New Year’s resolutions for a warming planet
Anyone else find it a little disconcerting when temperatures creep up into the 70s in December? Recently, NASA determined that 2006 would be the fifth-hottest year on record, while the Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization will rank it as the sixth.
Either way, scientists have reached international consensus that global warming is linked to heat-trapping gases emitted into the atmosphere as a result of human activity.
In Western North Carolina, we don’t have to worry about watching beachfront property go under as the globe heats up, but that doesn’t mean we’re not contributing to climate change. According to United Nations statistics, the average American is responsible for about 22 tons of carbon emissions each year — that’s roughly twice as much as the average British citizen. Meanwhile, that Briton’s annual CO2 load is 48 times as much as that of someone living in Bangladesh, according to the U.K.-based nonprofit Practical Action.
With that in mind, here’s an idea for a New Year’s resolution: Forget your waistline inches and focus instead on cutting your carbon emissions. To aid in that effort, Xpress contacted a handful of local movers and shakers for tips on curbing and conserving as we roll into 2007. Here are their suggestions.
Valerie True, communications director at the Asheville office of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy:
• Calculate your estimated emissions and purchase carbon credits to offset them. “It’s really easy, and it’s something that anyone can do,” says True. This past year, SACE partnered with the Green Mountain Energy Co.’s eMission Solutions to offset 100 percent of the nonprofit’s estimated carbon emissions. By buying wind-power energy credits and planting trees through a reforestation project in Alabama, the group counterbalances its emissions for airline travel and electricity use.
For more, visit www.carboncounter.org.
Maggie Leslie, green-building consultant with Home Energy Partners:
• Use biodiesel. “If you have an oil furnace, B20 [20 percent biodiesel] blends are available with no retrofits to heat your home,” says Leslie.
• If your hot-water heater is old, upgrade it. If it’s new, wrap an insulating blanket around it to reduce heat loss. And if you’ve got a south-facing roof and some money to spare, consider a solar hot-water heating system — it will cut out emissions entirely, and it could fetch a tax credit covering up to 65 percent of the cost.
For more on tax credits, go to www.mountainx.com/greenbuilding/2006/energyefficiency.php.
• Change your HVAC filter and make sure your ducts are clean and sealed.
Stewart David, president of the Asheville-based Carolina Animal Action:
• Stop eating meat. “When it comes to the environment, eating meat is like driving an SUV,” says David, a vegan for nearly 18 years. According to a University of Chicago study, it’s the single most effective thing that can be done to cut fossil-fuel emissions. That’s because producing crops to feed livestock, which is then processed into food, requires a lot more resources than feeding people directly. “We really need a paradigm shift away from a meat-based diet,” he maintains.
To read the University of Chicago study, visit www.news.uchicago.edu/releases/06/060413.diet.shtml.
David Wallace, director of the State Energy Office:
• Switch to compact-fluorescent light bulbs. “Buy them for Christmas presents, buy them for yourself, buy them and give them away on street corners,” Wallace jokes. CFLs, as they’re called, use roughly 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs and last a lot longer.
• Caulk the gaps in your home that air can seep through.