Zero Carbon Footprint - How Do I Get There?
By Mark Wiley, President & CEO | Energy Design Engineers
Tue March 15, 2022
Green Houses Gases are largely carbon dioxide (80%), methane (16%), and a few other damaging gases that are emitted into our environment and or atmosphere. The earth's atmosphere absorbs and emits radiant energy within the thermal infrared range, causing heat to be trapped in the atmosphere of our earth, and hence it was given the name greenhouse effect. This massive trapping and absorption of heat cause a rise in the temperature of our planet.
How do we all do our part with this fight against global climate change? We start with the little things that we can do that will be meaningful to the environment. It starts at home and then we can move to our work (office, plant, dealership, warehouse).
A great place to start at home is with lighting. By changing your home's lighting to LED lighting, there can be up to a 70% reduction in your home's lighting energy costs. Lighting makes up 15% of the average homeowner's monthly energy bill, so this will be meaningful. Want to go to the next step with home lighting energy savings? Crank up the savings even further by adding motion and ambient sensors.
The following are the Top 6 things you can do to save money and lower your personal carbon footprint:
Change all the lights in your house, apartment, or wherever you live to LED. This will reduce your home's electric energy costs by 20%. Homes in the USA average from 40 - 80 light bulbs, and there are over 79-million homes in the USA. This does not include apartments, condos, townhouses, and mobile home parks. The average wattage of a lightbulb in a home in the USA is 60W (2020). These 60W bulbs can be replaced by a 10W LED bulb, that provides a similar amount of light, they will last 5-times longer and provide massive energy savings.
Buy an inexpensive Infrared Thermometer (temperature gun), you can get them priced at $40.00 and it will help you make your home more energy-efficient. Walk through your home and test all the attics, window sills, walls, doors, ceiling, and floorboards and you may be very surprised with what you find. I found dozens of areas in my home where I made improvements, and making the improvement was not expensive. The older your home, the greater the savings opportunity.
Ask your utility if they will provide you with a free smart thermostat and install it. Heat your home to 68-degrees F in the winter from 7am - 9pm, and drop it down to 66 F for all other hours. When you travel turn your home temperature down to 55 F for the winter and set your AC for 75-in the summer when traveling. Again, you will be surprised how these small changes add up.
Appliances today are 3 - 5 times more efficient than they were in the 1970s and 1980s. You may want to consider a new appliance to further reduce energy waste.
Recycle all your plastics and paper weekly. Do you know that paper and paper-related products are the #1 product delivered to trash dump sites?
Cut down on the number of miles you drive annually. Look for more rideshare opportunities, and do what you can to reduce your annual driving mileage.
In studying climate and energy waste for the past 30-years, I have come to realize that an overwhelming majority of Americans don’t understand how much they can personally assist in the battle against climate change at home and at corporate America.
When I ask people what are they doing to fight climate change, their answers are often similar; recycle, walk or bike more and not drive as much, eat one less meal and turn the heat down.
It is projected by 2026 (4-years from now) there will be over 40-million electric vehicles sold globally. This is a 53% increase over 2021 sales, and EV sales for 2021 were up 112%. It is also projected that by 2025 EVs will cost 20% less than gas-powered cars. Tesla the clear leader in EV vehicle sales, boasts sales up 87% in 2021 or 2020, and currently, there is a four-month wait period to get a new Telsa. Today, EVs make up only 3% of the total auto sales, so we have a long way to go to get to 50% of all cars on the road in the US being EVs.
What about corporations and businesses, what can they do?
They can do much of the same as a homeowner, starting with the low-hanging fruit- lighting. Today, smart LED lighting is providing an additional layer of energy savings that is up to 50%, this is over and above the energy savings from LED fixtures. These Networked Lighting Controls (NLC) are heavily incentivized by utilities making them even more attractive. These same NLCs are now being used to control energy loads of equipment, something called Occupancy-Based Load Control (OBLC). OBLC is new and is providing very impressive results, often payback periods under one year and significantly reducing energy waste that was unknown to many businesses.
Heating, cooling, and ventilation (HVAC) is another core area where energy waste is often found. The energy savings here can be from 20 - 30%, and there are many measures companies can take to reduce energy waste that some are actively adopting today.
One of the keys to a successful carbon reduction program in the USA is to get corporations, businesses, homeowners, renters, and everyone paying an electric or gas bill to work together, and here is where our government really could do something useful. A plan that could motivate people to do the right thing when it comes to going green, reducing energy waste, and recycling.
Another very important step is to better educate ourselves on going green. Be aware of all the fake news and political views that are targeted at us to benefit some company or individual. This is why taking some time to educate yourself and getting involved will help and truly make a difference.
A great example of doing your homework and getting involved was when I started listening to all the buzz (90% negative) about the Keystone Pipeline expansion. I supported the closing of the Keystone Pipeline before I did my own research, based on what I heard on the news and read on the web.
My curiosity and research taught me the environmental costs of moving the 750,000
barrels of oil daily from Alberta, Canada to as far as Houston, Texas by truck and train were 10X more harmful to the environment than the pipeline that once transported the same oil. It was also much more cost-effective, potentially making gas cheaper in the long run. The pipeline was closed for environmental reasons when President Obama and Biden both took office largely for environmental reasons.
I found there were oil leaks from the Keystone Pipeline during its 10-year existence. All the clean-up for the spills was paid for by pipeline owners, and depending on the size and location of the spill, it took from a day to two years to clean up. When the clean-ups were complete there was no measurable damage to the local environments…no long-term damage was created by the leaks.
So how environmentally friendly was this decision to close the Keystone Pipeline? The simple and straightforward answer is the closing of the pipeline created much more environmental damage than the Keystone Pipeline ever did or would. The facts point out that the environmental harm will be 10X greater than using the pipeline. How is that?
The 750,000 gallons of oil that were transported through the pipeline daily still needed to get to market. It is now being transported by train and trucks, both using millions of gallons of diesel fuel to get the oil transported.
Here is what I found. It takes 12 trains and 1,428,000 gallons of diesel fuel to power the trains to deliver the same amount of oil per day that the Keystone Pipeline was delivering. That is a total of 521,220,000 gallons (over half of a billion) of diesel fuel used to move the oil from Canada to the US annually. Think of the huge amounts of CO2 pollution created to transport the oil. Think about all the energy it takes to produce this oil.
How about we buy more oil from the Middle East, that will help reduce our carbon footprint, right? It takes 15-days for one oil tanker to travel across the Atlantic from the Middle East to the USA. Each of these tankers uses 63,000 gallons of fuel per day. Sadly, this results in close to 1,000,000 gallons of polluting fuel being consumed per trip, poisoning our air and oceans. How often do these tankers leak?
Just a few years ago we did not need these tankers nor did we need to import oil from Russia or any other country. The USA was energy independent and probably much better off environmentally than what we are today. Our politicians were and are short-sighted, swayed by lobbyists and their personal interests/bank accounts, and pushed out a propaganda campaign that brainwashed millions of Americans. Unfortunately, the real loser in our environment.
I am writing this article to show that we can make a difference, and we start with small steps at home. We can talk to our employers and ask what they are doing, maybe form a green team at work to come up with ideas.
Next, we need to educate ourselves and do our own research prior to buying into larger environmental projects. We all need to do our part and be better informed/educated so our government can not push their false narratives on us and tell us why closing the Keystone Pipeline is better for the environment.
Change starts with you. Take time to make good informed decisions and purchases to reduce your personal CO2 footprint, speak out to your local elected officials about your beliefs, and don’t let them pull the wool over your eyes when they tell you something is good for you…do your research!