As my previous post stated, we are all causing massive changes to the earth by producing green house gasses and eradicating carbon absorbers. Skeptics, Grist has done a great job rounding up the usual suspects if you want to know more about certain points.
The question is, what to do about it all? Running through the various greenhouse gas calculators, Anna and I will produce about 14 tones of CO2 this year. Our total is roughly half of what the average American couple produces, but we really shouldn’t be patting ourselves on the back. A closer look at the numbers: we share a car, and we car pool to work. Our 1913 house has no heat or air conditioning, and all of our lights are compact florescent. We are also able to get the vast majority of our produce locally, year round. When you look at all these factors, we are actually not doing as well as we should.
Our base numbers are relatively low, but are skewed by one thing, frequent air travel. For example, Anna and I are going to Europe this spring. Just these flights there and back the 18,774 KM will produce about 4.2 tones of CO2. Our entire year of driving will only produce about 2.2 tones of CO2. Add in our other trips and you can easily see where the majority of my CO2 comes from. It is little wonder why the Bishop of London recently proclaimed that flying on holiday is a sin.
Of course, we could just purchase carbon offsets. And actually, we have. Anna and I are “carbon neutral” (select the right carbon off setter, they are definitely not equal in their solutions). Have we redeemed ourselves, now free of sin? Enter in cheatneutral.com to show how silly that notion is:
What is Cheat Offsetting? When you cheat on your partner you add to the heartbreak, pain and jealousy in the atmosphere. Cheatneutral offsets your cheating by funding someone else to be faithful and NOT cheat. This neutralizes the pain and unhappy emotion and leaves you with a clear conscience. Can I offset all my cheating? First you should look at ways of reducing your cheating. Once you’ve done this you can use Cheatneutral to offset the remaining, unavoidable cheating
As the above satire shows, carbon offsets are good intentions, but really shouldn’t be an excuse for not getting your house in order. The changes are all going to be a bit different for everyone. People are generally at a different level already, and the changes depend a lot on your location. But it pretty much all boils down to the following:
1) Reduce electricity consumption. The biggest bang for buck is simply changing lights. Compact florescent lights consume 25% of the amount of power to provide the same light as a traditional light bulb. While at it, go for the low mercury versions of CFL’s. That done, there are plenty of other ways to reduce energy consumption – Energy Star appliances, insulation, efficient home design, and line drying clothes. Industry has a ways to go on this front. Office buildings are notoriously inefficient, and our computer industry is only going to consume more power.
2) Live locally. Try to buy foods produced locally, and organically. It is easy to pick on things like water from France, berries air shipped from Argentina, and Brazilian beef. But even transportation and freezing of produce in the USA produces huge amounts of green house gas. An easy way to do this is to subscribe to a CSA, community supported agriculture, hit the farmers market, or start a garden.
3) Eat less, or better yet, no meat. Eating meat has about the same environmental cost as driving a polluting car vs. a hybrid, about 1.5 tones of CO2 per year. This is due mostly to the increased energy inputs meat requires, but also the current state of industrial meat farming. In addition, most of the rainforest devastation has been to plant soya for animal feed, this further reduces the amount of CO2 that can be reabsorbed.
4) Reduce auto and air transit. Bike, train, bus, or carpool where possible. As stated above, we are definitely guilty on this one, and business travel will need to change. Read this for a bit of an efficiency shock. Most of North America is designed to only work with everyone having a car. This needs to change. We need to promote more efficient city design, as well as better public transit.
The above changes are important, but ultimately I believe we are going to have to have consume less and have a smaller footprint on the earth to get levels where they should be. Really, the planet can’t support us living the way we are right now. I’ll be writing another post soon about the changes Anna and I are making to try to reduce our consumption and greenhouse gas production.
Want more ideas to reduce your greenhouse gas production? Here is a short list:
– EPA’s suggestions
– EUROPA’s suggestions
– Climate Crisis’ suggestions
– Greanpeace’s suggestions
– Treehugger’s suggestions