I believe the human species is becoming increasingly aware that it has become a global force powerful enough to transform our world for better or for worse. Many of us recognize that, as a species, we can create global-scale disruption. Yet many of us feel powerless. Some of us chose to deny this reality, perhaps as a coping mechanism, while others simply feel condemned to live with this awareness.
Plastic production surged in World War II and continued to expand rapidly thereafter. New ways were conceived to utilize millions of tons of plastic to make durable goods “disposable” for our convenience. Society as a whole did not understand the implications of these actions.
Today, it is a different world. We see politicians gathering to discuss international environmental agreements. It is not uncommon for friends to chat about changing weather patterns. When we pick up a plastic bag at the supermarket, we are increasingly aware of the cumulative negative impact we are having on our planet. We are starting to realize that every choice we make can make a difference.
Coral bleaching isn’t a problem occurring halfway around the world on the Great Barrier Reef. In 2005, the U.S. lost half of its coral reefs in the Caribbean in one year due to a massive bleaching event. Nor is it beyond your control. You are contributing to the problem wherever you switch on the air conditioning or household heating, drive your car or turn on the lights. Everyone and everything on the planet are connected by each of our individual actions.
I am not advocating a drastic change in our behavior, but I do believe that many common sense things can be done:
1. In the winter, turn down your thermostat a few degrees and perhaps wear a sweater. If you need to buy a new heating system, consider a heat pump or an ultra-high-efficiency furnace that may be as much as 50% more energy efficient than models from 10 years ago.
2. Turn up you air conditioner in summer a few degrees and, if you can, close drapes or shades in rooms that you are not using. If you need to buy a new air conditioner, invest in one of the new air-conditioning systems that is up to 50% more energy efficient than models from 5 years ago.
3. When you look at replacing light bulbs, consider models that provide more light with less energy. Not all LED light bulbs are created equal. When you see a bulb offering 500 lumens of light, its power consumption can be anywhere from 2.5W to 8W. If a light bulb is left on for a year, every 1W of power it consumes generates about 21 pounds of carbon dioxide. In choosing a 2.5W bulb over an 8W bulb, both equally bright, you can avoid over 115 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions associated with generating and transmitting the associated electricity. Changing just 10 light bulbs can reduce 1,150 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, about half a ton!!!
Look for my next article in which I will outline more things that you as an individual can do to help save our world.