Stepping Towards a Better Environment
By Robert DeAngelis
Let’s make the world a cleaner, safer and healthier place. Like Michael Jackson said many years ago, we need to look at the “man in the mirror.” Why blame someone else, or wait for others to drive change? If each of us steps up to our individual responsibility, we can collectively make a big difference, starting today. Believe it or not, it is not that hard. What may seem overwhelming and complex at first can be achieved step by little step. Today we start a series of articles to help all of us see how easy it can be to live a more sustainable life and, in many cases save money and improve overall health, too. Don’t worry if you miss one. All articles will be filed on our website (yorktown100.org) for future reference. Each week we will share practical tips. Let us know if you have one you would like to share!
Today’s Topic: Calculate your household carbon footprint
Every person uses fossil fuels. We use them to power vehicles, heat homes, generate electricity, and produce items we use daily including plastics, clothing and food. Fossil fuels have been the primary source for energy to date, but they have significant deleterious impacts on our environment. With the current population increasing, and rising energy use per person, we need to reduce the amount consumed. Here is the typical profile of CO 2 emissions for a house in Yorktown Heights, NY (which is similar to other towns in the area) and derived from a national study from the University of California at Berkeley which estimates household emissions by zip code https://coolclimate.berkeley.edu/maps
Wow. 61 metric tons per year for every household (or 370 pounds per day). Note that the average for Yorktown is about 20% higher than the national average due to significant transportation and household heating components. It really adds up and contributes to a global total that is very dangerous. To avoid disastrous and irreversible environmental tipping points (like polar ice cap melt and sea rise), we must reduce these emissions rapidly.
What’s in these totals for each household?
– Transportation: Automobile, airline and commuter train trips
– Heating: Natural gas, oil, propane that you use to heat your house
– Electric: All the electricity you use in your home
– Goods & Services: The emissions from manufacturing and distributing all the things you buy and services you utilize (including investments)
– Food: Includes emissions from agriculture and farm raised animals
– Waste: The garbage and recycled materials from your household
– Municipal: Town buildings, water and wastewater, schools, street lights, local businesses, etc.
What are your personal household emissions? How do you compare to this average of 61 tons per year? You don’t need to be a scientist to calculate your own household emissions. You will need a copy of your utility bill, knowledge about your cars, and some other lifestyle information. While there are other tools available, we highly recommend using this locally developed tool (courtesy of Croton100) with access from our website: https://yorktown100.org/resources. It will provide detailed insight into your carbon producing activities. It is a great exercise to do together with your family. It is also valuable to compare with friends, perhaps over a glass of wine with proper social distancing. We can learn from each other. If you would like help with this exercise, please contact us through our website. We will also be glad to meet (either virtually or with social distance) with interested groups.
The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do to reduce these emissions. Once you have an understanding of your own personal household emissions, you can begin to put plans in place to reduce them. In future articles, we will discuss lots of effective and easy options for each of the major categories shown above. In many cases you can save the environment and save money and improve health. Talk about a win-win-win! We look forward to sharing with you.
Yorktown100 is a 100% volunteer group of neighbors working to reduce our carbon footprint by 5% a year through various programs. Contact us if you would like to learn more, or would like to join. We welcome new members! Visit us at https://yorktown100.org/ and help make a difference.