As carbon dioxide emissions from households continue to increase, many businesses have begun putting up Internet Web sites that advise consumers how to save energy for free.

According to the Environment Ministry, household carbon dioxide emissions in fiscal 2003, which ended on March 31, 2004, were about 30 percent higher than the level for fiscal 1990.

This was attributed chiefly to the increase in the number of nuclear families and greater use of household electric appliances.

Emissions in this category account for roughly 20 percent of the total in Japan, the fourth-largest carbon dioxide-emitting country in the world.

Under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, Japan is obligated to reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by 6 percent in 2008-2012 from the 1990 level.

Asahi Kasei Homes Corp.’s Eco Zo-san Club Web site at ecofootprint.jp/member/top.php automatically calculates the amount of carbon dioxide emitted if a user inputs the monthly amount of electricity used in the house and the daily weight of garbage produced.

“Many people who believed they were actively saving energy found out through our site that their results were worse than expected and pledge to do more,” said Miyoko Shimokawa, an official at the company’s fundamental technology section.

In the past year, some 700 households have used this service, according to the firm.

Tokyo Gas Co. boasts an Ultra Energy Saving Simulation on its Web site at e-serv1.tokyo-gas.co.jp/syoene/default.asp. This simulation makes calculations that also factor in weather and other conditions, and indicates when users in a certain area are emitting more carbon dioxide than a standard household in the same area.

The Kurashi no CO2 Diet on the Web site of Tokyo Electric Power Co. at tepco.co.jp/life/environment/co2diet/ope-f-j.html offers about 40 hints for saving energy and tells users how they can reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by, for example, cutting down on the number of times they open refrigerator doors.

“Many people seem to think that energy saving is about putting up with inconvenience. But they can also conserve energy by taking steps such as turning off television sets when they are not watching them,” said Ayako Sato, chief of the planning section at the Energy Conservation Center of Japan, an organization affiliated with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

She said extreme efforts to save energy, including turning off air conditioners on sweltering summer days, are often abandoned. As one example of less radical ways to conserve energy, she pointed to the fact that about 10 percent of household electricity is consumed by unused appliances that remain plugged in.

According to an estimate by the center, if everyone were to pull out the plug for a mobile phone battery charger from the socket when not in use, greenhouse gases amounting to about 3,000 tons worth of carbon dioxide a year can be reduced. This, in turn, is equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed annually by some 200,000 cedar trees.

Energy can also be saved if the lids of heated toilet seats are closed after use so that the warm air does not escape, and if people choose locally produced food and those in season because this would require less transportation.

“If all 6.4 billion people on Earth were to change their actions just a bit, the environment would definitely change” for the better, New Energy Foundation official Takashi Hokiyama reckoned.

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