Save Energy and Lower Greenhouse Gases With Your Phone This Summer

Here’s some information from Generation 180 about their Keep It Cool Campaign, an easy way to help save energy and lower carbon footprints:
Keep it Cool Open Shop Sign

Keep It Cool is a simple campaign by Generation 180 with a huge potential impact: it focuses on stopping the energy waste caused by storefront doors staying open while the A/C is running. Although already illegal in places like New York City, this behavior is common around the country, and collectively it adds up to enormous amounts of wasted electricity and associated pollution.

Generation 180 is a non-profit committed to advancing the transition to clean energy and supporting a cultural shift in energy awareness.

Why the big fuss?

A small action—as simple as closing a door—can not only prevent waste and pollution; it can spread the idea that energy is a resource that we should consume responsibly.

You can be a part of crowd-solving this problem (and it’s really simple):

The Problem

Each store with an open door wastes 4,200 kWh of electricity over the summer.
Generating 4,200 kWh of electricity releases significant pollution (CO2 + SO 2 + Nox + PM)
The pollution released is equivalent to that of a semi-truck driving from NY to Miami (200 gal of diesel).

How Our Campaign Works

On hot days, take notice of retailers’ front doors and send us (Generation 180) store locations via Facebook Messenger (read how to or watch a video)—either to recognize a store for keeping its door closed, or to flag a store that needs a friendly reminder to conserve energy.
For stores with doors that are kept closed, Generation 180 will send them an affirmation for their energy-conscious behavior and place a pin on our campaign map that promotes their location. We will reach out to remind retailers with their doors open to close their door to conserve energy.

Every retailer that Generation 180 contacts will be invited to join our campaign. As retailers commit to keep their doors closed, we’ll recognize them on our map.

Check the map periodically to watch the progress of the Keep It Cool project as it spreads across your community—and across the country.

Williston’s Carbon Footprint: Why So Big?

There’s an informative Web site offered by the University of California at Berkeley that offers, among other things, a map of the United States showing how many greenhouse gases the average household puts out in every zipcode. Here’s our area:

Williston's Carbon Footprint

You’ll notice that South Burlington and especially Burlington are greener (literally and figuratively) than we are in terms of carbon footprint, but that’s a little misleading: it turns out that cities tends to have lower carbon footprints, but they result in widespread suburbs with larger carbon footprints. Burlington depends on its suburbs, so unfortunately it’s a linked effect.

The good news here is that those of us in the suburbs have an enormous opportunity to reduce carbon footprint, and that anything we learn to do can spread to other suburbs around the world, where we see this same pattern.

It’s hard to make out from the picture above, but look at the blue and purple columns in the graph. Those represent transportation (blue) and heating (purple). Reducing car trips, reducing use of airplanes, carpooling, using mass transit, and electric cars all can combine to drive that blue bar way down. For the purple bar, we have similarly big possibilities, including insulation, weatherization, and air source heat pumps (or if you don’t have a home suitable for one of those, the next best thing would be wood or wood pellets).

As a matter of pride, let’s not be just an average suburban town: there’s a lot more to Williston than that. Let’s show people how a small town like ours on the fringe of a small city can make a big difference.

Remaking Holidays for Sustainability: Ways to Improve Any Holiday

Reposted from FaceClimateChange.com

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, Christmas, Passover, the Fourth of July, and other holidays all have a few things in common: they tend to involve travel and special meals or feasts. For many extended families, like mine, these kinds of occasions are the only times during the year we all have a chance to see each other, yet travel and food are two of the four biggest ways individuals and households contribute to global warming*. So our choices are to give up on sustainability over the holidays, to give up on the holidays, or to find ways to the holidays more sustainable, starting now. These posts are focused on that last option.

The way I propose we look at cutting any emissions is “biggest impacts first.” We often look for the easiest, most obvious ways to act more sustainably, but the truth is that there are so many low-impact things we can do, we can easily spend all our time on those and never get to the good stuff, the major savings. That’s where the Big Four offer a starting point. With those in mind, here are some tips for the making the largest possible savings in emissions at the holidays.

Rethink air travel: Flying around the country and even the rest of the plant has become relatively inexpensive and easy, but unfortunately it’s one of the worst offenders in terms of emissions. Not only do planes burn a lot of fossil fuels, they push out their exhaust at altitudes where their bad effects are at least doubled compared to what they would be on the ground. It’s not up to me to tell you or your family members not to fly, but there are ways to fly less, for instance driving together in an efficient car, taking a bus or plane or boat, or making one longer visit instead of two shorter ones. For more information on flying, see “You Want Me to Stop Doing What?”

If the trip is very important to you and you can’t find any way to make it other than air travel, you can consider making a donation to offset the climate impact. For example, Cool Earth is a non-profit organization that does excellent work preserving forests, which is one of the best possible ways to help slow climate change (even better than planting new trees). Donations to organizations that make a smaller or less direct impact would have to be proportionately larger.

The cost of offsetting a flight depends very much on how long the flight is. For a transatlantic round trip, an offset donation to an organization like Cool Earth would be only $20.90. A short round trip, for instance between Niagara Falls and New York City, would be only about $2.50. (Source: How Bad Are Bananas by Mike Berners-Lee)

Not making the trip in the first place is certainly the ideal way to go, but offsetting is a decent alternative if you are having trouble finding away around flying.

Use food well: According to FeedingAmerica.org, between 25% and 40% of all food produced in the U.S. will never be eaten. Take a moment to reflect on that with me: At least a quarter of all our food, and possibly closer to half, goes completely to waste! Meanwhile, much of this food is produced with energy-intensive methods that burn many tons of fossil fuels; methane from ruminant livestock (cows, sheep, and goats) that is more than 20 times as potent in damaging the climate than carbon dioxide; and chemical fertilizers that release Nitrous Oxide (NO2), a greenhouse gas more than 300 times as potent as carbon dioxide. Careful attention to what and how much food we buy and how we serve and store it can cut our personal food waste to far below the usual amount.

Time permitting, I’ll be posting further ways to transform the holidays over the coming weeks. A happy and sustainable holiday season to all!

Photo courtesy of Emily Barney

* The other two are heat/hot water and electricity.

New Williston Smaller Footprint Group Will Reduce Carbon Footprints, Promote Resilience

Sustainable Williston’s new Smaller Footprint group offers a way to make big improvements in your individual, family, or small business carbon footprint and become more resilient to extreme weather events by working with other community members in a friendly, laid-back environment. Nobody can make every desirable change at once, so Smaller Footprint is geared to providing information, support, cameraderie, and problem-solving to help each member focus on one major new impact at a time while finding strategies that are cash-positive, free, or affordable and that handle time limitations and other common obstacles.

Sustainable Williston member Luc Reid will lead Smaller Footprint meetings and provide specific, actionable information about once every two weeks, starting Thursday, November 20th at 6:30 PM at his family’s home on Old Creamery Road. Get in touch if other days of the week are better for you and come when you can; there’s no need to attend meetings regularly to be involved. Smaller Footprint is free, and no preparation or previous steps are required to get started. If you’re working on your carbon footprint and also have specialized knowledge or experience about alternative energy, resilience, or other related topics, please come and share it!

RVSP any time to Luc through the contact page on this site. Even if you can’t make the first meeting but are interested in future ones, drop him a note!