The question frequently arises: what can I change in my own life? I want a short, easy to implement list. Your question is now answered in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences report, Household actions can provide a behavioral wedge to rapidly reduce U.S. carbon emissions. They estimate we can reduce direct household greenhouse gas emissions by 1/5, and national emissions by 7.4%, “with little or no reduction in household well-being.”
Suggestions are grouped into 5 categories:
W (home weatherization and upgrades of heating and cooling equipment), particularly attic insulation, sealing drafts, installing high-efficiency windows, and replacing inefficient home heating, ventilating, and central air conditioning (HVAC) equipment. This group requires one-time investments. [In some areas, high-efficiency windows are expensive compared to the energy savings.]
By supplementing financial incentives with program elements such as energy audits, convenience, and quality assurance, the most effective programs significantly reduce nonfinancial costs of action as well as financial ones.
E (more efficient vehicles and nonheating and cooling home equipment), in a different category because the assumption is that consumers will do this at the end of the useful life of the current equipment.
M (equipment maintenance) are infrequent, low-cost or no-cost actions, but we need to develop good habits: maintaining cars and cleaning filters.
A (equipment adjustments) are infrequent, money-saving, and automatic once you’ve done them: reduce laundry temperatures, reset temperatures on water heaters).
D (daily use behaviors) require changing our habits and choices consciously, sometimes repeatedly: eliminate standby electricity, thermostat setbacks (change the setting at night or when no one is home), solar drying (clothes lines), more efficient driving, carpooling, and trip chaining).
Many of feel that using muscles and public transportation doesn’t reduce household well-being, consider adding these to the list.
How to get there from here?
The most effective interventions typically (i) combine several policy tools (e.g., information, persuasive appeals, and incentives) to address multiple barriers to behavior change; (ii) use strong social marketing, often featuring a combination of mass media appeals and participatory, community-based approaches that rely on social networks and can alter community social norms; and (iii) address multiple targets (e.g., individuals, communities, and businesses). Single policy tools have been notably ineffective in reducing household energy consumption. Mass media appeals and informational programs can change attitudes and increase knowledge, but they normally fail to change behavior because they do not make the desired actions any easier or more financially attractive. Financial incentives alone typically fall far short of producing cost minimizing behavior—a phenomenon commonly known as the energy efficiency gap. However, interventions that combine appeals, information, financial incentives, informal social influences, and efforts to reduce the transaction costs of taking the desired actions have demonstrated synergistic effects beyond the additive effects of single policy tools. The most effective package of interventions and the strongest demonstrated effects vary with the category of action targeted.