Thursday, May 29, 2008

Carbon Emissions Reflect Varying Lifestyles Across the Country, and What This Means for the Average Person

If you’ve already read your daily news today, you’ve probably seen the stories from coast to coast about a recent study from the Brookings Institution that reports on carbon emissions in the 100 largest cities throughout the U.S. and how they appear to be varying dramatically from region to region.

The New York Times mentioned in the beginning of their article on the report that the West Coast’s “mild climates, hydropower and aggressive energy-reduction policies give its residents smaller carbon footprints, on average, than those of their counterparts in the East and Midwest.” While those of us on the West Coast might be cheering for our success, it’s still not enough. The unfortunate truth that this report points out is that, as a country, our carbon footprints are still continuing to grow.

So what do we do now?

The Brookings Institution report focuses heavily on how critical it is for federal policy to tackle the heart of the problem, and references the importance of policies promoting more transportation choices, introducing more energy-efficient freight operations, requiring home energy cost disclosure, using federal housing policies, and issuing a metropolitan challenge.

That’s all fantastic if you’re in the government or a government lobbyist, but what about the rest of the population who works in the private sector and doesn’t necessarily have the power of a Congressional vote?

We try to participate as individuals on a smaller scale.

At home, we do what we can and what is reasonable for our lifestyles. We turn off the lights when we leave the room, we recycle as necessary, we buy local as much as possible, and we try to remember our reusable bags when we go grocery shopping. At work, we take the bus to the office a few days a week, we think about putting the computer to sleep before we go to lunch or using power management software, and we use a ceramic mug instead of disposable cups.

Our lifestyles do not have to change dramatically to make a difference. And the reality is, making these changes will make our lives better.

What do you do to lower your carbon footprint?

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