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Sunday, November 16, 2008

How to Take Action to Reduce Global Warming

  1. Get educated. Educate yourself about global warming. The more facts you have as to what mainstream science says about it, the more you can persuade others to make simple but effective changes in daily behavior. Energy-saving techniques are either initially expensive (for example, solar power), or take extra time (for example, recycling), so many people need convincing that their efforts matter. Always keep in mind that you are aiming to demonstrate the benefits of these activities and highlight how each person can play a vital role in helping to reduce global warming; if we were to reduce the amount of light and appliances we use that would just be one step closer to revolving globel warming. Equally remember that "[c]ivil society does not respond at all well to moralistic scolding." Use education to enlighten, not frighten.
  2. Vote and influence your government with phone calls, e-mails, letters and meetings with those who represent you in government. Learn as much as possible about the policies you advocate before doing so; solving one problem often creates others. For example, new legislation banning incandescent light bulbs and advocating compact fluorescents has introduced a hazard of mercury contamination in landfills and in homes that use them. The push to grow corn for ethanol has contributed to higher prices for many food staples.
  3. Choose vegetarian or vegan meals. Livestock are responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than transportation is. This is due to the large amounts of petroleum used in creating amonium nitrate fertilizer (for the corn they are fed) plus the cost of shipping that corn to the cattle and then shipping the cattle to slaughter and grocery. If one eats meat it should always be from a local source. Choosing vegetarian foods also drastically reduces agricultural water consumption and land use, and favorably impacts biodiversity. Vegetarian diets have been shown to promote good health and in most developed countries, eliminating meat from one's diet is as easy as making responsible choices at stores and restaurants. Other factors such as the means of production and distance food travels can also influence the total impact of our food choices.
  4. Recycle more. 15-25% of people don't recycle. Recycle more using recycling bins, composting, etc. Encourage neighbors, superintendents, colleagues and businesses to do likewise.
  5. Use compact fluorescent bulbs. Replace three frequently used light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs/lamps and save 300 lbs. of carbon dioxide and US$60 per year. A standard compact fluorescent bulb will save around one third of a tonne of greenhouse gas, along with the cost of six or more incandescent globes. Consider using more, and give them as gifts to family and friends. Consider donating a set to a local charity to refit their office with compact fluorescent lights. Remember, CFL bulbs do contain small amounts of toxic mercury. Therefore, proper disposal (recycling) is necessary to prevent any additional landfill contamination.
  6. Fill the dishwasher. Run your dishwasher only with a full load. Save 100 lbs. of carbon dioxide and US$40 per year, or do them by hand with minimal water.
  7. Use recycled paper. Make sure your printer paper is 100% post consumer recycled paper. Save 5 lbs. of carbon dioxide per ream of paper. Decide if something is really worth printing out. Leave a signature at the bottom of your e-mails reminding the reader to think twice before printing the e-mail. Make the most of scrap paper for shopping lists, notes, scrapbooks, school and college note-taking etc. Only recycle your paper when it has been thoroughly used up!
  8. Buy locally made and locally grown products. Buy locally to reduce the energy required to transport your goods. The consumable products we all purchase represent over half of the average family's carbon footprint! If you successfully encourage neighbors to do this, store owners will be encouraged to stock local goods. Shop at farmers' markets.
  9. Count your carbon. Keep track of your carbon consumption as a way of tracking your progress.

    • There is a logo called Carbon Counted that companies can put on their products to communicate their carbon footprint. Buying products that have a low Carbon Counted footprint number gives consumers a means by which to influence and reward companies that reduce emissions in the creation of their products.
    • Use a carbon calculator. These counters enable you to calculate your personal impact by adding up the carbon emissions from your activities. There are counters available for many countries; use your local search engine for results. An international calculator is provided by the World Resources Institute.
    • Support producers of renewable energy. Help spur the renewable energy market by participating in it. In the UK you can get 100% renewable electricity by switching to a company such as Ecotricity or Good Energy Ltd. Or you can do so by buying wind certificates, green tags and stock in renewable energy companies. Many of these companies are new and small and the stock is low in price. While may are high-risk, they may present an opportunity to help the company move beyond the initial stages of uncertainty and to enhance the viability of important, upcoming market niches. These companies may offer opportunities for great returns if they prove profitable; just be sure to do your homework first, as you would when investing in anything.
  10. Buy minimally packaged goods. Less packaging could reduce your garbage significantly, saving 1,200 pounds of carbon dioxide and $1,000 per year. If you consider a certain products' packaging to be excessive, mail it to the company with your challenge to the company to reduce its packaging; include suggestions on how if you have ideas. And while you're at it, feel free to let companies know that if Wal-Mart thinks reduced packaging is not only a good idea but very achievable, then this is likely to set the standard for many businesses in the future.
  11. Insulate.

    • Keeping your water heater insulated could save 1,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide and US$40 per year. Don't use units fitted with continuous pilot lights and you will save AUD$40 and 200 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions yearly. Also, use less hot water. For example, if the shower is too cold, don't turn up the hot water but turn down the cold water.
    • Be energy wise and insulate your entire home to keep down the heating and cooling costs. If your insulation is old or inefficient, do yourself a favor and replace it; not only will it reduce your output of emissions but it'll reduce your energy bills considerably. Consider the attic, crawlspaces, basement, walls and ceiling. If you have awkward spaces, don't forget that cellulose or fiberglass insulation can be blown in by a professional contractor.
  12. Replace old appliances and reduce reliance on them.

    • Inefficient appliances such as fridges, washing machines etc., waste energy. Save hundreds of pounds of carbon dioxide and hundreds of dollars per year by replacing them (and having your old appliance recycled or disposed of properly). Many countries have "energy star" ratings on new appliances that allow you to assess the energy usage of the appliance. You may even be able to check online before you go shopping, to save time. If this isn't an option, at least check the seals on your fridge or freezer and replace them if they show signs of wear.
    • While you're at it, reassess appliances that you really do not need to use, such as plug-in air fresheners. Try opening the windows instead (and throwing out that rotting fruit bowl) and replace with natural air freshener alternatives. Other items include the many so-called time-saving devices in your kitchen;
  13. Weather strip your home. Caulk and weather strip your doorways, windows and air conditioners. Save 1,700 lbs. of carbon dioxide and US$274 per year. You will discover that the costs of caulking are far outweighed by savings in fuel costs and increased comfort level.
  14. Use a push mower and reduce the lawn. Use your muscles instead of fossil fuels and get some strength-building exercise. Save 80 lbs of carbon dioxide per year.
  15. Unplug unused electronics. Even when electronic devices are turned off, they use energy. Save over 1,000 lbs of carbon dioxide and US$256 per year by unplugging them or switching them off at the wall using a power surge-protector (sometimes called a power center). Get into the habit of switching the power off before you go to bed.
  16. Grow fast growing plants. Plants like bamboo grow faster and produce 35% more oxygen than trees like oak or birch, and require fewer chemicals and care. Make sure that the plants are appropriate for your area; prefer native over introduced species and do not plant problem species. Bamboo, for example, can be very invasive in most of the US.
  17. Use public transportation. Taking the bus, the train, the subway or other forms of public transportation lessens the load on the roads and reduces one's individual greenhouse gas emissions (an average of 1600 pounds of GHG emissions per year can be saved). Taking public transport removes the stress of long road commutes and gives you a great opportunity to read, think and relax. You also save on parking money and time wasted looking for parks.
  18. Ride a bicycle. Taking the bike instead of the car is a very simple solution. However, if you experience such problems as lack of suitable bike paths, having to deal with congested traffic or hilly terrain, you are faced with a few challenges. They are, however, challenges that you as an individual can overcome with a little determination.

    • Ask your municipality, city or local government to start making bike trails in your area and to make sure that bicyclists are kept safe from traffic in the same way that pedestrians are afforded this right. Get the local community behind you - a few neighbors, the street or the whole suburb!
    • If you have hilly terrain, there are solutions as well. Build up your strength with shorter trips, find alternate routes, or take a bus part way (many municipal buses have bike racks on the front that you can use).
  19. Use your vehicle as a tool against global warming. If you can't live without a car, then use it in a way that minimizes global impact.

    • Buy a hybrid car. The average driver could save 16,000 lbs. of CO2 and $3,750 per year driving a hybrid. Plug-in hybrids can save even more and give cash-back (see V2G).
    • Buy a fuel efficient car. Save up to 20,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide per year using a more fuel efficient car - that's a savings of AUD$10,000 over a car's lifetime. Buying fuel efficient cars also encourage companies to continue making and improving them owing to increased demand.
    • Practice green driving. Save gas and lower stress levels by being a considerate driver. Improve fuel efficiency by removing unused external objects such as roof racks, turning off your engine instead of idling for long periods of time (over 1 minute), and removing loads from the trunk/boot that are not necessary.
    • Keep the tires on your car adequately inflated - under inflated tires can reduce fuel economy by up to 3% and increase wear and tear on your tires.[24]Keep your car tires inflated. Check them monthly. Save 250 lbs. of carbon dioxide and US$840 per year. A good gift is a tire air-pressure gauge as it not only saves money but makes driving safer.
    • Change your air filter. Check your car's air filter monthly. Save 800 pounds of carbon dioxide and US$130 per year. Cleaning your air filter improves your mileage and reduces pollution because it makes it easier for your car to take in air and maintain a proper fuel/air mixture.
  20. Use Refills. Try using refills instead of buying new jars each time. This reduces your consumption and refills are usually cheaper too.

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