I drive a 2004 Ford Mustang with a little "6 Banger" giving me the illusion of driving a sports car. Using the Carbon Footprint Calculator my annual carbon footprint driving the Mustang at 15,000 miles is 6.99 tons. Having used (according to my SoCal Edison bill) 323kWh of electricity during the last billing period, I could be charged for an additional .09 tons of carbon. Looking at the footprint generating from a month of using Metro Rail to go to and from Long Beach to downtown Los Angeles the footprint adds, well it adds almost nothing.
Now I probably use a lot less electricity than the average person, so my electrical carbon load is not too bad. My Mustang is a pig, but not as big a pig as say, an Escalade, which would be almost twice as dirty as the Mustang. Versus a Prius, which would produce 3.2 tons of carbon, I don't fare so well.
Anyway you look at it, it is a lot of carbon, all finding its way into the environment, ozone, oceans - anyplace carbon can fly or die into the planet.
October is the International Month of Energy Awareness. The US Department of Energy reminds us that "no matter how large the problem may appear, the fact remains that each of us is a part of the solution." Is it cute political rhetoric, or is it something we need to seriously consider? Do we need to think about "switching off unnecessary lights and equipment, using efficient ENERGY STAR® products and compact fluorescent light bulbs, and driving fuel-efficient and alternative fuel vehicles?"
Energy Awareness Month has been around since about 1981, when it was a mere Energy Awareness Week. In 1986 a few forward looking folks in the Department of Energy pushed to extend this week of awareness to a month long campaign envisioned to aggressively bring energy awareness to all Americans. Now, with the rest of the world, including our fellow Americans, awakening to the realities of global warming, carbon impacts on the environment, and the risks/dangers of living in an energy inefficient world, Energy Awareness Month is finally getting its time in the spotlight.
Carbon Footprints in the Home
The Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) provides some great guidelines and ideas for creating energy efficiency within the home. For those cretins who do not find that interesting, the same "green" thinking is also translated into monthly savings in utility and other energy fees through simple things we can do at home to use less electricity - and still maintain a high quality of life.
Have you heard of the Energy Star program?
ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices.
For the Home
Energy efficient choices can save families about a third on their energy bill with similar savings of greenhouse gas emissions, without sacrificing features, style or comfort. ENERGY STAR helps you make the energy efficient choice.
- If looking for new household products, look for ones that have earned the ENERGY STAR. They meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the EPA and US Department of Energy.
- If looking for a new home, look for one that has earned the ENERGY STAR.
- If looking to make larger improvements to your home, EPA offers tools and resources to help you plan and undertake projects to reduce your energy bills and improve home comfort.
Starting to sound a bit more interesting?
The CEE goes on to reinforce cooperation between the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, NEMA, utilities such as SoCal Edison and PG&E (look at their websites for some great ideas, rebate programs, and general energy information), and gives a good listing of areas that we should look at in the home to become more energy aware (and save money for the rest of you folks), including:
- Super-Efficient Home Appliance Initiative (SEHA) SEHA establishes "super-efficient" efficiency levels for refrigerators, room air-conditioners, clothes washers and dishwashers. By promoting products that meet these specifications, SEHA complements the ENERGY STAR® Appliance Program and encourages manufacturers to increase efficiency levels.
- High-Efficiency Residential Lighting Initiative The objective of this initiative is to increase the availability and acceptance of energy-efficient lighting (including fixtures), and create a self-sustaining market for this technology.
- Whole House The "whole-house" approach, which applies to new construction and existing homes, sees the house as a collection of interacting systems. The greatest promise of decreasing energy use while increasing health, comfort, and safety is to create a cross-disciplinary understanding of the fundamentals of these systems.
- High-Efficiency Residential Central Air Conditioning and Heat Pump Initiative This initiative promotes high-efficiency specifications and proper installation for central air conditioning and heat pumps. In 2007, CEE revised its Residential HVAC Installation Specification, a document that defines energy-efficient installation practices
- High-Efficiency Gas Heating Initiative By promoting high-efficiency specifications for gas furnaces and boilers, the initiative is increasing demand for this equipment. The proper installation of energy-efficient equipment is another key element of the program.
- Consumer Electronics Initiative CEE's Consumer Electronics Initiative aims to increase the energy efficiency of consumer electronics, focusing on televisions, set top boxes, and computers. As part of this initiative, CEE provides support to members who are considering running efficiency programs in this area.
Rolling in More Green Incentives
The Pickens Plan website gives us further incentives to think about energy efficiency. In addition to the long, long listings of environmental reasons why we should not continue to trash our planet, the financial incentives to get "green" keep coming. Are you doing a DIY (do it yourself) upgrade to your house? Ka-Ching, possibly another $1500 tax credit.
We discussed simple things in earlier posts like using solar-aware tiles on your roof. Which, if using the highest efficiency tiling materials could save a household in Phoenix up to 70% in the cost of cooling.
A couple of interesting facts from Corning:
- Adding efficient insulation in your home can save up to 20% on your cooling and heating bills
- Turning your thermostat from 72deg (F) to 65deg can save 10% on heating bills
- Using single pane windows can cause serious heating and cooling loss, possibly adding another 25% to your cooling and heating bills
- Using energy efficient light bulbs can reduce your lighting bill by as much as 50%
- Old appliances, such as refrigerators, ovens, dryers, and washers can account for 20% of your energy consumption - go to Energy Star appliances
- Do you have a fireplace? An open damper, if left open, is about the same as leaving your front door open during the winter or hottest day of the summer
Wow, that is a lot of potential savings.
Just checked with my family in the nether lands of some remote outpost in Minnesota. The power usage is around 2450kWh in January this year. In an old house. 1.69 tons of carbon just from the electricity used in the house. If you add a small village like Duluth, MN, with a census of 90,000 people in 2000 (lots more now), and assume 4 persons per household, you will come up with roughly 22,500 households. If you take off 10% for my old inefficient childhood home, you will still get 1.53 tons per household.
34,425 tons of carbon in January produced just by households in Duluth. We are not adding industrial buildings, commercial buildings, Superior (Wisc), the Port of Duluth, the taconite processing plants, etc., etc., etc., and you will see even quaint little Duluth is providing plenty of fuel for the north woods to use in their vocation of providing photosynthesis services for northern Minnesota.
Now, if we could find a way to reduce that carbon footprint by around 40% just by changing a few things around the house and office - that is a huge carbon footprint savings. Oh yes, for you non-tree huggers out there it also represents a big bag full of money.
Are you angry about this topic? For? Against? Weigh in. At least we are accomplishing our objective to help create improved energy awareness.
Next time we'll start chiming in on other related issues such as recycling, water conservation, and other fun topics that are nonetheless important to ensuring our next generations have a planet that will support and sustain a great quality of life for all.
Happy Energy-Aware October!
John Savageau, Long beach