Green City Wilmington Frequently Asked Questions

Climate change is a huge problem. How can I possibly make a difference?

Each individual and business has a role to play in tackling climate change. Current greenhouse gas levels are a result of billions of individual decisions – to drive a particular car, cut a particular tree, use a certain type of fuel, or raise a specific type of livestock. In the same way, billions of individual actions can help reduce emissions. In fact, that's the only way we can achieve significant global emission reductions, one decision and action at a time.

What is a carbon footprint?

Nearly every activity results in some greenhouse gas emissions. A carbon footprint is a summary of the greenhouse gas emissions produced as a result of a specific activity or over a specific period of time. Typical examples include the carbon footprint of a person’s or business’ annual operations, the carbon footprint of an airplane flight, or the carbon footprint of a consumer retail product. A carbon footprint will typically include both direct emissions from a product or activity (for example from gasoline consumption) and indirect emissions such as the emissions from the electricity generation plant that supplies the home or business.

Why should I measure my carbon footprint?

Measuring your carbon footprint helps you identify those activities that have the greatest impact on global warming, and is the first step to developing an effective footprint reduction plan. Identifying areas of high carbon emissions is also a good way highlight potential cost savings.

What is the carbon footprint of a product?

The carbon footprint of a product is the total carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases emitted through its life including production, use and disposal. For example, the carbon footprint of cola is the total net amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted to produce and dispose of a single can of cola.

How do I calculate my carbon footprint?

You can use online carbon calculators to estimate your annual carbon footprint. See the additional resources section of the Green City Living page for links to carbon calculators.

What is ENERGY STAR?

ENERGY STAR is the U.S. government-backed symbol for energy efficiency. It identifies new homes, commercial buildings and more than 40 types of products that are energy efficient and offer the features, quality and personal comfort that today’s consumers expect. Products that can earn the ENERGY STAR include appliances, lighting, home office equipment, consumer electronics, and heating and cooling equipment.

What is energy efficiency?

Energy efficiency refers to technologies, processes and equipment that allow us to do the same activities (or more) with less energy. It means getting better use out of the energy we consume. In practical terms, this could mean installing better insulation, buying ENERGY STAR appliances or using a programmable thermostat.

What is the difference between energy conservation and energy efficiency?

Energy conservation involves a change in behavior to save energy (turning off the lights, powering down computers at night). Energy efficiency involves upgrades like installing appliances, equipment or lighting that uses less energy (such as using compact florescent light bulbs (CFLs) instead of incandescent bulbs). Energy efficiency also could include modifying or changing operational processes.

How much energy does a compact fluorescent light bulb save?

Compact fluorescent lights save you approximately 75% of the energy and last 10 times longer than a comparable incandescent light bulb.

  • Look for bulbs that meet ENERGY STAR® standards for long life, energy savings, start time, color and brightness.
  • Check the package label to get the wattage that will give you the light you need.

Aside from doing the obvious like turning out lights when I leave a room and changing out incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescents bulbs, what other things can I do to save energy?

Here are three tips that can help you control energy usage:

  • Set your thermostat a few degrees lower. Every two degrees lower can save you $5 or more a month.
  • Adding new weather-stripping and caulking around windows and doors can help reduce your energy bill up to 20%.
  • Repairing a leaky hot water faucet can save up to 350 gallons of water a month, in addition to the cost to heat the water.

Does it use more energy to turn things on and off?

Turning off an appliance is more efficient than leaving it on. While an extra surge of electricity flows when you turn on an electrical device, this surge is brief and uses very little extra power.
Even computers can be safely turned off when you are not using them.

  • Personal computer hard drives are currently engineered to withstand hundreds of thousands of on/off cycles. There is no problem with turning them off to save energy.
  • Another way to save is to use the ENERGY STAR® "sleep" mode available on most systems today.

Does it really save energy to turn my thermostat back at night in the winter?

Turning the thermostat down saves energy and money. Your home will lose less heat when the inside temperature is lower. The longer your home is at a lower temperature, the more you save. While your furnace will run for a longer period when the temperature is turned back up, the energy saved during setback is more.

You can save about 1% on your heating bill for every degree you regularly set the temperature back for an eight-hour period.

You may want to consider getting a setback thermostat. It can be programmed to turn down when you are asleep and when you are gone. The temperature can be set to come back up before you get up or get back home so you will stay comfortable.