Actions you can take for the climate
Climate change is a complex challenge that can seem overwhelming.
The solutions don’t have to be.
Learn about more than 40 actions you can take to combat climate change. The list of actions below have been evaluated using Calgary-specific greenhouse gas emissions data. Actions are rated from 1 for good impact up to 5 for the greatest impact.
The more actions we commit to taking, the greater the impact we can have on climate change. Collectively, Calgarians are making a difference. What actions will you start taking today? Share your climate actions on social media: #fortheclimateyyc
Download a printable Climate Actions Checklist.
The City's Climate Resilience Strategy outlines the actions we are taking to improve energy management, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and manage risk for current and future climate impacts.
To see a summary, visit City of Calgary Climate Actions.
Learn more about The City of Calgary's Climate Program.
Adjust window coverings
Use window coverings to regulate the temperature in your home. In the hot summer months, closing your window coverings can help to keep the house cool without using air conditioning. In the winter, opening your south-facing window coverings allows the sun's warm rays in, and takes the pressure off your furnace to do all the heating. When windows aren't facing the sun in the winter, keep the blinds and curtains closed to lock the heat in. You can give your home energy efficiency an additional boost by using thermally insulated window coverings, or adding a thermal liner to your existing window coverings.
Making sure your home is sealed tightly will add comfort and reduce heating bills. Take a close look at your windows, doors, skylights, etc. to detect gaps that may let air escape. If you pass a burning candle in front of your window or closed door, a flickering flame may indicate an air leak. One of quickest and most cost-efficient methods to combat air leaks is by caulking, weather stripping and sealing. Fill cracks, seal gaps and strengthen joints around windows and doors with caulking to stop drafts from coming in. For moveable parts of windows and doors, make sure to use weather stripping. If weather stripping around home and garage doors looks worn or tattered, it's time to replace it. If your windows are old, use plastic window film (heat shrink film) in the winter to give them an added insulation boost.
Program your thermostat
Reducing heat by 1°C (2°F) over an eight-hour period can save about two per cent on your heating energy consumption. If you are away from home for more than three or four hours, it is worthwhile to turn down the temperature. In general, it is best not to reduce the temperature lower than 17°C (63°F), as there is a risk of moisture build-up in the exterior walls. If you want to reduce your temperature further, such as when you are away for extended periods of time (a week or longer), it is recommended to keep humidity levels low.
Use a fan for cooling
Using fans instead of air conditioning can reduce your home energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions, especially since you’re focusing your cooling efforts on the rooms occupied rather than the entire home. On average, Calgary only has nine heat (29 degrees Celsius) per year.
Drain water heat recovery
Up to 20 per cent of home energy consumption comes from water heating, which is the second highest energy consumer in the house next to space heating. Drain water heat recovery systems are an energy efficient technology that can reduce your water heater’s energy consumption by up to 25 per cent.
Tankless water heater
Tankless, or on-demand, water heaters provide hot water when you need it. Since there is no water storage tank, energy is not wasted by keeping water heated when you're not using it. These units offer lower operating and energy costs as well as a longer lifespan.
Wash clothes in cold water
Rather than using hot or warm water to wash your clothes, try cold water. Washing with cold water can keep colours bright and reduce wrinkles. Warm or hot water can actually set in stains. There are laundry detergents specifically designed for cold-water washing. Save even more energy by waiting for a full load before running your washing machine, and using the shortest wash cycle.
Hang clothes to dry
Hanging clothes to dry naturally outside on a line or inside on a rack is an easy way to avoid the costs of drying in a dryer, extend the life of your garments and avoid shrinkage. The majority of the energy associated with a piece of clothing is spent in washing and drying it.
Use toaster oven
A toaster oven uses about one-third to one-half less energy than a conventional electric oven for cooking small meals. Try a toaster oven for your next small meal to save time, energy and money.
Install induction stove
Induction stoves are the most efficient stovetop cooking method and have the added benefit of keeping your kitchen cooler while you’re cooking.
Install low flow shower heads
A low flow shower head can reduce water consumption by 50 per cent, and thereby reduce the energy required to heat that water.
Install faucet aerators
Faucet aerators limit the flow of water going through a faucet by delivering a mixture of air and water. This means less water is used by a tap with an aerator as compared with the same tap without an aerator. Faucet aerators are relatively inexpensive and can simply be screwed on to any faucet head. Newer fixtures may already have faucet aerators on them. Check all the faucets in your house to make sure you're taking advantage of the most cost-effective way to conserve water.
Leave grass clippings on lawn
Grasscycling is the natural recycling of grass by leaving clippings on the lawn after mowing. Grass clippings will quickly break down, returning nutrients to the soil. Grasscycling can benefit the environment by reducing organic waste in the landfill. Cut grass when the surface is dry and keep mower blades sharp. Follow the one-third rule: mow your lawn often enough so that no more than one-third of your grass is cut. This frequent mowing will produce short clippings that will not cover up the grass surface.
Use a solar or push mower
By switching to a solar or push mower, you'll eliminate energy used and emissions created to keep your lawn trimmed.
Use a french press
Typical automatic drip coffee makers use more energy to brew coffee, and warming cycles can last up to an hour or more. In comparison, using an electric kettle to boil water for a French press takes less than five minutes. This simple adjustment is one of the easiest ways to save energy!
Change to LED lightbulbs
LED light bulbs use 70 to 90 per cent less energy than a standard bulb. Take it a step further and be sure to turn lights off in rooms that are unoccupied.
ENERGY STAR appliances
Using the most efficient appliances will reduce your utility costs and reduce your contributions to greenhouse gases. An ENERGY STAR certified refrigerator uses 10 per cent less energy, on average, than a standard model. An ENERGY STAR certified dishwasher uses 12 per cent less energy and 30 per cent less water on average, than a standard model. An ENERGY STAR certified washing machine uses 25 per cent less energy, on average, than a standard model, and 33 per cent less water. An ENERGY STAR certified clothes dryer uses 20 per cent less energy, on average, than a standard model. Purchasing a new high efficiency washer and dryer will save energy and water, and increase performance, which could extend the life of your garments.
High efficiency furnace
Replacing an older furnace with a high efficiency furnace will reduce your home heating costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Choose a furnace with a 95 to 98 per cent annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating.
Geothermal exchange system
Taking advantage of the geothermal heating and cooling has the potential to reduce heating costs by 50 per cent or more, and adds to home comfort. Geothermal exchange systems draw heat or cold from the earth using a series of pipes placed underground. The temperature below the frost line in the ground is warmer than the outside air in the winter and cooler in summer. During the winter, geothermal exchange systems distribute the heat through the house, while in summer they work in reverse, circulating cooler air from the earth through the house, and returning the heat to the ground. These systems may also provide water heating. Powering these systems using solar would have even greater emissions reduction potential, as well as reducing utility bills.
Add insulation to roof
Prevent heat from escaping your home by increasing the R-Value (R40 or higher) of your attic or roof's insulation will help prevent heat from escaping. Hire a qualified professional to install insulation.
Uninsulated basements can allow up to 30 per cent of your home’s heat to escape, decrease home comfort, contribute to poor air quality and increase energy bills. Prior to insulating your basement, ensure you seal drafts and blocking water vapor.
Add insulation to walls
Poorly insulated walls can allow 10 to 30 per cent of your home’s heating energy to escape, decrease home comfort and increase energy bills. Adding insulation to your building envelope is an investment that will help keep you warm and comfortable.
Energy efficient windows
Installing energy efficient windows will increase the comfort of your home, lower heating and cooling costs, decrease energy use and improve overall performance. Choose triple-paned low-e argon filled glazing with vinyl or fiberglass casings, and a U-Value of 1.25 or less. Ensure you hire a professional to install your new, efficient windows.
Install solar energy
Generating your own local renewable energy can give you energy independence, free you of monthly utility bills, greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and add value to your home. Calgary is ideally situated to take advantage of solar power. Learn more at Calgary.ca/solar
Retrofit building envelope
A well-sealed and insulated building envelope with energy efficient windows, doors and skylights will help regulate the temperature within your home, add to your comfort, and reduce heating and cooling costs. Prior to insulating your home, be sure to block water vapour and prevent drafts with caulking and weather stripping. Choose triple-paned low-e argon filled glazing with vinyl or fiberglass casings, and a U-Value of 1.25 or less. Hire a professional to insulate your basement, walls and roof, and replace your windows, skylights and doors.
Buy Green Power
Buying green power or offsetting your power usage through a reputable company can significantly reduce your greenhouse gas emissions while supporting the growth of the renewable energy industry.
Do not idle vehicle
Idling adds to air pollution, has negative health consequences and wastes fuel. Idling in the winter has no benefit to modern vehicles. Auto mechanics recommend reducing the time to warm your vehicle to 30 to 60 seconds, just enough time to defrost the windows. Vehicles warm up faster and more efficiently while driving.
Carpool or carshare
Carshare services and carpooling can help ease congestion, give you a break from driving, reduce your greenhouse gas emissions and save you money from operating, parking, insurance and maintenance costs. Try sharing your ride next time you go to the mountains, work or school.
Keep vehicle maintained
Keeping your car tuned will improve fuel efficiency. Get regular tune-ups, including replacing air, oil and fuel filters when necessary, and making sure your tires are well inflated. Driving smart will also improve fuel efficiency. Avoid using air conditioning, accelerate gently, maintain a steady speed, avoid high speeds and coast to decelerate.
Drive an electric vehicle
Choosing an electric vehicle can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality, and save you money on maintenance, fuel and potentially on insurance premiums as well. Electric vehicles are also fun to drive! Transportation accounts for one-third of Calgary’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Take public transit
Public transit reduces congestion, is more budget-friendly, reduces air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, reduces traffic noise and can be a less stressful way to commute, freeing up time to read or enjoy other activities while commuting.
Bike or walk
Active transportation has many benefits including reducing air pollution, increasing mental and physical health, avoiding vehicle maintenance and fuel costs, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The City of Calgary and community partners have many resources including pathway and bikeway maps, winter bike workshops and more.
A flexible working arrangement that allows you to work from home can increase to your work-life balance, save time by eliminating your commute and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with commuting.
Grow your own food
Growing some of your own food reduces the transportation emissions associated with food production, and it has many co-benefits such as the mental and physical benefits of gardening, enjoying fresh, homegrown produce, and building community. Gardening is fun for all ages, and it’s an effective way to encourage your kids to eat their vegetables.
Buying in season and local food, along with other local products and goods not only supports local farmers, producers and the local economy, there are other benefits such as enjoying fresh food, and reducing the transportation emissions associated with the food and products you buy.
Turn off computer and monitor
Turning your computer and monitor off at the end of each day adds up to worthwhile energy savings. Other small changes at your home office and workplace will also save energy such as: Reducing your monitor’s brightness to 70 per cent Programming your computer, monitor and other office equipment to power down when not in use Activating the power management features on your computer and monitor Plugging everything into a power bar to shut everything down at once Choosing ENERGY STAR certified office equipment, where possible
Reusable bottles and mugs
Reducing consumption is one of the most impactful lifestyle choices you can make to be more environmentally conscious. Switching to a reusable water bottle and coffee mug eliminates the raw materials and greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production and transportation of single-use plastic or paper bottles and cups, as well as the energy and land use required to dispose of or recycle these items. Take this action one step further to consider reducing consumption in other areas of your life as well.
Vegetarian or vegan diet
A 2018 special report on climate change and land by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) describes plant-based diets as a major opportunity for mitigating and adapting to climate change ― and includes a policy recommendation to reduce meat consumption. Meanwhile, the most recent guidance from Health Canada recommends consuming plant-based proteins more often. A plant-based diet requires less land and water, and results in less emissions.
Flying is a high impact mode of transportation. Considering alternate modes of transportation and local destinations is one way to greatly reduce your contributions to climate change. Planning a local vacation can save you money, support local businesses and tourism, and you may discover new adventures and exotic experiences here in your own backyard.
Live close to work and play
Choosing to live within a comfortable distance to walk, bike or take transit to the places you go to most often (work, school, play) greatly influences the environmental impacts of your daily living, especially since transportation contributes one-third of Calgary’s greenhouse gas emissions. There are several documented co-benefits to living close to where you work and play, including better work-life balance, more free time, and better physical and mental health.