(CNN) -- Little things like switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs and turning the heating down in our homes sounds so easy, but how many of us do make those small changes, and others like them, that together can make a much bigger difference to avoid climate change and protect the environment?
If you haven't turned on to energy efficiency yet, it's about time you did.
Here are some easy things that you can do, right now, to make a difference, many of which will save you money as well. What more incentive do you need?
1) Turn down the heating
Electricity consumption differs dramatically in households around the world, but energy efficiency is universal. Figures from Greenpeace state that the average household in Europe consumes 4,667 kWh, in Japan 5,945 kWh per year, whereas the typical American household consumes 11,209 kWh.
According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, by turning your home's heating down by 2 degrees in the winter and up by 2 degrees in the summer you can save around 900 kilos of carbon dioxide emissions each year.
Fact: For each degree that you raise the thermostat on an air-conditioning unit, energy consumption is reduced by 3 percent. Changing from 20 degrees to 25 degrees reduces energy consumption by 15 percent and over a year on average saves 1,000 kilos of CO2.
2) Unplug un-used appliance
You might get a small 21st-century thrill sitting in your home with the lights off watching all the red stand-by lights of your gadgets and appliances glowing in the dark, but they're really little red warming lights that electricity is being wasted. Even when devices are off and those little red lights aren't glowing, they still use electricity.
Fact: According to the University of Strathclyde in the UK, the average household will use 525 kilowatts per year to keep equipment in stand-by mode.
3) Buy energy efficient products
From fridges and cookers to computers and light bulbs, some energy efficient appliances may be more expensive to buy, but will generally save in energy use and bills in the long run. Compact fluorescent light bulbs use four times less energy, and last eight times longer than incandescent light bulbs.
Extra tip: Research your products before you buy them. Do the manufacturers have an environmental policy; do they try and avoid toxic chemicals where they can? Greenpeace's guide to "greener electronics." is a good place to start.
Learn more: All about electronic waste
4) Insulate your home properly
Yes it's dull, but proper loft insulation and boiler lagging can make a great difference to reducing wasted heat in homes and the amount of energy needed to heat them. Weather-sealed windows are also important, just as much for homes that need air-conditioning as heating.
Fact: The average American home that has proper weather striped doorways and windows can save 770 kilos of carbon dioxide and $274 per year. (Source: stopglobalwarming.org)
5) Don't wash dishes by hand
Finally, a good reason to avoid washing up. No need to try and avoid the chore by protesting that scouring those pans will make your hands like scaly lizard's claws and your life as hand model will be ruined, a study by the University of Bonn, in Germany found that a fully loaded dishwasher uses only half the energy and one-sixth of the water than hand washing the identical set of dirty dishes.
Extra tip: Choose a plant-based detergent as modern dishwashers use more detergent than hand washing (Source: Friends of the Earth). Also if you can't pronounce the ingredients in a household cleaning product, it probably isn't good for the environment.
6) Recycle more
We've been recycling for thousands of years. It was only when the industrial revolution came around that it became almost as cheap to make things new rather than reuse them. As well as reducing the need for "virgin" material
Fact: Creating a ton of aluminum cans from scratch takes five times the amount of energy as it would to produce a ton of recycled cans. (Source: Friends of the Earth)
Learn more: All about recycling
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