Energy Diet

About the Diet

You know you could be doing more to reduce your carbon footprint, but where do you start? On this blog, you’ll meet households around the world who tried to make changes both small and large in every aspect of their lives. You can try it too: simply follow the steps below.


Cutting back on your carbon footprint starts with how much you consume. Evaluate your typical purchases and how much you are consuming, not only in terms of goods, but in terms of energy resources. Simply becoming conscious of your consumption level can help you see where to make changes.

  • Opening exercise: Tally your stats for how much water, electricity and gas you use every year by checking your monthly bills. Also, the Mini Energy Calculators on The Great Energy Challenge can help you gauge other opportunities to cut carbon dioxide emissions (and your electricity bill) all over your home. 15 points
  • Pick three items of produce that you regularly buy conventional and switch to organic. 15 points
  • Eliminate at least three chemical housecleaning products and swap in eco-friendly or natural methods. 15 points
  • For one imported non-produce item that you normally buy, switch to a version made in your own country or state. 15 points
  • Wild card actions: To earn more points, try one of these ideas, or come up with your own. 10 bonus points each

– Swap disposable items that you regularly buy for a more eco-friendly item (paper towels, paper plates, cleaning wipes, etc.).

– Plan to repair or extend use of clothing items rather than buying new ones.

– Substitute old printer paper, magazines, retail shopping bags and catalogs for wrapping paper.

– Resist the urge to buy an item that you only need to use periodically, such as a drill or steam cleaner, and see if you can rent or borrow it instead.


By now, you’ve probably already heard about how resource-intensive the production of beef is. But our unsustainable global appetite for meat is only one part of how we strain the environment with our dietary habits.

  • Set a goal to eat a vegetarian diet one day a week. 15 points
  • Choose to eat at home or brown-bag it at least once per week instead of eating take-out or other meals that come in disposable containers. 15 points
  • Limit your daily intake of beef to 8 ounces per person. 15 points
  • Only consume seafood that has been sustainably raised and fished. For reference, see the Blue Ocean Institute’s Seafood Guide. 15 points
  • Wild card actions: 10 bonus points each

– Start a food-based garden.

– Go vegan or raw for a certain number of days per week.

– Buy grass-fed beef instead of conventional.

– Give up at least one processed food that you normally eat.


Depending on where you live and work, controlling one’s fuel usage can be one of the most difficult things to tackle on an individual basis. But even if mass transit options are lacking where you are, there are measures you can take.

  • Always drive no faster than the posted the speed limit, and avoid rapid acceleration or braking. Research shows that driving 5 mph (8 kmph) under the posted speed limit brings even more of a benefit. For more, see 15 points
  • Remove extra weight from your car, such as unnecessary items in the trunk and rooftop cargo boxes. Also, inflate all tires to the proper pressure and set up a regular schedule of checking them. 15 points
  • Resolve to use public transportation at least once a week for a trip for which you normally would drive a car. 15 points
  • Reduce your planned air travel by one trip. 15 points
  • Wild card options: 10 bonus points each

– Buy carbon offsets for your travel.

– Carpool or find a ride-sharing program.

– Invest in a more fuel-efficient car.


The best part about this category: Conserving energy at home not only helps the planet, it helps your wallet.

  • When you’re at home, lower the thermostat by 3 ºF (about 2 ºC) in winter and raise it in summer. And invest in a programmable thermostat that turns air conditioning off, or heating down to 50º F (10º C) when nobody is home. 15 points
  • Change settings on refrigerator (36-37 ºF, 2-3 ºC), freezer (0 ºF, -18 ºC), water heater (120 ºF, 49 ºC) and washer (cold water, not hot). 15 points
  • Replace at least one third of your light bulbs with CFLs or LEDs. 15 points
  • Concentrate on complete disconnection of electronic devices, especially the TV, stereo, and computers. Use power strips (some power strips can even detect whether or not devices are in use and control electricity flow accordingly) that allow you to turn off a number of devices at once. Don’t forget to unplug the unused phone chargers. 15 points
  • Wild card options: 10 bonus points each

– If you have a second old refrigerator in your house, find a way to eliminate it. If your refrigerator is more than 10 years old, consider a new energy-efficient model with a top-mounted freezer configuration.

– Insulate your water heater. For more on how to do this, see

– Replace appliances with green-certified products, such as EnergyStar in the United States or an “A” label in the European Union

– Hang clothes up to dry instead of using the dryer

– Seal all of the windows and doors in your home with caulk or weather-stripping


As resource constraints increase, so does the importance of the water-energy relationship. Energy is required to distribute, treat, recycle, discharge and consume water. In turn, energy exploration and production are water-intensive. Saving water saves energy and vice versa.

  • Give up bottled water for tap water, using filters to remove chemicals and contaminants. 15 points
  • Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth and when scrubbing dishes that you’re washing. 15 points
  • Set a goal of shortening your shower by one minute or more. Try using a timer or waterproof watch. If you normally take a bath, switch to showers. 15 points
  • Replace shower head or tap with a low-flow model. 15 points
  • Wild card options: 10 bonus points each

– Use xeriscaping for your yard and avoid thirsty plant types.

–  Install a rain barrel to collect water for garden, lawn and plants


It’s all about the three Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle. Putting less trash into our landfills means fewer resources are used to transport and manage that waste.

  • Recycle all glass, aluminum, plastic and paper. Also, take old batteries to recycling centers. 15 points
  • Eliminate the advertising mail you are receiving by contacting businesses and taking yourself off their mailing lists. In the United States, you can also use the Direct Marketing Association’s service to set your preferences. 15 points
  • Change to paperless billing for your bank account, credit card and phone bills. 15 points
  • Eliminate the use of plastic and paper bags, both when shopping and at home. If you already carry a shopping tote, stop using bags for vegetables, bulk food, etc. when you’re in the store. Use biodegradable bags for trash at home, or none where possible. 15 points
  • Wild card options: 10 bonus points each

– Begin composting at home.

– Using biodegradable bags for walking the dog if the family has a pet.

– Recycle your old athletic shoes and clothes. Nike, for example, has 200 drop-off locations around the world.

– Recycle or donate old computers, cell phones and other electronics.


  1. Sonia Kamanat
    May 11, 2011, 7:38 am

    Pls post like item on this article so you can viral it. Is there an environment concerned reason for not doing so? if yes pls ignore my message

  2. Christina Nunez
    May 11, 2011, 8:36 am

    Sonia, you raise a great point, thank you. We’ll be enhancing Facebook sharing and liking capability in the new round of the diet beginning on May 23. In the meantime, please do share the diet link with friends. You can also “like” individual blog posts. Thanks again!

  3. Meg Stout
    Annandale, VA
    May 23, 2011, 10:10 pm

    So excited to register and start this. Alas, the login link points to the register site, so I’m registered but can’t get through to my page.

    I presume this is a bug that will be fixed, and you’ll then be able to remove this comment, with my blessing.

    • Christina Nunez
      May 24, 2011, 11:32 am

      Hi Meg, thanks for your comment. Were you able to get through? If not, please let me know and I will try to get this resolved for you.

  4. Nick Sierka
    Phoenix, Arizona
    June 16, 2011, 1:21 am

    I’ve been interested in the environment for a while now and I’ve read quite a bit about alternative energy, cutting on greenhouse gas emissions, and other related topics. I’m also doing some voulenteer work like cleaning up hiking trails and protecting tree saplings.

  5. dgadhvi
    August 30, 2011, 3:58 am

    It is nice to learn that NG has started this energy diet, which offiers great ideas to control energy use.

  6. Susan Watson
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
    October 30, 2011, 5:00 pm

    Excellent concept and site, but just to nitpick:
    You say “When you’re at home, lower the thermostat by 3 ºF (-16 ºC) in winter and raise it in summer”.
    I believe that a relative change of 3 F degrees is actually about 2 C degrees.
    It is the temperature of 3 ºF that would be -16 ºC.

  7. Christina Nunez
    October 31, 2011, 9:44 am

    Susan, thank you for your astute comment. This has been corrected.

  8. drarunkapoor
    November 4, 2011, 11:05 pm

    Always switch of the lights and gadgets before leaving the room….use less of A.C…recycle everything….donate your old clothes to poor and needy people….do not waste water….reduce non-veg days by at least one per week…use C.F.L’S for lighting purpose they are great energy savers…the chargers of electronic items should be unplugged,they consume lot of energy….use solar and wind energy

  9. Lillian Schmid
    United States
    November 10, 2011, 2:49 pm

    Great tips! Here are some more:

    Always turn off lights when you’re not in the room or they aren’t needed (duh!).

    Ride a bike when you can!

    Participate in clothes-swapping parties with friends so everyone gets “new” pieces without waste!

    Use the library instead of buying new books.

    Buy a reusable water bottle.

    Became vegetarian or vegan all-together (if you can).

    Pile on the layers of clothes and blankets in the winter.

    If you have a baby, consider using cloth diapers instead of one-time use ones.

  10. Allen
    November 12, 2011, 7:45 am

    The hypocrisy in this country is all of the environmentalist moms that drive their children to and from school each day. Give me a break. They complain if someone does not recycle a can yet hop in their large SUV and ignore the best public transit system we have – the school bus.

  11. Dr Arjun Lal
    New Delhi, India
    November 18, 2011, 11:26 pm

    I trust in practcing and not in preaching.

  12. vaishaliahuja
    December 28, 2011, 2:17 pm

    Some more to add :
    – Turn off monitors of your collegues around if they left the office before you. You can obviously shut down your system.
    – Use re-usable cloth bags for any shopping
    – Prefer cycle rickshaws to auto rickshaws wherever you can.
    – Keep scanned copy of your ID proofs and use them wherever you can without using printouts. Kepp only one copy with you incase the scanned images do not work (Earlier I used to keep 3-4 copies of each of my ID proof which would eventually wear tear intime and I would take a copy again)
    – Reserve atleast half an hour extra to rest in dark. You may utilize this time for meditation or on self discovery.
    – Use Facebook/Twitter for spreading the word and include more people in this campaign.
    – Avoid screensavers.
    – Include post script on your emails asking people to avoid printing the email unless necessary.
    – Replace non vegeterain food by other high protein items like soya etc.
    – If you travel by car, offer lift to people who travel on auto rickshaws etc. If possible, pool car for the travel even for not solarge distances.

  13. Chelsea
    Richmond, BC
    March 28, 2012, 5:32 pm

    What a fabulous idea. There’s a lot of tips offered by the David Suzuki Foundation about reducing your environmental footprint at work as well. I’m in the process of moving house, so I’ll share a couple ideas which worked well when implemented in my office since I don’t know how much potential my new place has yet:

    *Papertowel only used to dry water gets tossed in the paper recycling bin instead of the trash.
    *Bathroom/Kitchen/Boardroom lights are left off when not in use.
    *Swap old, inefficient T12 lights for T8’s (average of 43% energy savings per unit, x92 fixtures! ).
    *Hang a reusable cloth bag next to the kitchen trash bin for the collection of recycleable plastic bags.
    *Place a beverage container recycling bin next to the trash bin.
    *Set printer defaults to double-sided.
    *Switch to non-toxic soaps and cleaners.
    *Order eco-friendly office products whenever possible (Staples has a nice line of products, but be careful that the -product- is friendly, not just the packaging).
    *Switch to 100% post-consumer recycled paper.
    *Use a watercooler instead of running the tap until water is cold.
    *Make sure all computers/printers/faxes etc are set to energy-save mode.
    *Turn off the monitor when not in use, even when working at your desk.
    *Smaller trash bins than recycling bins.

    Alot of these are applicable for the home as well, and are common-sense ideas which over time people just break the habbit of doing. Sometimes having an accountability partner can help, “Did you leave any lights on today Chelsea? Did you turn your monitor off during this morning’s meetings Chelsea?” It feels good to say yes, and saying no helps to reinforce the memory so you will be less likely to repeat the undesired behavior. I hope this helps someone! ^_^

  14. Shankar
    April 21, 2012, 8:27 pm

    Looking at the break up of the 360 Degree energy diet, it will be interesting to note that a lot of people’s life style in India is associated with very low energy footprint. I am referring to those people who have been doing this routinely as a tradition and not because of poverty.

    For example I have no automobile; no fridge; no washing machine; no dish washer; no cloth drier; no micro-wave oven; even the ceiling fans are rarely needed; no air conditioning or room heating.
    I have an open well and I do the rain water harvesting and ground water recharging regularly.
    The domestic waste in the house is treated locally needing no additional energy.
    I carry cloth bags for shopping. And I walk or use the public transport.
    I am a vegetarian and increasingly using vegetables and fruits instead of carbohydrates which will need lot of water and energy for cooking.
    My monthly electricity consumption (for 3 people) is not more than 60 Units (kWH). A 14 kG LPG cylinder (for cooking) lasts for two months in my house. I have solar water heater, and a back up solar panels for getting electricity, when the grid supply fails.

    So it is entirely feasible to reduce our energy consumption at individual/ community levels. The real issue is: can the communities in industrialised countries also move towards such a simpler life-styles. Therein lies the real solution to the Global Warming threat.

  15. Amy E
    April 26, 2012, 12:01 pm

    Great ideas…I have switched to CFL, bought a new washer and dryer, gotten rid of one of my extra refrigerators, grow my own veggies and citrus, buy local, raise my own chickens for eggs eat little to no beef..BUT what I find amazing is that as we strive to be more resourceful on our island we are still confronted with issues that perhaps are only found on an island.. exporting our local product leaving locals paying more for the locally grown / raised items because of food trends, Utilities come at a premium…living in the dark to cut the monthly bill for electricity… the list goes one…when we want to go solar and sell back to the grid.. we are told it is close to being full… really? when will these energy saving techniques like voltaic systems be made affordable for the average person..I truly believe everyone should consider becoming as self sufficient and energy conscious as possible using the home lots (yards) as an edible landscape and energy generating environment… experiment with aquaponics as one method… grow the plants.. eat the fish…if every home had a system.. they would never be hungry… best compost idea.. raise chickens in a backyard coop.. they will eat all of your scrapes and give you beautiful eggs in return…

  16. Amy E
    April 26, 2012, 12:04 pm

    Question… when does the use of a cloth towel it’s washing and drying outweigh the use of a paper towel? sorry if it is an unenlightened question…

  17. April
    Chicago, IL
    October 5, 2012, 10:05 pm

    I went on a low energy diet last year after seeing No Impact Man. I have done most of the things on the list. I am wondering why bicycles are mentioned in the transportation section. That’s how my husband I get around in the city. Zero carbon impact, zero cost, plus health benefits…you can’t go wrong. We even buy our groceries by bike. Check out our blog:

  18. Mingee2020
    Richmond Virginia USA
    October 27, 2012, 8:02 pm

    Thanks for the article, There’s quite a few changes I need to implement in my own life. As I’ve gotten older, 30 years old now, I’ve become a civic minded citizen and have decided to run for President of the United States of America in the year 2020.
    As a moral and forward looking individual I find that it’s vital that our government take a lead in working towards a sustainable, lucrative, and more equatable future. Something it has neglected to do during the past few years. The point to this comment is a call to arms, If you’re an American I need your help, we must, we have no choice in the matter, we must demand more efficiency from ourselves first and then our government.
    The first step I’d like to propose is changing all of our electric meters at home and work. This would allow us to monitor our consumption more accurately and adjust our habits accordingly. This simple step only requires action. Write to your representatives today and demand that they put forth meaningful measures to reduce our country’s footprint, or face not being re-elected. By the year 2020, eight years from now, I fully expect some important changes to have already been implemented by the time I’m eligible to run for president, if not, I will not run. If America, screw that, if you personally desire leaders who are not afraid, you must also be brave, you must also be ready to do the hard work necessary to turn things around.