Limit Your Impact on the Environment

April 6, 2007 — -- According to a new poll conducted by ABC News, Washington Post and Stanford, 94 percent of Americans say they're willing to make changes in their lives in order to help the environment. There are specific actions you can take to limit your impact on the environment:

Choose efficient vehicles: According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, a car that gets 20 miles to the gallon emits 50 tons of carbon dioxide over its lifetime. A car that gets double that mileage emits half as much -- and will save you roughly $3,000 in gas.

Drive smarter: Don't add extra weight, don't speed, don't drive aggressively and don't overuse your air conditioner, all of which decrease fuel economy.

Inquire about becoming "carbon neutral": Companies will help you offset unavoidable emissions by, for example, maintaining forests that absorb CO2.

Find out if your electricity supplier offers renewable energy. Many will generate at least half of their power from wind, solar energy or other sources.

Use front-loading washing machines: They are more energy efficient because they use less energy to heat a smaller volume of water.

Buy compact fluorescent light bulbs: They last 100,000 hours compared with Edison-inspired bulbs, which last from 750 hours to 1,000 hours

Unplug phone chargers, televisions, VCRs and other electronics -- don't just turn them off. According to the Department of Energy, nearly 75 percent of all electricity used to power electronics in the average home is consumed by products that are switched off.

Ski at Vail resorts, which are powered by green energy (once you've flown down there!!!)

What Companies Can Do: Government Action and Energy Efficiency

Some companies say that with the right moves, the United States could cut its output of greenhouse gases 60 to 80 percent by the middle of the century.  They say there are steps that can be taken now, and they need not be painful.  They may even be profitable.

GE is one of 10 large companies that joined with environmental groups to make "a call for swift action on global climate change."

Among other steps, they broke with other companies to push the U.S. government to pass aggressive plans that would curb production of carbon dioxide and other gases, such as methane, that scientists say trap heat in the atmosphere and warm the planet.

They added proposals that they said would make such curbs less expensive to the American economy.  Among other things, they suggested a "cap-and-trade" system, so that if one business is struggling to meet the greenhouse goals it can team with other companies that are ahead of schedule.

An electric company that burns a lot of coal, for instance, could buy "emission credits" from another that relies on so-called renewable energy.  All that matters in the end under this plan would be that the total output of greenhouse gases goes down.

All sorts of other ideas are out there.  Engineers are looking at ways to capture the carbon dioxide that comes out of a smokestack or a car's engine.  Executives said companies that find a way could become very rich.

"We firmly believe that climate change can be addressed in ways that create more economic opportunity than economic risk," said Peter Darby, the head of Pacific Gas & Electric, the largest utility in Northern California.

In the meantime, many firms are turning to energy efficiency.  The new headquarters of the Hearst Corp. in New York, for instance, gets much of its indoor lighting from sunlight.  Construction of so-called "green" buildings is going up 20 percent a year.

"If you can save money and do something good for the planet, then why wouldn't you want to do it?" says Paul Westbrook of Texas Instruments, one firm that has invested in energy efficiency.

ABC News' Ned Potter contributed to this report.

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