What Are the Most Important Actions I Can Take?

When you are deciding which actions to take, think about which ones will have the greatest effect on carbon emissions (we call this “technical potential”) and which are easiest to do (we call this “behavioral plasticity”). Do not try to be perfect, but try to take those actions that score highest on these two metrics for you. This chart provides a list of several of the most promising types of actions, but these are just the tip of the iceberg.

The Short list

Our colleagues Jerry Gardner and Paul Stern developed the following short list, which describes the most significant actions the average household can take to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions:

Action Energy Saved (percent)
Buy a more fuel-efficient vehicle 13.5%
Install or upgrade attic insulation and ventilation up to 7.0%
Replace incandescent light bulbs with LEDs 5.0%
Carpool to work Up to 4.2%
Maintain car, including air-filter changes 3.9%
Adjust thermostat to 68°F when heating, 78°F when cooling 3.4%
Adopt fuel-efficient driving habits Up to 3.2%
Install more efficient heating unit 2.9%
Combine errand trips Up to 2.7%
Caulk and weather strip home to seal drafts up to 2.5%
Cut highway speed from 70 to 60 mph Up to 2.4%
Install a more efficient AC unit 2.2%
Install a more efficient refrigerator 1.9%
Buy low rolling-resistance tires for car 1.5%
Install a more efficient water heater 1.5%
Maintain recommended tire pressure 1.2%
Set clothes washer to use warm/cold or cold/cold cycle 1.2%
Total potential savings Up to 18.0%

Learn More

If you want to learn more about actions you can take at home to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions, we recommend the following articles