How Families Can Reduce Global Warming
L. David Roper
There is scientific consensus that the Earth is in dire trouble for its long-term future because of human activities. (You might want to look at my on-line book about that: http://www.roperld.com/science/HumanFuture.pdf .)
There are several questions that apply:
- Is it possible to prevent the multiple catastrophes that are impending?
- Can they be prevented by individual action?
- Can they be prevented only by coordinated action of all humans? (Part of my definition of "civilization" in the book.)
I have read an excellent book, Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning by George Monbiot. He makes the case that it may be too late to stop some of the catastrophes and that there is not much hope to prevent most of them unless all people are required to participate in reducing Global-Warming gases emissions.
Until that happens, I strongly feel that I and my local community must voluntarily make the effort to reduce Global-Warming gases emissions and develop renewable energy. Perhaps when enough individuals and communities do that, there will be a willingness to pass laws nationally and globally that require everyone to do it. At my and other concerned citizens urging, my town of Blacksburg, Virginia has embarked on a path of reducing Global-Warming emissions by joining the Cool Cities coalition of cities and towns.
Another book that might be helpful to families wanting to reduce their emissions of Global-Warming gases is Climate Change Begins at Home: Life on the Two-Way Street of Global Warming by Dave Reay.
Here is what my family is doing to reduce the emissions of Global-Warming gases:
Here are some next steps we are considering doing in the future:
- I bought a Toyota Prius in May 2005 after detailed study of gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles. That study convinced me that the future of personal/family transportation is in the direction that hybrid vehicles move us. I call hybrid vehicles a "baby step" to the future. The next step is to make plug-in hybrid vehicles, so that they are true hybrids, using both gasoline and electricity generated from other fuels (coal, natural gas, nuclear, wind, etc.). It appears that one will be able to buy plug-in hybrid cars from Toyota and General Motors in 2010 and may be able to convert current hybrids to plug-in hybrids. The next step is to make plug-in hybrids that can run on E85 (85% ethanol) or pure biodiesel (the ultimate transportation fuel). The Prius is a SULEV (Super Ultra Low Emissions) vehicle, in addition to getting 40-45 mpg around town and 45-50 mpg on interstates. Their is a buyer's guide for hybrid cars.
I have taught courses about hybrid vehicles for the Open University of the Virginia Tech YMCA and given lectures about hybrid vehicles for several service clubs in the Blacksburg area.
- Since my wife, Jeanne, is involved in many local and state-wide charitable and other activities, we need two vehicles. So, we bought a Toyota Highlander Hybrid (a mid-size SUV) in April 2006. We wanted a mid-sized SUV since we haul large items regularly, have a large dog, and we want the security of AWD in inclement weather. The Highlander Hybrid is a SULEV (Super Ultra Low Emissions) vehicle, in addition to getting about 25-26 mpg compared to about 19-20 mpg for the standard gasoline Highlander. We bought the Highlander instead of the slightly smaller Ford Escape Hybrid (a compact SUV) because of several features and the excellent reputation of Toyota. Their is a buyer's guide for hybrid cars.
- In May 2007 I purchased the ZAP Xebra PK, a very small electric pickup. I envision the two-car family of the future owning a biofuel plug-in hybrid vehicle for long trips and an electric vehicle for local trips.
The ZAP uses six 12-volts lead-acid batteries. Future versions of it will use lithium-ion-iron-phosphate batteries.
- The next big thing we have done to reduce our Global-Warming gases emissions is that we have purchased renewable energy credits (RECs, also called "green tags"), equal to the amount of electric power we use in a year, from a reputable wind-power electric generating facility in West Virginia. We picked the nearest company to our home from a list provided by http://www.green-e.org, which certifies renewable electricity generating companies. That is, we sent a check to the company of an amount equal to 2.5 cents per kiloWatt-hour of electric energy we use in a year. Thus, we are paying more for our electricity because we want to help bring about more green electric power generation. Although we have no way of knowing if we are using electricity from that company, it does not matter; all electrons are identical.
- We are planning to put a biofuels stove fireplace insert in the room where we do most of our living. This stove can burn any grain and wood pellets. The most efficient is corn grain. We would then cut back on our use of electricity to run the heat pump. A biofuels stove is responsible for putting Global-Warming gases into the atmosphere only due to the petroleum fuel used to grow the plants and transfer the fuel to the stove; if someday the plants could be grown using only biofuels, such a stove would be carbon neutral.
- We have planted many more trees than we have cut down. If you do not have land on which to plant trees, donate to organizations that plant trees, such as seedtree.org.
A few years ago we replaced a heat pump in our home with the most efficient heat pump available at that time and a programmable thermostat to reduce night-time operation. Its seasonal energy efficiency ratio
(SEER) is 15.5. In 2007 we replace our other heat pump (SEER=10.5) with another high efficiency heat pump (SEER = 16.5).
- We have bought a few appliances in recent years, and always bought those that are rated at high efficiency (Energy Star).
- In January 2008 we installed a double-flush toilet to save water and the energy used to prepare the water for consumption and deliver it. We hope to do the same for two other toilets in our house in the future.
In June 2008 we installed two rain barrels.
- We purchase as much food as possible from local growers.
- We purchase as many needed items as possible from nearby stores.
- We combine errands to reduce local vehicle trips. (Vehicles are least efficient on short trips.)
- We walk or use public transportation as much as possible.
- We recycle everything that is possible to recycle in Blacksburg.
I haul large pieces of cardboard in my electric pickup for neighbors to the recycling location.
- We do most of our computer printing double sided (duplex).
- We compost all our kitchen scraps to put on our garden. After trying several different ways to compost, I have settled on a tumbler composter. We have two of them, so that one can have be composting while the other is being filled.
More details about our composting procedure.
- Of course, like many home owners, we are gradually replacing our incandescent light bulbs with more efficient bulbs (compact fluorescent [CFL]and LED) as needed. For information about the mercury in CFL: Ref1, Ref2, Ref3.
- Insulating the ceiling because a heat pump and ducts are there:
(See House Energy Renovation.)
- Insulating the crawl space because a heat pump and ducts are there:
On the left is the heat pump and dehumidifier. The right is the sump pump. (See House Energy Renovation.)
- I have been buying BOGO lights to give as gifts as I urge the recipients to do the same. This allows people with out adequate lighting in developing countries to have light without using electric power plants, since BOGO lights are solar powered.
- I regularly give talks to local service clubs about fossil-fuels depletion and global warming.
- I initiated a project to build a solar greenhouse at the upcoming VT YMCA community gardens.
- Finally, we have three rather powerful computers participating 24 hours every day in the climateprediction.net program to forecast the climate for the 21st century.
- Estimate Global-Warming gases emissions we cause by other activities in our home and when we are away from home (for example, flying) and then purchase sufficient RECs to offset them.
- Install a solar hot-water system.
- Install photovoltaic roofing the next time our house needs new roofing.
If you want to reduce your Global-Warming gases emission, first calculate an inventory of the amount of carbon-dioxide gas you are now emitting, either monthly or yearly. Then set a reduction goal for future months or years. Here is an Excel spreadsheet for doing the carbon-dioxide emissions inventory: CarbonDioxideEmissionsPersonal.xls
Reference: House Energy Renovation
Roper Global-Heating Web Pages