New book: Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living, by John Rogers ’88, Seth Shulman, Jeff Deyette, Brenda Ekwurzel, David Friedman, Margaret Mellon, and Suzanne Shaw (Island Press)
The author: A senior energy analyst with the Climate and Energy Program of the nonprofit organization Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge, Mass., Rogers is an expert on renewable energy, energy efficiency, and the connection between energy generation and water consumption. To reduce his carbon footprint, he switched to compact fluorescent light bulbs; replaced his old, inefficient furnace and air conditioner with top-efficiency models; got rid of an inefficient water heater for a solar water heating system and an on-demand heater; and made changes to better seal his house with improved windows and more insulation.
The book: Rogers and his colleagues from the Union of Concerned Scientists provide actions individuals can take to reduce their carbon emissions. The three things that matter most, says Rogers, are “what and how you drive, how you use energy at home, and what you eat (specifically, how much red meat).” The book’s recommendations, the authors write, “won’t just lower your emissions of carbon dioxide; they can also improve the quality of your life, save you money and time, and even improve your health.”
Opening lines: “This book is about the steps you can take and the choices you can make to combat global warming.
“Global warming presents one of the most enormous challenges humanity has ever faced. It threatens to affect nearly every aspect of our lives — our health, the availability of freshwater, the future of many coastal communities, our food supply, and even government stability as nations around the world begin to confront the adverse consequences of climate change.”
Tips from Cooler Smarter on how to reduce your carbon footprint:
1. On the Road: Transportation is responsible for the largest chunk of our carbon emissions (28 percent), and the lion’s share comes from driving. What you can do:
-If you drive, switch to a car with better fuel economy. Upgrading from a 20-mpg car to a 40-mpg car will reduce your annual carbon emissions by almost four tons.
-By making this change and driving exactly the same amount, you will save 4,500 gallons of gasoline over the car’s 15-year life span. At today’s gas prices, that’s a total savings of more than $18,000.
-Even if you don’t replace your car this year, you can still have an impact by making sure your car is well tuned and avoiding aggressive driving or idling, which can cost the average driver around $500 a year at today’s gas prices. You can also reduce how much you drive by carpooling, bicycling, or using public transit a few times a week.
2. In Your Home
Between heating and cooling your home and all the electrical gadgets and appliances you use, energy use in the home adds up to nearly a third of the average American’s carbon emissions. What you can do:
-Find and plug your home’s air leaks and add inexpensive insulation so you’re not accidentally heating or cooling your backyard.
-Install a programmable thermostat and learn how to use it. Research shows that lots of people who have programmable thermostats never use them effectively enough to achieve the maximum energy savings and emissions reductions they can deliver.
-Make sure you have an efficient refrigerator. It’s probably the single largest user of electricity in your home after the furnace, central air conditioning, and lighting.
3. On Your Plate
Food accounts for roughly 14 percent of each person’s carbon emissions, and meat produces more than almost any other food. What you can do:
-Eat less meat, especially beef. An average family of four that cuts its meat intake in half will avoid roughly three tons of emissions annually.
-Try reducing your consumption of over-packaged foods, especially bottled water.
-It turns out that the distance food travels to get to you is only a small part of its global warming impact, so don’t stress about exactly how far items traveled when making decisions in the supermarket. Instead, try to shift to more of a “farmers market diet”— one light on processed foods and heavy on fresh produce.
Tips reprinted with permission.