Beyond recycling: Which common green behaviors most effectively fight climate change?

Drought. Wildfires. Hurricanes. Record-breaking temperatures. Climate change is impacting the environment worldwide and you want to make a difference. You try to be mindful in small ways such as recycling and turning off unnecessary lights, but you wonder if you’re making any difference.

“Taking steps to address climate change is urgent, but most of us feel lost in how we can make an impact,” says Patrick Maloney, founder and CEO of Inspire, a clean energy technology company. “Anything you do to support the environment is a step in the right direction, but some actions can make a bigger difference than others. Our goal is to empower consumers with the access they need to join a movement towards living a carbon-free life.”

In June, Inspire surveyed Americans aware of climate change, more than 75% of whom believe climate change is a threat and were willing to change their behavior to combat its effects, and found almost half of people (49%) wish they knew more about how to reduce their impact. In fact, 74% chose recycling as the top behavior to reduce their impact, when in reality, the time-consuming process of cleaning, sorting and disposing of recyclables has only one-tenth of the carbon-reducing impact of powering your home with clean energy.

Maloney and environmental experts at Inspire have made powering your home with clean energy simple, and they provide insight into what you can do beyond recycling to reduce your own carbon footprint and support the environment. These calculations use the U.S. EPA Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator to help convert CO2 emissions reductions to the equivalent of coal not burned. Coal usage is one of the biggest contributors to climate change and accounts for 21% of all CO2 emissions in the U.S. annually.


Idea 1: Switch to flat-rate clean energy

The average home requires approximately 12,146 kwH of electricity each year. Switching from 100% fossil fuels to 100% clean energy to power your home is the equivalent of saving approximately 6,507 pounds of coal from being burned each year! You can easily do this by switching to a clean energy provider like Inspire. In just a few minutes you can sign up for an unlimited 100% clean energy subscription. There are no fees or price fluctuations: You pay a flat rate to power your home with clean energy. Learn more at

Idea 2: Walk or bike instead of driving

Not only are walking and biking healthy activities that exercise the body, they help keep the earth healthier as well. Walk to nearby locations if possible, or, bike to work when the weather allows. The average bike commute length is about 19 minutes, or close to 40 minutes round trip. Commuting by bike as opposed to driving is the equivalent of saving approximately 1,057 pounds of coal from being burned annually.

Idea 3: Reuse and recycle

Cutting waste, reusing materials and recycling can make a difference. Opt for reusable bags at the store. Wash and reuse bottles and food containers for other uses. Make recycling a mindset so it is habitual for the whole family. An estimated 94% of the U.S. population has some type of recycling program available to them, according to a study by industry group Sustainable Packaging Coalition. Whether it’s curbside, drop-off or another program, recycling equates to saving approximately 637 pounds of coal from being burned annually.

Idea 4: Wash clothing in cold water

Some clothing — like jackets, sweaters and jeans — may be worn multiple times if not dirty. By washing items less frequently you save water and energy, plus clothing looks newer for longer. Of course, certain items need to be washed after every use and all items will need to be cleaned eventually. When washing, use the cold setting to avoid the energy it takes to heat the water. If you switch to a cold-water wash in four out of every five loads, that’s the equivalent of saving approximately 432 pounds of coal from being burned annually.

“These simple ideas can have a profoundly positive impact on the warming climate, which is the most consequential issue of our lifetimes,” says Maloney. “Putting the choice of clean energy into the hands of the average consumer is one of the most effective ways to tip the scales. Together we can make lasting change for our children and grandchildren so they can thrive on a planet that is both healthy and habitable.”