Locally grown food has a lower carbon footprint than imported products right? Not necessarily. Locally made food does support local farmers and will be fresher, but transport only accounts for 4% of the total carbon footprint of your food. What about opening a new car’s windows instead of using the AC? Or buying an e-reader instead of books? The Union of Concerned Scientists say these things don’t make a marked difference, so don’t sweat the small stuff!
Work Smarter, not Harder
That’s not to say that the Union of Concerned Scientists doesn’t value the individual contribution to preventing global warming or that climate change is not a dire threat to our way of life; quite the opposite. In their book “Cooler Smarter“, they outline the dangers of climate change brought about by carbon emissions: “Our failure to address this problem will imperil us all,” the book says. The difference in their approach is that they want us to focus on those parts of our lives that can really contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and let the small stuff slide; work smarter, not harder!
Every Little Bit Counts
One of the important findings of the study was just how much our individual contributions to carbon emissions really matter: “On average, the activities of each American add some 21 tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year. That’s more than you would cause by driving an average car all the way around the world at the equator. It’s also four times the annual global average of emissions per person. It’s hard evidence of the enormous impact we each have on the planet through the decisions we make each day,” says John Rogers, a Cooler Smarter co-author and senior energy analyst.
The scientists involved in the Cooler Smarter project have looked at 500 categories of our daily consumer behaviour to ascertain which ones are most effective in reducing our carbon footprint. With the two year in-depth study, Cooler Smarter hopes to empower us to make significant reductions in our carbon footprints by choosing the most effective options for our lifestyles. Cooler Smarter is unique as it is a science-based solution to reducing consumer-based carbon emissions. “Our research found a set of effective and practical steps all of us can take to cut our own global warming emissions by 20 percent or more,” says climate scientist and co-author of Cooler Smarter Brenda Ekwurzel.
Sweat the Right Stuff
The Union of Concerned Scientists (a scientific environmental group) has found ways in which we can most effectively reduce our carbon footprints. “You can get there faster by sweating the right stuff,” says Ekwurzel. The book challenges readers to reduce their carbon footprint by 20% in 20 days. They give you 20 great ways in which to do this that are practical and don’t require much effort on your behalf. Here are some of the most important points:
- Meat has 18 times the carbon footprint of other food. So, if you really want to reduce the carbon footprint of your meals, try having one meatless meal a week. It’s cheaper and healthier too!
- Don’t be a consumer: This is true when it comes to furniture and clothing; here you can go for the vintage look, have clothing swaps with your friends and upcycle old junk into interesting new pieces for your home. However, when it comes to appliances, old isn’t always better. New Energy Star appliances are so energy efficient that they have a lower carbon footprint, even when taking into account the manufacture and transport of new items.
- You don’t need to sacrifice comfort to live a green life. The North American lifestyle is comparable to those in Japan and Germany, but we use twice as much electricity. Better insulation, more efficient appliances and a reduction in transportation is what we need to focus on to accomplish significant reductions in energy consumption.
- New car AC’s are more efficient, so you use less fuel turning on the AC than opening the windows which will result in drag.