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Climate for Action: Save Big on Your Heating Emissions by Thinking Change

2009 February 16

About the Author: Michelle Gugger graduated from Rutgers University in 2008. She is currently spending a year of service at EPA’s Region 3 Office in Philadelphia, PA as an AmeriCorps VISTA

In Philadelphia, it can get pretty cold in the winter. Tomorrow’s temperature is going to be a high of 18 degrees. On days like these it’s hard to think about being energy efficient. If you’re like me, you probably want to get out of the cold as soon as possible and into a heavily heated place. Fortunately, there are things we can do to keep nice and warm and energy efficient at the same time. Here are a few easy things that you can do at home:

  • Inform your parents that lowering your thermostat by 2 degrees can save 2,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions a year from entering our environment.
  • Also inform your parents that lowering your thermostat while no one is home or at night can save their energy bill an average of $180 a year — in addition to big greenhouse gas savings.
  • Put an end to wasteful heating. Some examples of wasteful heating include leaving your windows/doors open in the winter or putting furniture in front of radiators which prevents heat from circulating.
  • Use nature to keep your home warmer by leaving your blinds open during the day and shutting them at night.

At home, heating is the second largest contributor of greenhouse gases according to the EPA. But, you would be surprised with the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that you could save by doing a few simple things! If you want to find out just how much, calculate your emissions before and after you make the changes. When you’re done, I’d love to hear about the positive changes that you could make.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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20 Responses leave one →
  1. William Sharp permalink
    February 18, 2009

    With the passage of the stimulus package, I have a suggestion for
    solving several of America’s energy problems at once. My suggestion is that the US Government embark on a campaign of producing ethanol from sugarcane, rather than corn. This is full tested. In the 1970’s, in response to the oil embargo, Brazil undertook a campaign to produce its own fuel from sugarcane. It is now energy independent and not dependent on foreign sources of fossil fuel.

    The benefits are:

    1. It’s a clean-burning fuel (its by-product is water) and powers
    motor vehicles (the principal CO2 contributor to global warming)

    2. It can be domestically produced and provide US jobs. Florida and Puerto Rico are optimum locations to grow sugarcane. Imports of sugarcane from neighboring Caribbean islands – Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, and even Cuba- would provide additional supplies. This would give these poor countries a cash crop, reducing poverty in this region.

    3. It would help the US auto industry. Car makers would have a new product – “flexible-fuel” cars that run on either gasoline or ethanol. In Brazil, GM, Ford, Honda and others have been selling flex-fuel cars for more than 3 decades. (See It would be a new opportunity for US automakers.

    4. Sugar cane ethanol has an energy balance 7 times greater than ethanol produced from corn. (See “The Global Dynamics of Biofuels” Woodrow Wilson Center

    5. The Bush Administration placed a 54 cent/gal. tariff on imports
    of ethanol. This tariff priced corn derived ethanol on par with sugar
    cane imports. (See Congressional Research Service 2008 Report
    “Ethanol Imports and the Caribbean Basin Initiative” Utilizing
    sugar cane to produce fuel allows corn prices to return to normal
    levels and American food prices to return to affordable levels (for
    those corn dependent products, from bread to beef)

    6. The fibrous residue remaining after sugarcane stalks are crushed is called “bagasse.” In Brazil the bagasse is burned for electric power production. A secondary use is cogeneration. (

    7. The US Government could encourage energy producers to establish factories in Puerto Rico or Florida. Or, if the US Government itself embarks on this effort, the Government could derive revenues from sales of the product. This novel approach allows government to raise money without taxes.

    8. With the economies of China and India based on manufacturing,
    worldwide competition for fossil fuels will push prices higher.
    Domestic production of ethanol will help the US avoid the inevitable
    rise in gasoline prices.

    Bill Sharp
    Glenmont, New York

  2. GregorE permalink
    February 18, 2009

    Great Suggestion! Leaving window-shades open during the day is an efficient way to keep our homes warm on sunny winter days. We do it all the time at our house… its completely free, and it really works!!

  3. nutritional supplements permalink
    February 19, 2009

    Something really needs to be done in regards to climate change. Hopefully this global economic downturn will encourage people to reduce carbon emissions – cutting costs and saving the environment. Solar energy panels are getting cheaper and more accessible.

  4. Loreal Crumbley permalink
    February 20, 2009

    I also acted on Michelle’s suggestion…After I read her article, I started leaving my window-shades open during the day. It has definitely kept my home warmer! I agree this totally works!

  5. Kayla Y permalink
    February 23, 2009

    Thanks for the suggestions on how to be energy efficient during the winter, I’ll be sure to implement them in my own apartment.

    However, I was particularly interested in a comment made by William Sharp. I agree that in many ways sugar is a unique source of energy, but it is by no means environmentally friendly. Sugar cane production effects the environment in several ways: destruction of habitat to make way for large plantations, intensive use of water for irrigation, heavy use of agricultural chemicals, polluted wastewater (high levels of nitrogen) for the sugar production process, and air pollution from burning. In fact, in my home state of Hawaii, among the largest polluters are sugar cane plantations. Just FYI!

  6. Michelle permalink
    February 23, 2009

    Thank you for sharing these resources and ideas. This is very interesting information for the many of us looking for the best source of alternative energy.

  7. Michelle permalink
    February 23, 2009

    It’s great that you both got to try this out – it’s a really easy way to heat up the home.

  8. Michelle permalink
    February 23, 2009

    Yeah there are so many ways in which reducing resource use can save us money at home. If people are making such changes during our economic downturn – hopefully they will see the environmental differences that they are all making and stick with them.

  9. Michelle permalink
    February 23, 2009

    Thank you Kayla for your update on this.

  10. Glenn Lopez permalink
    February 23, 2009

    Fellow People,
    I will make my goal by making my town, the greenest place to live, by putting recycle bins around the town and encouraging stores owners to put recycle bins inside their store. Also same goes to Weight room, pools, and schools. I can’t make people recycle so I put flyer telling how much energy can be save by recycling an item, and also to conserve water and use cold water to wash most of their clothes and turn off their lights when not in use, and also by switching old light bulbs to CFL’s. By doing all this, it’s a start to make my town the greenest place to live!

    Glenn Lopez
    Gainesville, VA

  11. Michelle permalink
    February 24, 2009

    That’s a great goal! I see so many places that do not have recycling bins around – awesome that you want to make these changes for your town.

  12. Esmeralda permalink
    April 5, 2009

    This is a good article. Being responsible with the energy we use, and trying to limit our usage is important.

    However, there is another important shift in behaviour that I am missing a little in this article. We can reduce our energy usage, but this will always be somewhat marginal.

    If we can change to other energy sources however, we are in a whole different ballpark.

    I hope you don’t mind me putting a link here, it is not commercial in any way, and only points out government resources where people can find grants and tax relieve if they choose to “go green”.

    This is updated new info, and the resources for the US are on top. Also, other western countries that have stimulation programs for green energy are mentioned with their respective government page.

    I am sorry if the article is slightly “tongue in cheeck”, but in my experience that is a more effective way to grab peoples attention and point out important information.

    Thank you for your article, I agree that saving energy in our households is the best thing to do short term.

  13. Jennifer permalink
    May 8, 2009

    Its a very informative article and I am going to write an article based on this.

  14. Monika permalink
    May 20, 2009

    Those were some excellent tips to keep the climate safe.
    I will surely mention about this at an article at

    I have subscribed your blog too so I can get latest updates posted by you.


  15. Max permalink
    September 8, 2009

    There is really a big change in our climate today compared before and I agree with you one of it causes is the gas emesiions. People should help contribute the prevention of this climate change. We better prepare ourselves before everything went wrong. Make that step now or regret it for the rest of your life.

  16. Ryan permalink
    October 20, 2009

    Why not consider using halogen heaters in place of less efficient heating options this winter. If everyone simply heated the areas of the house they actually used with direct heat provided by radiant heaters, there would be so much to be gained.

  17. abds permalink
    November 26, 2009

    There are many alternatives for fuel but we are not in a position to utilize them effectively. I think there are few companies which are not allowing those kind of natural fuel to be used by the comman man. Because of there business they are creating natural unbalance.

  18. Noeal Sean permalink
    November 26, 2009

    The article and the discussions going on here are really interesting and also important to almost every human being on earth. Every one has to thing about the future. What are the resources we are going to give to our next generation, will the resources sufficient to maintain the natural standards. The consumption and the production should go hand in hand are the natural resources increasing in the same rate as we are using them all these things are s serious issues. Using the alternative things would be a better option.

  19. Jane permalink
    February 1, 2010

    Its great to finally see people doing something about climate change.
    Great blog

  20. Ambit Energy permalink
    November 10, 2011

    I think we all need this but what makes it more effective is us ourselves have this alternative ways of saving and more.

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