As the 192 leaders from every country at the United Nations meet in Copenhagen to address climate change, there are a number of things each of us can do to reduce our respective footprints.
Human beings are exceptional problem solvers and for every problem there are at least three solutions.
One of the biggest challenges facing us today is how we source our energy. Currently, we depend upon coal, oil and gas or fossil fuels derived from prehistoric forests of the Carboniferous Period of 354 to 290 million years ago.
Burning these fossil fuels has elevated the most publicized of the greenhouse gases — CO2 — about 36 percent higher than they were in the 18th century. Moreover, in the U.S. 86 million barrels of oil are consumed daily; two-thirds of it are being used by cars, trucks and planes. The remaining one-third or 28 million barrels are currently used for making synthetic wardrobes and ubiquitous plastics. Man-made fertilizers and pesticides are also derived from fossil fuels.
Clearly, our insatiable demand upon fossil fuels will not change over night. However, there are tremendous green business opportunities that many blue-chip corporations like General Electric, Google, Intel, Apple, and Pacific Gas and Electric are utilizing innovation, increasing their market share and creating jobs — at the same time lessening our dependence upon fossil fuels.
Each of us can help out. Here are a few suggestions that will save you money and reduce your footprint.
A professional home-energy audit will save you at least 30 percent on your utility bills and reduce your CO2 emissions by 9,515 pounds a year. Also, CarbonFootPrint.com offers excellent tips on reducing your home’s energy loss.
Many electronic appliances, even after they’ve been shut off, continue to draw electricity — this is known as a “phantom load.” Phantom loads account for more than 28 million tons of CO2 emissions in America each year and cost a whopping $4 billion a year on electricity for things we are not using.
The phantom load from your house could be as high as 15 percent of your monthly electricity bill. Purchase smart power strips with on/off switches so that you can turn off when you are not running anything, or when you go to sleep and when you go on holidays.
When purchasing any new electronic equipment make sure that it has been EnergyStar certified (www.EnergyStar.gov). By using EnergyStar appliances in 2006, Americans saved $16 billion on their utility bills or the equivalent to taking 26 million cars off the road.
Plant trees strategically around your home. They will shade your home in the summer, lowering wall and roof temperatures by 20 to 40 degrees, keeping your home naturally cooler. A row of evergreen trees can function as an effective windbreak and significantly reduce your winter heating bill and provide habitat for urban critters.
Being water smart not only makes good sense but it can save each household $300 a year. Consider installing low-flow toilets and showerheads and reduce shower times from 7 to 4 minutes. Each home can easily save 7,500 gallons of water a year.
The average American household spends $600 a year on personal care products, many of which are never fully consumed. In addition, many of those products contain ingredients that are hormone disrupters and those man-made chemicals have been found in over 80 percent of streams tested in the wild. Consider supporting Tom’s of Maine (http://TomsofMaine.com) or Burt’s Bees (http://Burtsbees.com).
Over 100 years ago the phrase “you are what you eat” was coined. Eating organic food and regularly exercising is central to every anti-aging program. Consider shopping at Whole Foods or Jimbos. Safeway, Sam’s Club and most grocery stores have bays of organic foods, which are affordable, especially if you buy in season. Only buy organic honey because about 40 percent of honey supplied to America annually comes from China — a country with lax pesticide regulations.
A 2007 survey showed that only 42 percent of workers turn off lights and only 34 percent turn off their computers when work is done. If those workers did shut off the lights and shut down their computers over $4.5 billion in energy costs would be saved along with 29 million tons of CO2 emissions.
Consider taking your own lunch to work each day and you can save $2,000 a year and help reduce American landfills by 2 million tons of trash annually.
Irrespective of whether you work from home or at a company office, think twice before you print, and when you print please use both sides of the paper.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council the pulp and paper industry contributes more to environmental degradation than any other industry by polluting waterways with dioxins and other known cancer-causing chemicals and destroying wildlife habitat. Only use recycled content paper http://greenhome.com/products/office/office_supplies/.
At the end of the day it is up to each one of us to do the right thing: Reduce, reuse and recycle, and by all of us lending a helping hand we can ensure a healthy future for our children.
Dr. Reese Halter is a public speaker, conservation biologist and author of “The Incomparable Honeybee and the Economics of Pollination,” Rocky Mountain Books. Contact him through www.DrReese.com.