Cooling Global Warming
While politicians dither and debate, the planet is warming. Scientists say we have a 10-year window to make 60-80 percent reductions in our greenhouse gas emissions. The bad news: we in the richer nations have gotten us where we are and continue to be the biggest offenders. The good news: nearly every action we take during the day—from the foods we eat to the games we play to the vehicles we drive or don't—are opportunities to turn down the heat.
Degrees of Change: NCP's guide to daily actions to reduce global warming
Change a Bulb: Since every kilowatt generated from a coal-fired power plant generates 2.5 pounds of CO 2 , replacing one 100 watt bulb that is on for three hours a day (100 KWH/year) with a 20 watt compact florescent bulb saves 200 pounds of CO 2 per year.
Cut the Power: Unplug or turn off the power strip of all the electronics when not in use overnight or for extended periods. This can save a couple million tons of greenhouse gases every year in the US.
Extreme Recycling: Every pound of recycled plastic saves about half a pound of global warming gases; every aluminum can recycled saves energy equivalent to 6 oz. of gasoline; reusing/refusing paper saves 3 pounds of CO 2 per pound of paper; buying recycled paper or toilet tissue saves 33% of the CO 2 used in manufacturing; “pre-cycling”—resist purchasing products in non-recyclable containers.
Do the Tighten Up: Insulating and caulking one's home is the most important place to start when minimizing one's household carbon footprint—it can cut energy consumption by 20 percent. Invite NCP's Tom Benevento to do an energy audit for your congregation, camp or other facility.
Heating/cooling: About half of all the energy used at home is for heating and cooling. Moving your thermostat down just 2 degrees in winter and up 2 degrees in summer could eliminate about 2,000 pounds of CO 2 a year by reducing power use; strategically-placed shade trees can cut cooling costs by 20-30 percent; use timer to cut energy use when house is not occupied during the day.
Hot Water I: Turn down thermostat on hot water heater to 120 degrees (for coal-generated electricity, heating water for a household of four can require 6,000 kilowatts of power per year, creating over 12,000 pounds of CO 2 ; for natural gas, about 8,000 pounds of CO 2 is generated).
Hot Water II: Installing low-flow shower heads (going from 2.5 gpm to 1.5 gpm) can cut water use by 10,000 gallons per year (household of three taking 10 minute showers daily), with related water and energy savings; turn off water while lathering.
Hot Water III: Teenagers in the U.S. spend about 10 million hours per day in the shower (yes, it seems like more than that...); cutting our shower time in half can save 400 pounds of CO 2 per person annually.
Hot Water IV: A dishwasher uses an average of 4-8 gallons per run (pre-rising dishes can double this). Always wash a full load; don't run the dryer cycle, allowing dishes to air dry; consider purchasing a dishwasher with a booster heater—or installing one later—as this will allow the hot water heater to be set at 120 degrees rather than 140. Hand-wash dishes only if you can beat the amount of water your dishwasher requires to do a full load (note: these figures don't take into account the energy needed to manufacture, ship and dispose of a dishwasher).
Hot Water V: Heating water is responsible for 95 percent of the energy consumed by washing clothes—wash in cold water as much as possible.
Bottled Water: If one must consume bottled beverages, then water is the best choice; however, the bottled water industry requires some 55 million barrels of oil per year in the U.S. for pumping, packaging, shipping and disposing of this product—and we throw away 40 million plastic water bottles per day
Eat, Drink…and Be Wary: The U.S. food system is responsible for 20% of our fossil fuel consumption. Keep an eye out for locally grown food; go meat-free at least once a week (two pounds of beef releases greenhouse gases equivalent to 75 pounds or so of carbon dioxide, thanks mostly to methane emissions, a very potent greenhouse gas); start some greens in a planter out back.
Dryer, dryer pants on fire: The clothes dryer can be responsible for 5 percent of household energy use—or 800-1000 kilowatts per year. Air-drying clothes is easily done outside for three seasons in most parts of the US (and four seasons in others), and a drying rack in the basement or laundry room works great the rest of the year. One can save one ton of CO 2 per year by going dryer-free (for easily-wrinkled items, run in dryer for 5 minutes before hanging up).
Public Enemy #1: Personal car use is the most significant contributor to climate change by U.S. citizens. We drive 3 trillion miles per year—as much as the rest of the world combined. Combine trips, keep the tires inflated, walk/bike/stay at home (65% of us are overweight, yet even though 25% of our trips are under two miles in length, 75% of the time we take the car—go figure…) More info.
Onward and Upward: more challenging actions
Diet I: Cut out beef. Cattle production is the world's leading source of greenhouse gases, according to the FAO, and a big factor in the U.S. for causing erosion, water pollution and aquifer depletion. Plus a recent study notes that regular consumption of red meat increases one's mortality risk by 20-40 percent.
Diet II: Put in a garden. A backyard garden is one of the most ecologically significant things we can do. Plus the food will be more nutritious, can be organic, and will actually taste like nature intended!
Driving the planet crazy: The average household drives 20,000 miles per year (generating about 20,000 pounds of CO 2 )—or about 70 miles a day. Make a commitment to a "car Sabbath" once a week (cars/trucks get to rest all day); this would save 70 pounds of CO 2 per week—or almost 2 tons per year. Take a job closer to home, carpool. See vehicle use as a last resort rather than first option. Sell the car/truck, buy a bike or a bus pass.
Buy Smart: Replacing old appliances with Energy Star models can cut energy use by half; replacing the inefficient car with one getting twice the mileage can reduce CO 2 emissions by 12 tons in the first five years of ownership
Less is More: General consumption has a greenhouse gas impact, especially when products come from afar: an ocean-going freighter traveling one mile creates as much pollution as a car driving around the world (and 60,000 of freighters arrive at U.S. ports every year)
Get Political: Factoring the true price of fossil fuel combustion (in terms of global warming and health impacts—not to mention our foreign policy and military expenditures) into the cost of powering our homes, cars, commerce and food production system would multiply the cost of these items, and be a huge incentive for developing more sustainable products and energy sources. Tell politicians it's time to “get real” about paying for our bad behaviors, and about leaving our children a planet worth inheriting
Hug a Tree : …or at least save one. Join the New Community Project's effort to purchase and preserve 137 acres of Ecuadorian Amazon, supporting biodiversity while off-setting your carbon footprint (an acre of rainforest sequesters 1000 pounds of carbon per year)
Eco-evangelize: Once your garden is up and growing, you've replaced the light bulbs, put up your clothes-drying rack, and otherwise gone sane (begun walking away from our polluting craziness), invite in the neighbors and/or church folks—and leave your “before and after” electric bill out on the table. Nothing like the bottom line to lead to a change of heart…
Be one with the earth: God made us from the ground, and gave the earth into our care and keeping—so we are connected to the planet; now climate change is threatening the integrity and even existence of God's creation (fully half of all species of plants and animals could be extinct due to climate change by the end of the century). Explore God's creation on a Learning Tour to the Arctic or the Amazon or the mountains of West Virginia , find yourself renewed and reconnected to the earth, then accept the challenge to protect it.