Consquences of Disposable Plastic Water Bottles
If you have ever used disposable plastic water bottles, you might want to reconsider. Click here to find out why.
NEW Sierra Club Web Site with Green-Home Ideas
The Sierra Club has a NEW Web site designed to help people make their homes more energy efficient, ecologically sustainable and healthy. The Sierra Club's Green Home features provide insight into incorporating green practices into daily life.
Weeds! Weeds! Weeds!
Have a weed problem? Want to control them or get rid of them in an environmentally friendly way? Click here for Landscape Designer Helen Green's tips on how to handle the pesky task.
Calculating Your Carbon Footprint
One of today’s newest environmental fads is calculating your carbon footprint—computing your personal contribution to the potential destruction of life as we know it. But, as I learned recently, it is not an easy task.
To make a reasonably accurate estimate, you need to know your average monthly natural gas and electricity bills (and/or the quantities consumed), the average annual mileage you drive and the mpg of your car, the ages of your major appliances, the size of your home, and most difficult by far, in my opinion, the number of airline flights (and the distance of each one) you have taken or will take in a year.
After you have assembled these data, go to one of the many online calculators. They all have arbitrary categories, put you into niches where you don’t really belong and make assumptions that are only half right. That’s probably inevitable with computerized questionnaires designed for all sorts of different people, but it also underlines the fact that the scores you receive are very approximate.
I went to six of the calculators: Three of them, coolclimate.Berkeley.edu, safeclimate.net and the EPA website were completely unsatisfactory for one reason or another. I found www.earthlab.com, recommended by the Ohio Environmental Council, easiest to use. Also helpful was www.lowimpactliving.com, particularly in identifying changes in the home that can lead to carbon reductions. The site www.terrapass.com was somewhat helpful, especially if you fly frequently and have detailed travel records.
My score on the Earthlab scale was initially 375, with 16.8 tons of carbon dioxide per year that my wife and I generate. (The averages for Akron and Ohio, respectively, were 373 and 17.1 and 393 and 18) Ouch! Even with my Prius, compact fluorescent bulbs, recycling and chilly winter home, I’m doing as much damage as my clueless neighbors. But wait a minute. On close inspection—and the Earthlab calculator makes this easy to do—my score was as high as it was almost entirely because of our occasional long airplane flights. When I took out all air travel, the score dropped to 316 and 12.4 tons of carbon dioxide, about one quarter less and pretty respectable. In other words, we should take a closer look at some of those far flung adventures; otherwise we’re doing fairly well.
You may have a similar experience, or you may find one of the other calculators more helpful. You will probably conclude that they are imperfect and that your score is only approximate Yet, despite their faults, carbon-footprint calculators perform a useful service and can help you to get right with the world.
—Reprinted with permission from “The Signal Tree Sierra Club News from the Portage Trail Group”; Dan Nelson, Vice Chair, author
Energy Conservation Tips
- Turn off unused electrical appliances, including lights, televisions and electrical grids.
- Turn off leaking faucets and showerheads. Conserve water!
- Drive less, and carpool or use public transportation.
- Use compact fluorescent light bulbs, and replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent ones. You’ll save money and use 60 percent less energy. They last longer as well.
- Install a programmable thermostat.
- Make an effort to buy organic goods whenever possible. This is better for your health and the environment.
- Buy fresh foods instead of frozen products.
- Buy products with less packaging.
- Do a home energy audit.
- Defrost refrigerators and freezers on a consistent basis. Or replace old appliances with newer models.
- Lower your thermostat two degrees in the winter and increase it two degrees in the summer. By doing this, you could save 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year.
— Provided by Eric Stein