5 Fastest Ways to Reduce Your Footprint

by Ivory Soap on 11/12/2009

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410340190_3df5f10116photo by ezioman

I stumbled upon the COOLEST website this weekend.  Low Impact Living has an impact calculator that is the best I’ve ever seen.  After your score is calculated, it gives you ‘project suggestions’ to lower your impact even more.  An average household LILI number is 100.  “Low” impact ratings start around 70.  So, what you’re trying to do is get an average of THIRTY points off your score.

I played around with this site for a long while ranking different behaviors by score, cost, etc.  I’m doing a whole series of these posts, but here’s the low down.  Unless you are going to stop driving COMPLETELY (20 points off) or buy enough solar panels to support you 100% (14 points off), these are the top five behaviors to knock a bunch of points off your score, fast.

1.   ~12-15 points off your score–Maximize your recycling. If you recycle sometimes, it’s 5 points off.  If you recycle most of the time, it’s 10 points.  And if you recycle everything thing you could possibly recycle, it could be upwards of 15 points off.   (WOW, look at how much booze Mr. Ivory drinks! Well, the wine bottle is mine.)


2.  ~12.6 points off–Install dual flush toilets or convert your toilets to dual flushers. A dual flusher can save 68 percent more water than a conventional low flow toilet [source: Green Building].  Isn’t that a shocker?


3.  ~12.5 points off–Buying carbon offsets for the rest of your remaining footprint.  I’ve never done this, but after spending all the time one these lists, I’m considering dedicating a portion of our charity fund to NWF’s version of it.


4.  ~8 points–Participate in your utilities green power program for 100% of your usage. Doesn’t mean that you will personally have green power shipped to your house, but that it makes your percentage of power from that company is generated from green sources.  This is expensive, but if you have a few hundred dollars laying around begging to be spent, it makes a big difference in your impact.

9-09bannerpicTVA Green Power Switch

5.  ~6 points off –Install Low Flow Shower Heads.


Just to give you perspective, the next three items (gray water systems, solar water heater, raingardens) are all THREE points or less.  Just think where buying that hybrid and fancy-pants washing machine shake out!

So, in summary, if you’re an average American household, just recycle effectively and change your potties and shower heads and you’re LOW IMPACT.  Ain’t that NUTS?


{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Pippa November 12, 2009 at 5:43 am

What a great site, I go to a couple of UK ones quite often so I can pat myself on my back for being good, but these are amazing small things to do that have a huge impact. Going to go and look about new flushing systems!

Stefani M. November 12, 2009 at 7:51 am

Soooo, what was your exact number, Ivory? I feel good about my 61. (I feel bad that I had to mark that I use my AC frequently, but that’s what happens when one lives in Texas.) Now it’s time to get some more CFLs as my standard bulbs burn out. 🙂

Ken November 12, 2009 at 8:45 am

Unfortunately, I think #3 (carbon credits) will only succeed in making a small amount of well-connected groups very wealthy. Everything else makes sense on an attrition basis (to avoid unnecessarily adding to landfills.)

Bethany James November 12, 2009 at 8:46 am

Wow, I got a 66! Only having one car for our family really cut it down. That was fun, that’s for posting it.

Meagan November 12, 2009 at 9:10 am

I only got a 58! I guess being married to a med student and therefore dirt poor really helps with your carbon footprint! WOO! It’s also amazing how much being frugal is actually environmentally friendly.

Michelle November 12, 2009 at 9:32 am

Thanks for this! I”m on my way to see how we’re doing…

Carla November 12, 2009 at 9:35 am

Hmmmm… without going to the site I can tell you that we won’t score all that well in spite of doing some recycling, a low-flow shower head and me not flushing more than a few times a day. I think maybe we made a mistake when we built a lovely house 15 miles from town. And we, too, live in Texas, the home of hundred degree summer days. (Sometimes 80 degree days in the winter.) I hate to say it, but I would be sick without my air conditioner.

bushidoka November 12, 2009 at 12:42 pm

I disagree completely on #1 – though it is a far-too-common misconception.

A full recycling bin is only slightly better than a full garbage can.

Reduce, reused, recycle, in that order. We want empty garbage cans AND empty recycling bins. We want to REDUCE consumption of anything that could end up in either place.

Zorak November 12, 2009 at 4:33 pm

wow, and i was feeling pretty good about my 71 (before projects). y’all are awesome!

Kat November 12, 2009 at 7:30 pm

I scored a 62. Looking through the projects suggested, there’s very little I can do to bring that number down, since we already do so many of them (furnace on a timer, native vegetation, etc.).
I was surprised they didn’t ask for heater settings. Does that mean I’m not making a large difference with the furnace at 68 instead of 74?
I’m glad to see the sacrifices we make are paying off, though. Just wish the next projects weren’t so dad-gum expensive…

Leah S November 12, 2009 at 11:25 pm

Mine popped out to a lovely 43. Ironically enough, we don’t recycle a thing. Unless you count donations to the thrift store. But I also don’t have a dishwasher, we’re north facing, no AC, and live in the desert where turning on the heater is a rarity.

Moving to our current apartment was one of the best moves we’ve made!

Elizabeth November 13, 2009 at 8:16 am

Well that sucks. If we lived on a half-acre plot, we’d be at 85. But because we have 6 acres, our score is 109. 🙁

Kathy Murphy November 13, 2009 at 10:02 pm

I wish they would factor things in like growing/canning your own food, chickens for eggs, making your own soap, buying local, cooking from scratch, etc. These are huge ways to cut down on fuel costs, processing and needless trash. Unfortunately most of the projects cost huge amounts of money 🙁

Michelle November 15, 2009 at 3:45 pm

My score was 30 (woot!!) and I could only take it down a few more points. We’re poor, have no vehicle, live in a fairly small apartment. I agree with Kathy, they need to factor in self-sufficiency–that would take our score down some for sure. I just recalculated to account for the riding in cars we do and it was still 30. There are definitely good things about being low-income.

Wimbledon cleaners June 14, 2011 at 4:11 am

Thanks for sharing. This is definitely worth checking out. We hope that more and more people “calculate” their footprint on the environment.

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