Friday, 07 September 2012 13:30

What is an Ecological Footprint?

We’ve already examined and defined a carbon footprint, but have you ever heard of an ecological footprint?  An ecological footprint compares human demands on nature with the Earth's ability to regenerate resources and provide services.

Ecological footprints are ever changing because of advances in technology and a three-year lag for the UN to collect and publish statistics.  However, it is a standardized measure that begins by assessing the amount of biologically productive land and sea area necessary to supply the resources a human population uses.  This is then contrasted with the planet’s ability to absorb associated waste and ecological capacity to regenerate.  Think of it like how much of the Earth (or how many planet Earths) it would take to support humanity given an average lifestyle.  In 2007, humanity's total ecological footprint was estimated at 1.5 planet Earths.  This means humans are currently using ecological services 1.5 times quicker than Earth can renew them.

William Rees was the first academic to publish about an ecological footprint in 1992.  He supervised the PhD dissertation of Mathis Wackernagel who outlined the concept and offered a calculation method.  Rees penned the term ecological footprint in a more accessible manner than the original name of “appropriated carrying capacity” after a computer technician described Rees’ new computer as having a small footprint on the desk.  Wackernagel and Rees published the book Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth in early 1996.

The implications are dire according to Rees who wrote in 2010, “…the average world citizen has an eco-footprint of about 2.7 global average hectares while there are only 2.1 global hectare of bioproductive land and water per capita on earth. This means that humanity has already overshot global biocapacity by 30% and now lives unsustainabily by depleting stocks of ‘natural capital’.”

We’re definitely overspending the planet’s resources.  Just take a look at man-made global warming and climate change.   We need to continue on the path to seeking a sustainable lifestyle, and do it on a global scale.  All of us working together can reduce the amount of the earth’s resources that we consume.  Start with yourself and get creative with how many ways you can save energy and recycle.  What’s great about beginning with energy efficiency is that it can save you money too.  Then there are cost effective ways to offset the rest such as by contributing to Carbonfund.org’s development of renewable energy technologies and carbon emissions reduction projects.  The important thing is to get started right away.

Published in carbonfree blog

In what is easily the best environmental action in a generation, this week, the Obama Administration announced new CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards for cars and light trucks (think minivans and sport utility vehicles).  By 2025, these vehicles will be required to average 54.5 miles per gallon (MPG).

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulates CAFE standards and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency measures vehicle fuel efficiency.  An agreement in support of acceptable standards was made between the government, automakers and their unions, and environmental organizations.

The stage for these historic fuel economy standards was set by an energy law enacted in 2007 under President George W. Bush.  Additionally, the 2009 federal bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler were tied to better fuel efficiency. 

Fuel-efficient cars and trucks were the U.S. auto industry’s saving grace.  It makes good sense on multiple levels to continue these efforts.  For one, 570,000 new jobs can be created by 2030.  Not to mention saving consumers more than $1.7 trillion at the gas pump and reducing U.S. oil consumption by 12 billion barrels.  This also translates to strengthening national security by lessening the country’s dependence on foreign oil.

What about fighting man-made global warming?  The new standards will cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks in half by 2025.  This reduces emissions by 6 billion metric tons, which is more than the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the United States in 2010.  We thank President Obama for his leadership on combating climate change, pollution prevention and national security.

Starting in 2017, the standards will be phased in over the course of eight years.  New fuel-saving technology is projected to increase the cost of new car or light truck by $3,000 on average.  This means consumers will pay a little more when they buy the vehicle, about $50 more a month over a five-year loan, but they’ll more than make up for it at the pump with expected gas savings per vehicle between $7,000 - $8,000.  And that is good for the environment and our wallets.

Undeniably, the vehicle fuel-efficiency standards represent an unbeatable combination of protecting the environment and strengthening the economy.  They’re also the nation's single largest effort to combat climate-altering greenhouse gases, but we can’t stop building our carbon-reduction portfolios now.  Wonderful news like this should push us to continuing to find more ways to reduce our carbon footprint, as individuals and a nation.  Now let’s go invest in some renewable energy projects!

Published in carbonfree blog

Last month it was revealed that a diverse group of stakeholders with political ties that cover the entire spectrum from left to right have been holding secret meetings about climate change with the support of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank based in Washington D.C.

Climate change is an unavoidably, politically charged issue.  These meetings are an attempt to discover ways to approach global warming in a politically viable manner.  The July 2012 meeting was the fifth of such meetings, which are held secretly and speakers not revealed in order to facilitate true brainstorming, an open discussion where all sides could offer solutions without fear of reprisal. 

The agenda for the most recent meeting, which was leaked online, was titled, “Price Carbon Campaign / Lame Duck Initiative: A Carbon Pollution Tax in Fiscal and Tax Reform”.  However, participants claim putting a price on carbon emissions was not the only item of discussion, and neither was focus limited to the short-term.

Proponents of a carbon tax put it forward as a less complex method to begin pricing carbon emissions than cap-and-trade.  Legislation for cap-and-trade collapsed in 2010 in the nation’s capital and preceded these meetings.

At the moment tax increases, carbon or otherwise, are unlikely to get off the ground, but the long-term view is that taxing CO2 could win support over taxing income.  Furthermore, there is potential to use a carbon tax to tackle both global warming and the deficit.

So the question as to whether we can deal with climate change in a politically viable manner is still unanswered, but the future is looking brighter with the news that open discussions are occurring among bipartisan groups.

Published in carbonfree blog

More than a couple of our past blog posts have covered how increasingly extreme weather is the product of climate change.  However, have you stopped to ask yourself what that really means?  How will climate change affect us and future generations?  What things that we currently enjoy will be unavailable to our children?

A recent article covers some things that global warming is likely to ruin for our kids; things such as coffee, chocolate, strawberries.  And the list isn’t limited to agricultural food items.  Say goodbye to blazing fast Wi-Fi.  Also your favorite vacation spot or even your home may be underwater in a few, short decades time.  The country you live in may disappear.  The article has some shocking images of Greenland melting away.

So what’s it going to take to help preserve the Earth as we know it?  Global carbon emissions need to be reduced 80% by 2050.  The U.S. has already pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by approximately 17%.  Eventually legislation will be enacted increasing the goal to a 30% reduction in 2025 and a 42% reduction in 2030, with the ultimate goal of reducing emissions 83% by 2050.

Do your part in reducing carbon emissions and getting us closer to meeting the goals outlined above.  Start by switching your Internet browser to www.envirosearch.org.  Your regular, daily Internet search activities will begin contributing to renewable energy, reforestation, and energy efficiency projects.  Then go to www.carbonfund.org for ideas on how to reduce your carbon footprint and offset carbon emissions.  By working together, and each doing our part, we can change the fate of the planet.

Published in carbonfree blog

A recently published study out of the University of Michigan examined Generation X’s views on climate change and found them to be largely unconcerned with the issue.

The Longitudinal Study of American Youth (LSAY) releases a quarterly research report and has followed the same 4,000 people for 25 years.  Originally, in 1987, 5,900 students were selected from a national sample of 7th and 10th graders in 50 U.S. public school systems.

Generation X now comprises 32-52 year olds who are the most well-educated and scientifically savvy generation in U.S. history.  However, the LSAY shows dwindling interest in climate change as it is a complex and long-term issue.  The study compared responses from 2009 and 2011 and found that a scant two percent of those aged 37 to 40 follow climate change "very closely".  This was a 50 percent drop from 2009 results.  Over half said they follow climate change "not closely."  More than 40 percent say they have only a "moderate concern" about global warming.

The most disturbing part of the report points to a disregard for future generations.  Most do not see climate change as an immediate problem that requires their attention to address.  A large percentage, 66 percent, said they aren’t sure that global warming is happening.  About 10 percent even outright deny global warming is actually happening.

Why is Generation X disengaged, disinterested, or even openly disbelieving regarding climate change?  The answer is as multifaceted as global warming itself.  Disinterest in climate change is surely due in part to a massive and unprecedented disinformation campaign by oil and gas interests and conservative media outlets spanning more than a decade, even as the overwhelming scientific record points squarely to climate change.  Some experts theorize issue fatigue may be the cause when a problem is long-standing.  Others point to the complexity in understanding the underlying causes and potential solutions for climate change as a barrier to engagement with the issue.  Still another potential answer is the distraction by other timely public policy issues.  For example, interest in the economy experienced an upsurge following the Great Recession that began in 2008 to the detriment of environmental issues.

Whatever the reason, there is something every person in all generations can do to help save our planet.  One easy and fast way to protect the environment is to switch your Internet browser to www.envirosearch.org.  You'll be contributing to renewable energy, reforestation, and energy efficiency projects through you regular, daily Internet search activities.  Another simple step is to use an emissions calculator to determine your personal contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.  Then reduce your carbon footprint, plant a tree, or offset your carbon emissions.

Download and read the entire study here http://lsay.org/GenX-4.pdf.

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The Earth is 70% covered by oceans, and stores about 90% of the planet’s heat.  This means that ocean warming translates into global warming.  Climate change deniers contend that global warming is not caused by greenhouse gas emissions, but rather by natural processes and variations.  However, a study released this week proves with 99% certainty that no more than 10% of the observed increase in ocean temperatures over the past 50 years could be accounted for by natural variation.

The Human-Induced Global Ocean Warming on Multidecadal Timescales study is the most comprehensive study ever performed on rising ocean temperatures, and authored by a team of American, Indian, Japanese, and Australian scientists.  According to the study, the planet’s oceans are warming at a rate of 0.20°F per decade, which affects global weather patterns leading to increasing weather extremes such as more heat waves, storms, and intense storms.  Furthermore, ocean warming affects the ocean ecology itself.  A few of the effects we’ve already begun to see are plankton reduction, melting sea ice, and coral die-off. 

The study unequivocally points to global warming as man-made.  Of course, this has been known, shown and settled for nearly twenty years by the IPCC and climate scientists around the world.  But the shift to ocean warming is significant due to its proportion of the Earth and its surface as well as because the vast majority of the people on Earth live very close to rising oceans.

Four or five years ago we shifted from the question of ‘is it happening’ to ‘what to do about it’.  Political and business interests have worked hard to shift this debate back again, but the real focus must remain on the numerous solutions to climate change and the dwindling timeline we have to reduce our global emissions 50-80% by mid century.

Download the full study at this link: http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v2/n7/full/nclimate1553.html

 

Published in carbonfree blog
Friday, 29 June 2012 15:30

What is a Carbon Footprint?

Your carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support your activities. It is usually expressed in equivalent metric tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2).

The average American is responsible for a whopping 50,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions annually. Some examples of your carbon footprint are:

  1. When your car’s engine burns fuel it creates CO2, the amount generated depends on its fuel consumption and the driving distance.
  2. Heating your house with oil, gas, or coal also generates CO2.  
  3. Even if you heat (or cool) your house with electricity, CO2 is emitted during the generation of electrical power, most of which comes from coal in the US.
  4. When you buy food and goods, the production of the food and goods creates CO2; again, the amount depends on where the foods and goods came from and how they were created.
  5. Traveling on a plane generates CO2 in the same ways a car does.
  6. Weddings even create CO2 emissions!  See this past post for more information about how to reduce your wedding’s environmental impact.
  7. Also consider all the indirect emissions you are in part responsible for: the roads we drive on, the schools our kids attend, the mall and grocery story, our shared military and city hall. It all adds up.

The bottom line is your carbon footprint is the sum of all carbon dioxide emissions that were generated by your activities in a given time period, typically one year.

The carbon footprint is a powerful tool in understanding your personal impact on global warming.  Most people are surprised by the amount of CO2 their activities create.  If you personally want to reduce your contribution to global warming, the calculation and monitoring of your carbon footprint is critical.

Carbonfund.org offers helpful calculators to estimate your carbon footprint.  Individuals can follow this link for more information.  http://www.carbonfund.org/individuals  There is also a calculator for businesses here

At Carbonfund.org, our motto is “reduce what you can, offset what you can’t.™”  Make a commitment to sustainable living; get started on reducing and offsetting your carbon footprint now!

Published in carbonfree blog

We can do a lot as individuals to combat global warming.  But it is undeniable that governments can do more since they harness the power of the collective.  The Obama administration’s strategy is to control global warming emissions through regulation.  This week a huge victory was given to both the administration and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by the federal appeals court in the District of Columbia.  The decision was unanimous in upholding the agency’s landmark rulings to control greenhouse gases.

The issue seems like a “no brainer” that the EPA should regulate greenhouse gases.  However, dozens of lawsuits from industry groups and 14 states challenged four rules that aim to limit greenhouse gases.  The biggest rule is the EPA’s 2009 “endangerment finding” and the foundation on which the other three rules rest.  The EPA contended, and was vindicated in this ruling, that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions constitute a danger to public health and therefore could be regulated under the Clean Air Act.  The three-judge panel acknowledged and gave credence to climate change as a real and legitimate threat to public health and safety.  So now climate change deniers have less of a leg to stand on; the EPA based its case on sound science and careful research which stood up to a rigorous judicial review and emerged victorious.

The ruling cleared the way for the EPA to proceed with clean car standards and restrictive permits on power plants and other major industrial polluters.  Perhaps now power plants will put increased effort into developing cost-effective and reliable methods to capture carbon emissions, or at least offset them.  If not, the future will certainly be in renewable energy sources now that there are stricter limitations on greenhouse gas emissions.

Published in carbonfree blog
Thursday, 24 May 2012 16:13

Killer Climate Change

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a report on Wednesday, May 23, 2012 that estimates 150,000 additional American deaths in the country’s top 40 cities by 2100 due to the excessive heat caused by climate change.

The top three deadliest cities outlined in the analysis of peer-reviewed data include Louisville, Detroit, and Cleveland.  Some other cities projected to have thousands of heat related deaths by the end of the century are Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Providence, St. Louis and Washington, D.C.

Why cities?  Because that is where two-thirds of the U.S. population lives, and many municipal services there are not prepared to help people effectively beat the heat.  Urban areas have high concentrations of poor with little to no access to air conditioning.  Although everyone is at risk, children, the elderly, the obese, and those on medication are the most vulnerable. 

We’re already seeing how global warming can kill with hundreds of heat related deaths annually.  Extreme heat causes heat exhaustion and heat stroke and worsens illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and kidney disease.  In 2006, a two-week long heat wave in California caused 655 deaths, 1,620 excess hospitalizations, and more than 16,000 additional emergency room visits, resulting in nearly $5.4 billion in costs.  However, Chicago had an even deadlier record-setting heat wave in 1995 when more than 700 people died due to the excessive heat.

Some cities are learning from their experiences or heeding the warnings, and strengthening their municipal services.  Chicago, Philadelphia, and Seattle have already put measures in place to lessen the risk from excessive heat days.  Measures include improving the city’s heat warning system, emergency services, and establishing cooling centers.

There is hope; we can save lives by reducing emissions and improving emergency services.  Some examples of climate change mitigation are supporting reforestation projects and using more renewable energy such as wind energy.

Read the report and get more information at http://www.nrdc.org/globalwarming/killer-heat/.

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LEI Electronics and EcoAlkalines™ are ecstatic to be able to announce that EcoAlkalines™ Batteries, the World’s first Landfill safe, Certified Carbon Neutral Alkaline Batteries have been certified meet LEED standards.

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)® Green Building Program is a voluntary, consensus-based global rating system for buildings, homes and communities that are designed, constructed, maintained and operated for improved environmental and human health performance.  LEED was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) with the intent on providing building owners and operators a concise framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations, and maintenance solutions. LEED is based on a credit system and points are allocated based on the potential environmental impacts and human benefits of each credit. Under the current LEED credit system, EcoAlkalines™ batteries can help earn one prerequisite and one point under the LEED category of Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (EBOM) rating system.

For more information on LEED standards visit www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CategoryID=19 

Eco Alkalines™ have been reviewed by a LEED AP third party – Above Green, LLC. Above Green has provided us with a LEED certified technical statement which explains exactly which prerequisites and points Eco Alkalines™ batteries can be used to count towards.

As per Above Green, LLC:

EcoAlkalines are the world's first certified carbon neutral batteries. Manufactured with 0% Mercury, 0% Lead, 0% Cadmium – EcoAlkalines™ set the standard for responsible disposable alkaline batteries. Because of these qualities, EcoAlkalines are considered an environmentally preferable product. If you own and operate a LEED Certified building, include EcoAlkalines™ as part of your purchasing policy, and earn points toward certification and recertification of your facility.” 

Applicable   Credit Category and Credit Name

Number   of Points

MRp1: Sustainable Purchasing Policy

          Prerequisite

MRc1: Sustainable Purchasing - Ongoing Consumables

1

  • Materials and Resources Prerequisite 1 ("MRp1"): Sustainable Purchasing Policy requires facilities managers to develop a comprehensive purchasing plan, which sets goals for the purchasing of environmental friendly products.
  • Materials and Resources Credit 1 ("MRc1"): Sustainable Purchasing - Ongoing Consumables focuses on the implementation of MRp1, specifically in the procurement of environmentally friendly ongoing consumables, including batteries.

Carbonfund.org is pleased see one of our Carbon Neutral Certified Products recognized by the USGBC as meeting LEEDs Green Building Program Standards and congratulates LEI Electronics on this achievement. For more information about EcoAlkalines™ please visit: http://www.leiproducts.com/eco-alkalines and to learn more about Carbon Neutral Certification through Carbonfund.org please visit: http://carbonfund.org/offset/product-certification.

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