On Earth Day 2014, 5 Easy Ways To Fight Global Warming, Today

There are so many horrible things happening in the world that it’s easy to feel helpless and incapable of affecting social change . But sometimes, small actions can make a big difference. We’ve written a series of guides to help you know where to start — today. Today’s guide: Five easy things you can do to help fight global warming.

Replace Your Light Bulbs

This one is ridiculously easy: Replace your light bulbs with compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. They last ten times longer than standard bulbs, use two-thirds less energy, and give off 70 percent less heat. CFL bulbs can have a huge impact on the environment: In 2012, Americans who switched to CFL bulbs reduced greenhouse gas pollution by an amount equivalent to taking 2 million cars off roads for the entire year.

As an added bonus, they’ll also save you money. The average American household has more than 50 light bulbs; if you replace just five of those with CFL bulbs, you’ll have an extra $200 in your pocket over the course of the bulbs’ lives.

Note: As the quality of CFL bulbs can vary, only buy bulbs with Energy Star certification.

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Inflate Your Tires

Obviously, the best thing you can do for the environment is not drive a car at all. But if you must drive, at least make sure your tires are well-maintained. Under-inflated tires on motor vehicles reduce gas efficiency by around three percent, and every gallon of gas consumed by a consumer vehicle releases around 20.8 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air. A conservative estimate suggests that every driver who makes sure their tires are sufficiently inflated reduces greenhouse emissions by around 374 pounds of CO2 a year.

If you look at your tires, you’ll see a recommended level of inflation imprinted on the sides, measured in PSI (pounds per square inch). Make they’re always inflated to that level, and you’ll be good to go. You’ll also save around $432 a year in gas.

Note: You can check a tire’s pressure with — wait for it — a tire pressure gauge, which can be purchased at just about any gas station or mechanic (or online) They cost less than $5.00.

Get Your Water Heater In Order

They account for between 14 and 18 percent of an average American home’s energy costs, but a lot of water heaters are incredibly wasteful. Much of this is due to a design flaw known as “standby heat loss,” whereby water is unnecessarily cooled and reheated in an endless cycle. To make sure that’s not happening in your home, take an hour to insulate your water heater. Here’s a helpful guide, courtesy of the Department of Energy. (Think of it as a roommate bonding experience.)

You should also make sure your water heater is set to the right temperature. Manufacturers often set the default temperature to 140 degrees, but that’s about 20 degrees higher than necessary. Bring it back down to 120, and cut 10 percent off of your monthly utilities bill in the process.

Put A Little Sign Next To Your Light Switch That Says "Turn Me Off"

It’s easy to say that you’ll turn the lights off when you leave the house, but it’s even easier to consistently forget to do it. So help yourself remember with a visual reminder. Really, it just takes a second. Here, just print these out and put them next to your light switches. It’ll take ten minutes, max.

By the way, there’s a tiny bit of protocol regarding when to turn off the lights. If you’re using CFL bulbs, which you should be, you don’t want to turn them off for less than 15 minutes at a time, as switching them on and off too frequently actually detracts from their total life span.

Donate $20.14

How about donating just $20.14 for Earth Day 2014? CharityNavigator has a helpful list of groups that are dedicated to fighting climate change, and has them ranked by efficacy. Some of the best include OxFam, Conservation International, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

You'll feel better, right away.