Why Our Hairdryers Are Ruining The Earth – Carbon Dioxide Gas Emissions

by heather

hair-dryerOk, ok. The headline is a bold statement. But, hear me out here.

Do you ever really think about your hair dryer? I sure don’t, at least not until this weekend. But, we should be.

Why? Because according to National Geographic hair dryers emit, on average, 57 lbs. of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year.

I stumbled across that stunning statistic by accident this weekend. And, it started me wondering: what else am I using every day that’s emitting tons of greenhouse gasses?

Well, that one question inspired me to go on a CO2 investigation. And what I found was shocking.

Want Some Greenhouse Gas Emissions With Your Toast?

I never would have guessed in a million years that my toaster emits greenhouse gasses. But it does.

How much? Again, according to National Geographic, a toaster emits 53 lbs. of carbon dioxide per year. I’m assuming this is if you make toast every day.

Want some more amazing CO2 facts? I have plenty to share. Here’s the damage our other appliances are causing to the atmosphere:

  • Dishwasher: 599 lbs per year
  • Clothes Dryer: 1,521 lbs per year
  • Washer: 153 lbs per year
  • Television: 548 lbs per year
  • Central Air Conditioner: 4,067 lbs per year
  • Desktop PC: 321 lbs per year
  • Refrigerator: 1,191 lbs per year
  • Stereo: 167
  • Gas Powered Mower: 87 lbs per year

Are you stunned? I sure was.

My Own Carbon Footprint

After all this, I wanted to see just how big of a carbon footprint I really had. So, I started searching online for carbon footprint calculators.

The most comprehensive one I found was Carbon Footprint. The reason why I liked this one the best is because it takes into account lifestyle factors.

For instance, this carbon footprint calculator asks relevant questions like if you’re vegetarian or not, if you buy second-hand clothes or always buy new, and if you buy organic or not. These little decisions really add up, which is why I was so happy that this test included them.

So, what was my final damage?

Well, it wasn’t as low as I would have hoped. Annually, I’m emitting 10.03 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Here’s how my life broke down:

Your Carbon Footprint:

4.78 tonnes of CO2
0.54 tonnes of CO2
1.66 tonnes of CO2
0.00 tonnes of CO2
0.00 tonnes of CO2
3.05 tonnes of CO2

Total = 10.03 tonnes of CO2

According to Carbon Footprint, 10.03 tons is about half what most people in the U.S. emit. Which is a bit scary. Americans are definitely the biggest energy hogs in the world. Thanks to our love affair with big houses, multiple cars, and big box stores, we emit double the amount of CO2 than everywhere else in the world.

Not. Good.

How To Cut Back Our CO2 Emissions

Think about this for just a minute. Every person in the U.S. emits 20.4 tons of greenhouse gasses each year (on average).

Now think about all the people on your street. In your town. In your state. And in this country.

That is a heck of a lot of CO2 we’re putting into the atmosphere. No wonder we’ve got global warming problems. But before we all start feeling overwhelmed and sad and freaked out, here’s the good news: Knowledge Is Power.

You and I have a choice. We have the power to change our routines. We have the power to make better decisions. And this can really make a difference in our carbon footprints.

So, what can we do?

Action #1: Reduce Our Waste

According to the EPA, every pound of waste we throw out generates .94 lbs of CO2 equivalent in the form of methane. The average person in the United States throws away 1,130 lbs of waste per year.

So, that’s a lot of CO2.

We can drastically reduce this number by recycling everything we can, and keeping food and yard waste out of landfills by composting at home.

You can learn more about reducing waste by reading “How To Make Your Own Vermicompost Bin” and “How To Start Composting“.

Action #2: Switch To CFLs

I know you’ve probably heard this one a million times. But, it’s for a reason: CFL bulbs really do make an amazing difference in your home’s energy use.

National Geographic estimates that if every household switched just half of their bulbs to CFLs, it would reduce CO2 emissions by 42.4 million tons, or 36%.

Action #3: Switch To A Push Reel Mower

According to the EPA, a traditional gas powered mower emits as much pollution as 43 new cars each being driven 12,000 miles. Um, scary. And that doesn’t take into account the 17 million gallons of fuel that is spilled every year by refilling lawn mowing equipment.

I have a push reel mower and I love it (you can see my Scotts Push Reel Mower Product Review here). It’s quiet, it gives me exercise, I save money because I don’t have to buy gas and oil, and it emits ZERO CO2. What’s not to love?

Lawn mowers are bad. Very bad. You can make a big difference simply by spending $100 on a Scotts Push Reel Lawn Mower. They’re awesome.

Action #4: Reduce Travel

Of all the things we can do to reduce CO2, reducing motorized travel might be one of the biggest (as well as one of the hardest).

I work at home, which obviously means I don’t commute. And, I drive a low-emission Honda Civic. But I still put out 1.6 tons of Co2 because of travel each year. I was shocked because I thought it would have been much lower than this.

We can all reduce our CO2 emissions by using public transportation, riding our bikes, walking, carpooling, and combing trips.

And if you fly somewhere, you can help offset your CO2 emission by purchasing a TerraPass. Terrapass calculates your CO2 footprint depending on where you’re going, and then gives you a “price” for this travel. The money you use to offset your carbon footprint goes to fund renewable energy projects. So a TerraPass won’t eliminate the CO2 you put out, but it will help bring more renewable energy to more people.

Action #5: Ditch the A/C

Air Conditioning is a big time energy hog. I know most people don’t want to live without their A/C, and that’s fine. But by turning it up just a few degrees you can really reduce the amount of carbon dioxide you’re putting into the air.

So, why not start with two degrees? Or if you have ceiling fans, why not turn it up 4 degrees? Ceiling fans make you feel 4 degrees cooler, but use far less energy than an air conditioner.

You can learn more about on how to use eco-friendly air conditioning by reading “How to Go Green and Save Money on Your Air Conditioning“.

Other Small Things To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint…

  • Turn down your hot water heater
  • Replace your furnace air filters
  • Unplug electrical appliances like Tvs and computers when you’re not using them
  • Only use the dishwasher when you’ve got a full load, and reduce your Co2 even more by letting your dishes air dry
  • Use recycled toilet paper and other recycled paper products
  • Buy locally grown foods
  • According to Climate Crisis, frozen food uses 10 times more energy to produce than fresh, so buy fresh food over frozen when you can
  • Eat less meat
  • Buy products with little or no packaging

Last Word…

It always amazes me how much there is to learn in this world. Until I took that Carbon Footprint test, I really thought I was doing pretty good with my greenhouse emissions. But, I can do a lot better.

The great news is that A and I will soon be moving to a larger city that has a great public transportation system. So, I’ll be able to reduce my Carbon Footprint by taking the bus and walking wherever I need to go. I’m really excited about this.

I’ll also be able to reduce my waste even further once I get my vermicompost bin set up and running. This is good too.

I know it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with all this. That’s how I felt when I found out about my hairdryer (which I use everyday). But again, we all have the power to make tiny choices that can make a big difference.

And what about the hair dryer? Well, my hair is really too long and curly to just let it air dry. So, I’m only going to wash and dry it every other day now (which is better for my hair anyway).

What about you? What strategies have you used (or are going to use) to reduce your carbon footprint?

Additional Resources:

You can see more ways to reduce your carbon footprint by visiting CarbonFootprint.com.

The article “It Starts At Home”, by National Geographic, is a really excellent feature by Peter Miller on reducing your home’s CO2 emissions. The photographs, as always, are excellent, and the writing and research is top-notch. I highly recommend it!


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All Things Eco Blog Carnival Volume Sixty | Focus Organic.com
July 27, 2009 at 9:58 am

{ 18 comments }

Green Bean July 13, 2009 at 10:17 am

Good God! That much for a hair dryer!?! The a/c and the clothes dryer didn’t surprise me but did motivate me to get the ole clothesline back out.

heather July 13, 2009 at 10:32 am

Green Bean,

I know! I freaked when I found out. I had no idea. And the toaster was a shock too. I just never thought about it before.

Kristin July 13, 2009 at 2:36 pm

WHOA! I had no idea some of those items were bad… what a shocker. I don’t have a clothesline, but would like to get one. I’ll have to go dig out my bills to calculate my footprint now.

heather July 13, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Kristen,

I know…it was really kind of sobering to take that carbon footprint test.

And by the way, I LOVE YOUR SITE! It seriously rocks. I’ve been redesigning The Greenest Dollar, and as soon as I figure out where my blogroll is going you’re on there. I was really impressed with the articles you had up. Nice job!

Mrs. Money July 13, 2009 at 4:17 pm

WOW!! The air conditioning CO2 output is crazy!! I had no idea. I try not to use ours unless it gets unbearable. I am pretty cranky when it’s humid. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this. You’ve inspired me to wash my hair at night and let it air dry!

Jill July 13, 2009 at 7:15 pm

Great post! And 10 tons of carbon/year isn’t too shabby considering where you live, so I think you should be proud of the accomplishments you’ve already made (while of course still striving to improve!). But like you said, the US average per capita emissions rate is FAR above the majority of the rest of world…and when you consider historical emissions as well, turns out we’re even more guilty for the current amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. There are some cool graphs on an old post of mine at the link below if anyone is interested in comparing our emissions with other large players in the climate change debate…I know, a self plug (ah!) but I really find these stats eye opening. Thanks for the post Heather!

(http://thebarefootbadger.com/climate-change-responsibility-will-the-united-states-please-stand-up/)

Melissa July 14, 2009 at 5:25 am

Heres mine. I commute far for work. That is my biggest downfall!
Your Carbon Footprint:
House 0.27 tonnes of CO2
Flights 0.00 tonnes of CO2
Car 11.83 tonnes of CO2
Motorbike 0.00 tonnes of CO2
Bus & Rail 0.00 tonnes of CO2
Secondary 0.00 tonnes of CO2

Total = 12.10 tonnes of CO2

Melissa July 14, 2009 at 5:28 am

I think the household one was wrong though. I think I should have entered for a year and I entered my monthly average. My house is an energy vaccuum.

heather July 14, 2009 at 5:44 am

@Jill,

Thanks so much for sending that link! I’ll definitely head over and have a look.

@Melissa,

That’s awesome you took the test!

The calculator (I think) automatically assumes it’s a year, so it’s taking that one month and stretching it out over 12. So, I think that you’re right and the house is off.

Kristin July 14, 2009 at 12:05 pm

I know 10 tonnes sound like a lot. There was a show on the Planet/Green channel where they tried to reduce the carbon footprint of a family every show. There was an episode with 2 New Yorkers and their footprint was something like 60! WHOA! I haven’t watched the show in a while but it was interesting to see all the different things that effect our footprint – dry cleaning, leaving the tv on all day for the dog (yes, someone was afraid the dog would get bored), not recycling/reusing items. It all adds up.

Kristin July 14, 2009 at 1:05 pm

PS – @Heather, thanks for the compliments about my site! I enjoy yours too-love how you converse with the commenters 🙂

matt July 14, 2009 at 9:24 pm

Your post created more questions than answers for me. How much carbon are we allowed to begin with? Why eat less meat? Is your hair dryer carbon neutral in the winter when the heat is desirable? Likewise for your toaster, oven, etc.,?

Couple of possible additions to your list, tankless water heaters, especially for people who use air.
E-85 ethanol, way better at the tail pipe and one of the few ways to “buy local” when it comes to fueling our cars.

Robyn July 15, 2009 at 9:10 am

I think I’m off to a good start by not owning a car (2 years now). I don’t even like to fly but find I’m going somewhere about once a year. I use a hair dryer 2-3 times a week. I keep most of my appliances unplugged when not in use. But I have a full-size refrigerator and I certainly don’t need one that big. I’m looking at trying to sell it and get a small one. Seems like everyone on Craigslist is trying to sell their fridge, though. I’ve been vermicomposting for a year now and that has drastically reduced the trash that goes to the landfill. I keep striving for a zero-waste home.

heather July 15, 2009 at 9:53 am

@Matt- You brought up some great points! The scientists that I’ve seen on National Geographic say that we should all shoot for an 80% reduction in our carbon footprint if we want to make a real difference in the environment. I know that’s an almost staggering amount, but just by doing small things we can start to chip away at it.

As far as eating less meat goes, here’s an interesting quote from Planet Green (source: http://planetgreen.discovery.com/food-health/vegetarian-diet-carbon-footprint.htm ):

“Based on a study out of the University of Chicago in 2006, called “Diet, Energy, and Global Warming” (pdf): The average U.S. diet gets 47 percent of its calories from animal sources, resulting a carbon footprint of 2.52 tons per year. Eating a diet heavier in read meat — about 50 percent of a diet’s calories — results in a carbon footprint of 3.57 tons.

And from Scientific American Magazine (source: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-greenhouse-hamburger )

“In 1999 Susan Subak, an ecological economist then at the University of East Anglia in England, found that, depending on the production method, cows emit between 2.5 and 4.7 ounces of methane for each pound of beef they produce. Because methane has roughly 23 times the global-warming potential of CO2, those emissions are the equivalent of releasing between 3.6 and 6.8 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere for each pound of beef produced.”

Eating less meat, or no meat at all, is a great way to just live lighter on the land (not to mention living healthier and saving money). I’ve been a vegetarian for over a year now, and for me it’s an ethical decision first, and an environmental decision second. But, I feel really good that I’m making less of an impact by my choice.

@Robyn- That’s great you don’t own a car! I’m the same way about my fridge too; it came with the house I bought, and I certainly don’t need one so big. I think most people could get away with a far small fridge than they have.

Matt July 15, 2009 at 9:29 pm

Not to belabor a point but if the National Geographic scientists say we should reduce by 80% it seems they must have a baseline to reduce from. If my footprint is already 80% less than the norm it would seem to be pretty difficult to reduce further. Do they state any averages?

And to be a total pain….cows are very different from each other and therefore their diet. I raise a few dozen grass fed beef and I’m sure their methane output is less than half of what a feedlot cows would be. I wonder if I sold my cows and let the fields express themselves how much carbon would be released when they died off in the fall.

If you notice a pattern here with me it is that I want to do my part but I want to know what the trade offs are. I am willing to make personal sacrifices for the greater good but I have found that we frequently trade one evil for another.

I am definately on board with CFL’s, Tankless water heaters, Insulated Concrete Forms, Buying Local (including E-85) and recycling anything that can be recycled. But, God forgive me, I did use my hair dryer today.

keep the good info flowing,
Matt

heather July 17, 2009 at 8:56 am

Matt,

The ending to your comment made me laugh. 🙂

I double checked the article and didn’t see any type of baseline number for our carbon output. I always assumed that we should be striving for zero carbon output, but that seems an impossible goal.

So now, like you, I’m wondering what we should be striving for. Thanks for bringing up that point! I’ll definitely have to look into it more. I’ll keep everyone updated if I find any kind of baseline number.

matt July 18, 2009 at 9:07 pm

Heather,

Now your making me laugh, if we reduced our carbon footprint to zero wouldn’t that mean we were not exhaling or perspiring ??????

I wonder if we could get carbon level labels on everything like we do for food values on packaging? It would be nice to be able to measure and compare ourselves. We all probably would reduce more if we knew the content of things.

Sunrise250 September 10, 2016 at 12:46 pm

I live in CA and it is September and I have line dried my clothes since March. By mid November I will have to start using the laundry drier when days are too cold/damp.

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