Germany leads the world in energy efficiency, followed by Italy, Japan, France and the United Kingdom, according to an international scorecard. The United States is tied for eighth with South Korea.
What are other countries doing so much better than the U.S.? Can the big steps that Germany, for example, is taking to be more green be broken down for individuals to do?
The 2016 International Energy Efficiency Scorecard from the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, or ACEEE, looked at performance in buildings, industry, transportation and overall national energy efficiency efforts.
Those are broad areas and apply to entire countries. But there are plenty of small things that an individual or a family can do to save energy that are more widely used around the globe. Here are a few:
Build better: If you’re adding on to your home or remodeling, consider green building materials that will make your home more energy efficient. Forty percent of all energy is consumed in buildings, and most of that is used for heating.
Buy green: When choosing a refrigerator or freezer, pay a little more money upfront if you have to for the one that’s more energy efficient. Products with the Energy Star certification clearly make it easy to see how much energy something uses and how much it costs per year to power it. Look for the most energy efficient product you can when shopping, such as light bulbs and consumer electronics.
Ride a bike: Germany has extensive bicycle transportation networks, with more than 200 long-distance bicycle paths. Riding a bike to work every day may be difficult, but try riding on errands a few miles from home to see if it improves your health and lowers the gas bill for your car.
Take public transportation: The German public transportation system is so large that 88 percent of Germans live near a bus or train stop. Share your car or take the bus to work and save money and help the environment.
Recycle: If your city’s garbage collector doesn’t have a recycling program, ask for one. Germany has a complicated recycling system where items must be sorted and recycled properly. Recycling helps reduce pollution, conserve resources and save energy. For example, about 95 percent of the energy used to produce an aluminum can from virgin materials can be saved by using recycled aluminum instead.