Ten Steps to Reduce your Carbon Emissions
by Guy Dauncey
author of Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change
1. How now, brown CO2?
A typical family of three with two cars which flies off to an
annual vacation might produce 50 tons of CO2 a year. The same
family, living in a small, efficient house with no car could produce
as little as 10 tons. So the first step is to know how much
CO2 you produce. Use a carbon calculator to work out what your
total emissions are.
2. To drive, or not to drive?
A bicycle produces no CO2, and nor do your feet – so walking
and cycling are good news. Start using the bus service more often.
And the train! Maybe join a car-sharing group?
A typical car produces 3 times its weight in CO2 emissions, so
the smaller the car, the fewer the emissions. There’s a world
of difference between a Honda Insight (2.8 tons a year) and
a Dodge Ram Wagon (11.5 tons). If you must drive a car, try
to buy the most efficient model.
3. On your way, officer!
A heavy-handed driver with poorly inflated tires will produce 30% more emissions than a skillful driver with properly inflated tires. Speeding decreases efficiency. You will burn 25% less fuel per mile driving at 55 mph than at 70 mph - and earn fewer speeding tickets, too. 35 mph is the most fuel-efficient speed.
4. Sleep tight, sweet home
A typical house produces 7 - 9 tons of CO2 a year from the
gas, oil or electricity that are used to heat it. Arrange to have
an EnerGuide assessment for your home, and then act on the advice.
By caulking to stop drafts, increasing your insulation, installing
programmable thermostats, and a few other things, you can reduce
your emissions by up to 30%, reduce your fuel bills, and make
your home snug and comfy.
5. Out, foul fridge!
A clunky old clothes washer uses twice the energy of an efficient
front-loader. The same applies to fridges, dryers, dishwashers
and water heaters. If you’ve got an inefficient old fridge chuntering
away in the basement, it could be producing a tonne of CO2 a year,
all on its ownsome. By switching to Energy Smart appliances and
efficient lights, and installing programmable thermostats, you
could save 4-5 tons of CO2 a year.
6. Here comes the sun
A solar hot water heater on your roof could reduce your emissions by 0.7 tons, depending on the source of electricity, and how much hot water you use. A 2kW solar PV system could save you 2.5 tons, if you live in a sunny area, and can afford the $16,400 cost. Here’s hoping the government follows New York, California and Japan by introducing subsidies. The price should begin to fall dramatically in 2005 when Japanese mass production heralds in the solar revolution.
7. Bye, bye, Miss American Coal
If you live in California., Colorado or any of 30 other states, an additional $5 to $15 a month will buy you green energy from solar, wind or geothermal, instead of coal, oil or gas.
This might surprise you, but cows produce copious amounts of methane, since the favorite activity of their famous three stomachs is burping. Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas, and the average beef-eater is responsible for 0.4 tons of greenhouse gases a year (expressed as CO2 equivalent). So eat less beef! Also, by eating more locally grown food, you will reduce the CO2 needed to ship food around the world, and by eating more organic food, more farmers will be able to store more CO2 in the soil, since organic farming stores carbon, while chemical farming does not.
9. Don’t fly me to the moon
One day, airplanes may fly on hydrogen or biodiesel, but until then, a 2,000 mile flight will generate 2.6 tons of CO2 per passenger. A return trip to the moon, if United Airlines flew that far, would generate 650 tons per passenger (250,000 miles each way).
10. Tis a gift to be simple
Let’s be honest – we live in the world’s most materialistic culture.
Everything we buy needs energy to produce, package and transport,
and it all produces CO2. Recycling helps – every recycled bottle
saves 0.5kg of CO2, compared to making a new one, and every recycled
newspaper saves 100 grams of CO2. But best of all is to buy less
stuff, so there’s less to be manufactured, less to consume, less
to worry about, and less to dispose of when it’s dead.
Tis a gift to the Earth to be carbon neutral
Finally, if you want to counteract the effect of your carbon emissions, you can do so by buying carbon offsets that will either absorb your emissions (by planting trees) or prevent the release of a similar amount of carbon. The going price is around $10 a ton, so if you produce 30 tons of CO2 in a year, you owe the Earth $300 in carbon taxes. The Climate Trust, in Oregon, and the Solar Electric Light Fund, based in Washington, both accept carbon neutralizing contributions that will offset your emissions.
Guy Dauncey is the co-author (with Patrick Mazza) of Stormy
Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change (New Society
Publishers, 2001). He lives in Victoria. His website is www.earthfuture.com