - the amount of fuel that warming up consumes is greater than what you save by starting your journey with a cold engine.
  • Make sure you have correct tyre pressure: if the pressure is down by 0.5 bars, your car uses 2.5% more fuel to overcome the resistance and thus releases 2.5% more CO2.
  • Consider using low-viscosity motor oil. This lubricates the moving parts of the engine better than ordinary oils, reducing friction. The best oils can reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by more than 2.5%.
  • Don't leave an empty roof rack on your car. This can increase fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by up to 10% due to wind resistance and the extra weight - removing it is a better idea.
  • Don't speed - you will use less petrol and emit less CO2. Driving faster than 120km per hour increases fuel consumption by 30% compared to driving at 80km per hour. 4th, 5th and 6th gears are the most economical in terms of fuel consumption.
  • Have you heard of eco-driving? It can lower fuel consumption by 5%. Set your car in motion without pressing down the throttle, shift to a higher gear as soon as possible and keep a steady speed.
A return flight Berlin - Budapest causes 200-250kg of CO2 emissions per person.
  • Use air conditioning sparingly, it increases fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by around 5%. When it's hot, drive for a few minutes with open windows, then close them and turn on the A/C. This will save you the fuel needed to bring down the initial temperature.
  • Try to travel by train! One person travelling by car alone produces three times more CO2 emissions per kilometre than if this person were travelling by train.
  • Explore alternatives to flying. Flying is the world's fastest growing source of CO2 emissions. If you fly, then consider 'offsetting' your carbon emissions. There are organisations that will calculate the emissions you have caused and invest money in renewable energy.
  • Bicycles produce neither greenhouse gases nor pollution and are therefore the least polluting mode of transport.
  • Going on a trip?
    If getting there by car, instead of by train or bus, be generous and share the space. By taking other people who might have made their journey in a separate car, you're putting one less car on the road.
  • When travelling, choose eco tourism.
    Developing countries often gain little financial benefit from the influx of visitors to their shores. Only around 30 % of the money spent by tourists on their holiday remains in the host country. Eco tourism is promoted in some countries. For sustainable destinations, explore EU’s catalogue at www.eco-label.com
  • Going on a longer trip? Choose wisely.
    An average new car generates 160 g/km of CO2 equivalent per passenger, a plane 100 - 250 g/km, a bus 40 - 80 g/km, and a train 40 - 160g/km. If going by car, take as many passengers onboard as possible as it will reduce the CO2 emissions per person.
  • Travel responsibly!
    Fly only for distances greater than 700 km. Otherwise take the train. A transatlantic flight produces almost half as much CO2 as an average person produces over a period of one year while meeting all his or her other needs, such as lighting, heating and car travel!

Choose greener products and services!

Look for goods carrying the flower logo of the European eco-label.

Signifying superior environmental performance, the Eco-label has been awarded to several hundred environmentally sound products and services from 25 product groups such as light bulbs, detergents, computers and a range of household appliances.

For more information about where to find the "Eco-flower" go to http://ec.europa.eu/environment/ecolabel/index_en.htm.

Use your computer equipment wisely!

  • In the office, switch from the old computer monitor to a more energy-efficient LCD screen. If you're using your screen up to eight hours a day, you can save up to 100 000 W in one year.
  • Turn off your computer during your absence from the office for long meetings or lunch hours. You can thus save up to 20 % of your daily electric consumption. Even if it is not you who is paying the electricity bill, think of the environment.
  • If you need to buy a new copier or copy machine, buy a duplex-capable one, i.e. one that can print both sides of paper. If you make your copies in copy shops, ask them to set the machine to double-sided. You'll save energy on the production of paper.
  • Before you print a document or an e-mail, consider whether you really need to print it. A European citizen uses around 20kg of paper per month!
  • How often do you go through your family albums?
    Instead of printing all your digital photographs, archive them on your computer and share them with your loved ones via email.
  • Pay your bills online!
    Eliminate your paper trail as well as the energy used to transport paper bills.
  • Sign your emails with style.
    Adding a short sentence ‘Be kind to our planet and print this email only when necessary.’ will spread the word and help save our trees!

Use water responsibly!

  • Fresh water is scarce!
    Some 97.5% of water on the Earth is salt water, leaving only 2.5% as fresh water. Of this over two thirds is frozen in glaciers and polar ice caps. The remaining unfrozen fresh water is found mainly as groundwater, with only a small fraction present in rivers, lakes or in the air. Water is a precious resource, use it responsibly and don’t waste it!
  • A dripping tap can waste as much as one litre of water per hour.
    In one week, that is enough to fill a bathtub. Drinking water is precious. Save it!
  • A leaking toilet could waste as much as 200 litres of water per day.
    This is equivalent to flushing your toilet 50 times. Check your toilet for a possible leak.
  • Sounds like common sense, but a sure way to save water when doing the laundry is to do less of it! Before starting your washing machine, wait for a full load and check your clothes if they really are dirty; one wear does not always qualify them for a wash.
  • Water your garden in the late evening or early morning.
    During those cooler hours, less water is lost through evaporation and as a result plants will absorb more of it.
  • If you let your lawn grow longer, it will require less water.
    Taller grass encourages deeper roots and shades the soil to reduce moisture loss.
  • Use a thermos flask to save energy.
    When you boil water for a hot drink, try to boil only what you need, or pour the surplus into a thermos flask to keep the water hot for your next cup!
  • Have your water boiler inspected once a year
    – to verify whether it isn't poisoning the air in your home or consuming too much energy. Have it replaced once every 15 years – to benefit from the technological advances that render new boilers more energy-efficient.

Adapt your eating habits!

  • Consume locally produced, seasonal food - it's better for the environment because produce grown in artificial ecosystems or greenhouses requires a tremendous amount of energy for temperatures to be maintained. And transporting goods by plane from one side of the world to the other generates about 1,700 times more CO2 emissions than transporting them by truck over 50km.
  • Eat your veg! Producing meat is both CO2 and methane-intensive and requires large amounts of water. In fact, ruminant animals such as cattle, sheep and goats are large producers of methane due to the way that their digestive systems process food.
  • Wash your fruits and vegetables in a bowl of water rather than under a running tap. You will save water and will do so further by watering your houseplants with the remaining water.
  • Enjoy beef but eat in moderation.
    Beef production accounts for around three times more greenhouse gas emissions than the production of poultry or pork.
  • Don't waste food.
    Buy only the amounts you really need, and make use of leftovers. This way you can reduce waste and also prevent emissions from additional production of food.

Make small changes to your daily routine!

  • When buying garden furniture or other wooden products, try to make sure the wood comes from a sustainable forest management source and operation. Products carrying the FSC or PEFC labels meet these requirements. Unsustainable forest practices contribute to deforestation, which is responsible for around 20% of global CO2 emissions. It usually involves burning down the forests, which causes CO2 emissions, and eliminates their capacity to absorb CO2.
  • Plant a tree. One tree of average size absorbs about 6kg of CO2 per year, so over 40 years it soaks up about 250kg of CO2.

Unsustainable forest practices contribute to deforestation, which is responsible for around 20% of global CO2 emissions.

  • Compost!
    Start a composting scheme by inviting your neighbours and even your local school to compost organic waste. It is a natural fertiliser and it can increase the soil's ability to retain water and air.
  • Is junk and marketing mail being delivered to your home?
    Removing your name from the mailing list can be as easy as sending a letter, postcard, email or ticking a box on a form. This can save many trees and a lot of water each year. You can also add a sign on your mailbox: ‘No advertisements please’.
  • Favour toxic-free electronics!
    Many electronic goods contain hazardous toxic chemicals that are harmful to the environment once discarded. Before buying a new electronic device, find out what companies offer toxic-free products by visiting the following EU website: http://www.eco-label.com
  • Buy in bulk!
    At your workplace, suggest that individual packets of coffee, sugar, cream and tea be replaced by large containers for everyone's use. It will be cheaper and it will reduce waste.
  • Use a toy library and if there isn't one in your neighbourhood, start one!
    Instead of buying new toys, set up a toy library with your friends and exchange them. The variety of toys will entertain the kids and they will be used by more than one child thus reducing your impact on the environment.

Learn more and more about climate change!

You can test your knowledge on climate change and learn more about climate issues on the section "Topics of interest" of this website, as well as on the website of the Directorate-General for Climate Action.

Last update: 18/06/2014 | Top