My friend Curtis is about to be a first-time father, and in reflecting on the conditions of the World he has been actively working (even harder) to be conscious of his impact on Mother Earth. This afternoon he sent around a personal story, and some ideas, including a nice article from Harvard Magazine (Download fueling_our_future.pdf). I found the material straightforward and wanted to share it here, including this "What You Can Do" from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Ten Personal Solutions for Global WarmingUnion of Concerned Scientists
choices can have an impact on global climate change. Reducing your
family’s heat-trapping emissions does not mean forgoing modern
conveniences; it means making smart choices and using energy-efficient
products, which may require an additional investment up front, but
often pay you back in energy savings within a couple of years. Since
Americans’ per capita emissions of heat-trapping gases is 5.6 tons—more
than double the amount of western Europeans—we can all make choices
that will greatly reduce our families’ global warming impact.
1. The car you drive: the most important personal climate decision.
you buy your next car, look for the one with the best fuel economy in
its class. Each gallon of gas you use releases 25 pounds of
heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. Better gas
mileage not only reduces global warming, but will also save you
thousands of dollars at the pump over the life of the vehicle. Compare
the fuel economy of the cars you’re considering and look for new
technologies like hybrid engines.
2. Choose clean power.
than half the electricity in the United States comes from polluting
coal-fired power plants. And power plants are the single largest source
of heat-trapping gas. None of us can live without electricity, but in
some states, you can switch to electricity companies that provide 50 to
100 percent renewable energy. (For more information go to Green-e.org.)
it comes time to replace appliances, look for the Energy Star label on
new appliances (refrigerators, freezers, furnaces, air conditioners,
and water heaters use the most energy). These items may cost a bit more
initially, but the energy savings will pay back the extra investment
within a couple of years. Household energy savings really can make a
difference: If each household in the United States replaced its
existing appliances with the most efficient models available, we would
save $15 billion in energy costs and eliminate 175 million tons of
of the quickest ways to reduce your global warming impact is to unplug
the extra refrigerator or freezer you rarely use (except when you need
it for holidays and parties). This can reduce the typical family’s
carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 10 percent.
advantage of the free home energy audits offered by many utilities.
Simple measures, such as installing a programmable thermostat to
replace your old dial unit or sealing and insulating heating and
cooling ducts, can each reduce a typical family’s carbon dioxide
emissions by about 5 percent.
every household in the United States replaced one regular light bulb
with an energy-saving model, we could reduce global warming pollution
by more than 90 billion pounds over the life of the bulbs; the same as
taking 6.3 million cars off the road. So, replace your incandescent
bulbs with more efficient compact fluorescents, which now come in all
shapes and sizes. You’ll be doing your share to cut back on
heat-trapping pollution and you’ll save money on your electric bills
and light bulbs.
you own more than one vehicle, use the less fuel-efficient one only
when you can fill it with passengers. Driving a full minivan may be
kinder to the environment than two midsize cars. Whenever possible,
join a carpool or take mass transit.
buying wood products, check for labels that indicate the source of the
timber. Supporting forests that are managed in a sustainable fashion
makes sense for biodiversity, and it may make sense for the climate
too. Forests that are well managed are more likely to store carbon
effectively because more trees are left standing and carbon-storing
soils are less disturbed.
can also make a difference in your own backyard. Get a group in your
neighborhood together and contact your local arborist or urban forester
about planting trees on private property and public land. In addition
to storing carbon, trees planted in and around urban areas and
residences can provide much-needed shade in the summer, reducing energy
bills and fossil fuel use.
you can purchase carbon offsets by giving money to organizations that
plant trees to neutralize the emissions for your travels– see www.carbonfund.org)
elected officials and business leaders need to hear from concerned
citizens. Sign up for the Union of Concerned Scientists Action Network
to ensure that policymakers get the timely, accurate information they
need to make informed decisions about global warming solutions.