Thought this group might find this article interesting...
Carbon Neutrality, Doing the Math
By The Wall Street Journal
Last Update: 1:09 PM ET Apr 20, 2007
Going green is the new black in 2007. Advice abounds on how to cut your
carbon dioxide output and do your part in the battle against global
warming. But how much does a person have to spend to go green--and what
kind of environmental impact would that spending actually have?
The U.S. is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world,
accounting for 25% of the world's total. The average American is
responsible for about 20 metric tons a year of CO2 equivalent (CO2e), a
standard measure of greenhouse gases. That's about 40,000 pounds of CO2e
a year, per capita, a far greater number than that of any other
We set out to evaluate a few of the in-vogue recommendations based on
what they cost and what they'd do for the environment. In each area we
offer up three levels of feasibility--hard, medium and easy. Where
possible, we've crunched the numbers to estimate how much a change would
cost, how many pounds of CO2e each step can save and the percentage each
would knock off one person's emissions.
Sixteen percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are generated from our
homes--from the fossil fuels burned to power our electronics, lighting,
heating and cooling systems.
The Hard Way: Buy an Energy-Efficient House
Cost: Energy-efficient homes may cost a few thousand dollars above
market value, which would generally add about $10 to $15 to one's
monthly mortgage payments. Some will not be valued above market.
Savings: It's estimated that an energy-efficient house will shave $30
off monthly utility bills for an average home, according to Energy Star
for Homes, an EPA organization. The average U.S. home is about 2,500
square feet. Impact: 4,500 pounds of CO2e a year, or 11% of one person's
The EPA's Energy Star program works with 3,500 home builders to spur the
construction of homes that are 25% to 30% more energy efficient than a
home built to the International Energy Conservation Code, which most
states use as a standard.
That increase in efficiency comes from increased insulation, better
windows, controlled air filtration, and efficient heating and cooling
systems. So far, about 750,000 such homes have been built. The EPA
expects two million by the end of the decade, reducing the U.S.'s CO2e
emissions by one million metric tons.
The Medium Way: Switch to "Green Power"
Cost : $120 to $500 a year. Varies by area and size of home. Impact:
14,173 pounds of CO2e a year, according to the EPA, or 35% of one
person's total. (This number varies depending on the amount of energy
your household uses. In New York City, where houses and thus energy
bills are much smaller, ConEdison Solutions estimates that its green
power purchasers save 4,700 pounds of CO2e a year.)
Go to the Tennessee Valley Authority's Web site , and you'll find a
section called Green Power Switch, where customers are encouraged to
enroll in a green power program. It seems simple: sign up and the TVA,
which services seven states and 8.7 million customers, will bring energy
generated from renewable resources, such as solar or wind power, "to
But there's not a switch for each TVA household that can simply be
flipped to green. Rather, the TVA takes the extra money that Green Power
Switch customers pay and uses it to procure green power, which then gets
mixed in to the company's total pool of energy and distributed to the
overall customer base.
The TVA tacks on $4 to a customer's monthly bill for each block of green
power they buy. (A block is the equivalent of about 12% of a typical
household's monthly energy use.) A year's worth of TVA green power --
about 96 blocks -- comes at a premium of about $384 a year on top of
your energy bill.
In states with deregulated energy markets, customers can choose to buy
green power from an alternative electricity supplier. These costs vary
even within a single market; in New York City, for example, Con Edison
works with several green power suppliers whose programs cost anywhere
from $3 to $20 a month.
The Easy Way: Use Low Energy Light Bulbs
Cost : $19.76 for a 12-pack of GE Energy Smart CFL Light Bulbs, at
Walmart.com , or $4.98 for a single Soft White Compact Fluorescent Bulb,
at Lowe's and other major retailers. ( Purchasing tips ) Savings: $30
per bulbImpact: 1,200 pounds of CO2e a year (for 12 bulbs), or 3% of one
Only 10% of the energy consumed by a normal light bulb generates light
-- the rest just makes the bulb hot. Compact-fluorescent lights convert
more energy to usable light and less to heat, requiring 75% less
electricity. They're about eight times more expensive at the checkout
counter, but will last up to 10 times longer than ordinary bulbs--saving
about $30 over the life of each one.
But CFLS aren't no-brainer purchases: Some give off harsher light than
others; some work with dimmer switches, some don't. Also be aware that
each bulb contains about four milligrams of mercury, a small amount but
enough to warrant special disposal. The EPA recommends placing it in a
sealed plastic bag and discarding at a local hazardous waste collection
site. ( Earth911.org can locate the closest site to you.)
In the U.S., the transportation sector accounts for about a third of
greenhouse gas emissions and is the fastest-growing major source of
greenhouse gases, according to a recent EPA draft report . Cars and
light-duty trucks contributed to 61% of transportation CO2 emissions in
2005, down from 63% in 1990.
The Hard Way: Get Rid of Your Car
Cost: A year's worth of public transportation varies widely, from $200
to $2,000 depending on location. Savings: The Sierra Club estimates that
the average yearly cost of driving a single-occupant car is between
$4,826 and $9,685 . Fueleconomy.gov puts the cost of gas alone at about
$1,300 for an average car, like a Honda Civic. Impact: The EPA's
calculator estimates that a typical car driven by the average American
emits about 12,100 pounds of CO2e a year -- about 30% of one person's
Even riding public transport takes its toll, given that buses, subways
and commuter rail all emit CO2. Riding a bicycle would save even more
emissions and money, but won't be much help when you need to drop the
kids at soccer practice.
The Medium Way: Drive a Hybrid Car
Cost : $22,600 (MSRP, Honda Civic Hybrid) Savings:$445 a year in gas,
according to fueleconomy.gov , plus you get a $1,700 tax credit. Impact:
4,700 pounds of CO2e a year, or 12% of one person's total emissions.
Despite advances in technology, the vehicles we drive are on the whole
getting less efficient. Between 1990 and 2003, greenhouse gas emissions
from passenger vehicles increased by 19%, according to the EPA, mostly
from higher sales of light-duty vehicles such as SUVs and minivans, and
an increase in the number of miles Americans drive every year.
If everyone in the U.S. purchased one of the four most efficient models
in each vehicle class (sedans, sub-compacts, SUVs, light trucks), fuel
economy would be 12% higher and Americans could save 13.1 billion
gallons of gasoline -- about 254 billion pounds of CO2e, or 1.6% of the
U.S. total yearly CO2e emissions, according to calculations we did based
on the EPA's numbers.
For those who own a car that's less efficient than the standard American
car, which gets between 30 and 40 mpg, switching to a hybrid can have an
even bigger impact. Swapping a Hummer for a Honda Civic Hybrid would
save about 13,000 pounds of CO2e a year and $1,676 a year in gas.
The Easy Way: Drive Less and Boost Your Mileage
Savings : Varies. The less you drive, the more you save on gas. Impact:
Reducing the amount you drive by just 2,000 miles can save 1,100 pounds
of CO2e a year, or 3% of per capita emissions.
Every gallon of gasoline you save avoids approximately 20 pounds of CO2 emissions, according to the EPA.
Any steps taken to boost a car's gas mileage will also help you reduce
emissions. Fueleconomy.gov says that giving a car a tune-up can improve
gas mileage by about 4%. Replacing a clogged air filter can get you 10%
and simply using the recommended grade of motor oil will up gas mileage
by about 2%.
At the end of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth," he rattles off a list
of things one can do in daily life to help the planet: switching one's
light bulbs and driving a hybrid are both among them. What isn't on that
list: your diet.
The Hard Way: Cut Out All Animal Products
Cost: Wouldn't dramatically increase or decrease spending at the grocery
store. Impact: 3,000 pounds of CO2e a year; or 8% of one person's total.
The average American diet produces 3,000 more pounds of CO2e a year than
a calorie-equivalent "vegan" diet that is derived only from plants,
i.e., fruits, vegetables, beans, according to the authors of a 2006
University of Chicago report .
The savings come from bypassing the livestock industry, which is
responsible for 18% of the U.S.'s total greenhouse gas emissions,
according to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the
U.N. A good deal of that comes from the methane emitted from cow manure
(methane is a greenhouse gas), the CO2 produced by the operation of farm
machinery and the devotion of colossal amounts of land to grow single
crops, like corn. Corn is cultivated with a synthetic fertilizer that
emits greenhouse gases in two ways. First, manufacturing the
fertilizer--a combination of nitrogen and hydrogen gases--requires large
amounts of natural gas. Second, runoff from this fertilizer evaporates
into the air as nitrous oxide -- a greenhouse gas hundreds of times more
powerful than CO2.
Much of the rest of the food industry's CO2e output simply comes from
transporting meat and dairy products around the world, a phenomenon that
is not unique to meat -- turning a seemingly clear-cut option into a bit
of a puzzle (more on that later).
A vegan diet also omits fish. The University of Chicago report found
that the energy involved in the production and transport of certain
varieties of fish -- such as tuna and swordfish -- can be just as bad as
with meat. If you want to eat fish, one of the report's authors, Gidon
Eshel, recommends sticking to herring and sardines, which are found
closer to shore and require shorter boat trips to be caught.
The Medium Way: Eat Chicken Instead of Red Meat
Impact: 2,205 pounds of CO2e a year; 6%
According to the Chicago report, taking a smaller step and cutting out
red meat -- while continuing to eat chicken -- can save about 2,205
pounds of CO2e a year. Granted, this exact number reflects a somewhat
unrealistic dietary change from eating only red meat to only chicken,
but Mr. Eshel says it's still fairly accurate.
The Easy Way: Eat Everything, but Make Sure it's Local
Cost : Varies, but can cost more. Impact: 60-242 pounds of CO2 a year, or about 1%
The diverse bounty of vegetables, fruits and meats found in a grocery
store have consumed a lot of energy getting there. The food industry
burns nearly a fifth of all the petroleum consumed in the U.S. -- about
as much as automobiles do, as reporter Michael Pollan points out in his
book "Omnivore's Dilemma." Only a fifth of that energy is used to grow
food. The rest is spent processing and transporting it. Eating products
that originate close to home can be a powerful alternative to giving up
meat, dairy and fish, depending on where you live.
If you're an employee at Google's Mountain View, Calif. headquarters,
eating locally won't be a problem. The company's dazzling new employee
cafeteria is named Café 150, because it serves only food
originating within a 150-mile radius.
For a Fortune 500 company staffed with famous chefs and nestled in a
valley lush with farms, ranches and fisheries, eating local isn't so
much of a challenge. But sticking solely to local products won't be so
easy for individuals living farther a field, so to speak. "It's easy if
you're living in the Central Valley," Mr. Eshel says. "But in Vermont,
there's no way."
Write to Jessica Marmor at Jessica.Marmor@wsj.com
Bonnie Zone 7/7 ETN
Remember: The River Raisin, The Alamo, The Maine, Pearl Harbor, 9/11
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