115 Good Sources of Information on Climate Change and Carbon Footprint

I’ve been working on my current book project, the novel The Town at World’s End, since late 2012. The story follows climate change educator Jess Finch from tragedy in an unseasonable and outsize storm through trying to piece her life back together and make a real difference in climate change. On the way, it imparts a huge amount of specific, practical information on reducing carbon footprint–not just facts, but experiences, problems, contradictions, motivation, obstacles, side benefits … even how to make sure the wires don’t fall into the wall when you’re installing a programmable thermostat.

Anyway, it wasn’t until a good ways into the project that I realized I needed to be maintaining a bibliography. Even though this is a novel, it’s based on a massive body of research, writing, and other resources, many of which are well worth reading (or seeing, as the case may be).

How long ’til doomsday? Should I replace my windows? How do I grow my own food year round in a cold climate without wasting energy? What’s biochar? How do I talk with someone who doesn’t even believe climate change is a threat? It’s all in the below, plus a lot more. Actually, it’s enormously encouraging to me to realize how many smart, dedicated, hard-working, resourceful people are out there working on all of the facets of the climate change problem. If you’re one of them, I’d like to take this moment to express my deep gratitude and to cheer you on.

I still have a lot of work to do in pulling that bibliography together, adding other items, formatting it usefully, categorizing, and so forth, but as an initial step I thought I’d share the initial bibliography notes, in case it’s helpful to anyone in finding good sources of information on climate change and carbon footprint.

How Bad Are Bananas

How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything
Mike Berners-Lee
Greystone Books, April 1, 2011

“How to Start a Shuttle Business”
http://smallbusiness.chron.com/start-shuttle-business-2080.html
by Felicia Greene, Demand Media
Retrieved 6/24/14

“Interviews with flood victims in Oxford”
http://www.climateoutreach.org.uk/portfolio-item/video-floods-and-climate-change/
Climate Outreach & Information Network
Retrieved 7/7/14

“How much electricity does an American home use?”
http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=97&t=3
US Energy Information Administration
Retrieved 7/8/14

“Average Household Electricty Use Around the World”
http://shrinkthatfootprint.com/average-household-electricity-consumption
Retrieved 7/8/14

“George Marshall on How to Talk to a Climate Change Dissenter”
Climate Access
http://www.climateaccess.org/resource/tip-sheet-george-marshall-how-talk-climate-change-dissenter
Retrieved 7/16/14

Extreme Weather: Climate Change in Action?
British Library
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyZVahX87As
Viewed 7/16/14

Don't Even Think About It

Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change
George Marshall
Bloomsbury USA (August 19, 2014)
(Portions of the book made available to Luc by the author prior to publication)

“Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States”
http://riskybusiness.org/report/overview/executive-summary
The Risky Business Project
June 2014

An Inconvenient Truth
Al Gore
Viking Books, 4/10/07

“Global Food Waste in 8 Numbers”
http://www.bbc.com/news/health-28140395
7/3/14
Viewed 7/24/14

“Intermarché – ‘Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables'”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2nSECWq_PE
7/12/14
Viewed 7/20/14

“Deforestation and Its Extreme Effect on Global Warming”
Scientific American
Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss, Nov 13, 2012
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/deforestation-and-global-warming/
Retrieved 7/24/14

“Health care accounts for eight percent of US carbon footprint, calculation finds”
ScienceDaily, 11/13/2009
University of Chicago Medical Center
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091110171647.htm
Retrieved 7/29/14
based on
Jeanette W. Chung; David O. Meltzer. Estimate of the Carbon Footprint of the US Health Care Sector. JAMA The Journal of the American Medical Association, 2009; 302 (18): 1970 DOI: 10.1001/jama.2009.1610
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091110171647.htm

“Savings Project: Insulate Hot Water Pipes for Energy Savings”
US Dept. of Energy
http://energy.gov/energysaver/projects/savings-project-insulate-hot-water-pipes-energy-savings
Retrieved 7/29/14

“Ask Pablo: Is It Really Worth It to Insulate My Pipes?”
Pablo Paster, January 16, 2012
http://www.treehugger.com/energy-efficiency/ask-pablo-it-really-worth-insulating-my-pipes.html
Retrieved 7/29/14

“This or That: Curtains or Plastic for Insulating Windows?”
Emily Main, 11/9/2009
Rodale News
http://www.rodalenews.com/insulating-windows
Retrieved 7/29/14

“Conserve Energy with Plastic Window Insulation”
Josh Peterson, Planet Green
http://home.howstuffworks.com/green-living/conserve-energy-plastic-insulation.htm
Retrieved 7/29/14

“Ask Pablo: Is Replacing Windows a Good Investment?”
Pablo Paster
August 17, 2010
http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-product-design/ask-pablo-is-replacing-windows-a-good-investment.html
Retrieved 7/31/14

“Noooo Edinburgh, Don’t Lift Ban on Changing Windows in Historic Structures”
Lloyd Alter
9/4/08
http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-product-design/noooo-edinburgh-dont-lift-ban-on-changing-windows-in-historic-structures.html
Retrieved 7/31/14

“Are New Windows Really Worth It?”
Reliance Capital
http://www.reliancefirstcapital.com/articles/new-windows.html
Retrieved 7/31/14

“Obama Seeks to Boost Resilience to Climate-Driven Drought Fires”
3/5/14
Mark Drajem, Bloomberg News
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-03-05/obama-seeks-to-boost-resilience-to-climate-driven-drought-fires.html
Retrieved 7/31/14

“Supporting fire and rescue authorities to reduce the number and impact of fires”
UK Dept. for Communities and Local Government
3/5/13
https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/supporting-fire-and-rescue-authorities-to-reduce-the-number-and-impact-of-fires
Retrieved 7/31/14

“No Single Solution”
Energy Co-op of Vermont
10/25/13
http://www.ecvt.net/blog/vermont-wood-pellets-2/no-single-solution
Retrieved 7/31/14

“This Is Why It Makes Sense to Pair Solar With Electric Vehicles”
GreenTechGrid
Tam Hunt, 7/14/14
http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/this-is-why-it-makes-sense-to-pair-solar-with-electric-vehicles
Retrieved 8/1/14

“Why heat pumps are hot in Vermont this summer”
WCAX
Julie Kelley, 8/6/14
http://www.wcax.com/story/26216622/why-heat-pumps-are-hot-in-vermont-this-summer
Retrieved 8/8/14

Fostering Sustainable Behavior: An Introduction to Community-Based Social Marketing, 3rd edition
by Doug McKenzie-Mohr (Mar 15, 2011)
New Society Publishers

The Aquaponics Cycle

Aquaponic Gardening: A Step-by-step guide to raising vegetables and fish together
by Sylvia Bernstein
New Society Publishers, 10/11/11

“Al Gore ‘profiting’ from climate change agenda”
The Telegraph
By Nick Allen in Los Angeles 7:13PM GMT 03 Nov 2009
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/climatechange/6496196/Al-Gore-profiting-from-climate-change-agenda.html
Retrieved 8/12/14

“Al Gore to Donate His Half of Nobel Prize Money to Charity”
The Chronicle of Philanthropy”
10/12/07
http://philanthropy.com/blogs/philanthropytoday/al-gore-to-donate-his-half-of-nobel-prize-money-to-charity/13981
Retrieved 8/12/14

Wikipedia: Aquaponics
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquaponics
Retrieved 8/12/14

“Does Aquaponics Really Work?
Ecofilms
NOV 4, 2010
http://www.ecofilms.com.au/does-aquaponics-really-work/
Retrieved 8/12/14

“How to build a heat sink for a self-heating greenhouse”
Greenhouse Gnome
Mark Finch, 7/28/13
http://www.greenhousegnome.com/heat-sink-self-heating-greenhouse/
Retrieved 8/13/14

“Build a $300 underground greenhouse for year-round gardening”
Treehugger
Kimberley Mok, 2/22/13
http://www.treehugger.com/green-architecture/build-underground-greenhouse-garden-year-round.html
Retrieved 8/13/14

“Most stable year round greenhouse in 5b climate”
Permies.com (forum discussion)
8/19/12-8/31/12
http://www.permies.com/t/16911/passive-solar/stable-year-greenhouse-climate
Retrieved 8/13/14

“All About Valhalla’s Earthship Greenhouse, part 7”
Vahalla Movement, Quebec
Posted April 20, 2014
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b70f4xVOil4
Viewed 8/13/14

“Solar Passive Greenhouse for 4-Season Harvest”
PrairieComm.net
http://www.prairiecomm.net/greenhouse.html
Retrieved 8/13/14

“Passive Solar Aquaponic Greenhouse Tour 2”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=li5dvZjo5qE
Viewed 8/13/14

“Greenhouse vent openers & supplies”
ACF Greenhouses
http://www.littlegreenhouse.com/accessory/vent2.shtml
Retrieved 8/13/14

“How We Designed Our Solar Greenhouse”
The Permaculture Research Institute
by Rob Avis, 2/11/11
http://permaculturenews.org/2011/02/11/how-we-designed-our-solar-greenhouse/
Retrieved 8/13/14

The Day After Tomorrow (movie)

Hollywood Global Warming Dramas Can Be Misleading”
Seán Ó Heigeartaigh
Nytimes.com, 8/4/14
http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/07/29/will-fiction-influence-how-we-react-to-climate-change/hollywood-global-warming-dramas-can-be-misleading
Retrieved 8/17/14

“Climate Fiction Will Reinforce Existing Views”
NYtimes.com
George Marshall, 7/29/14
http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/07/29/will-fiction-influence-how-we-react-to-climate-change/climate-fiction-will-reinforce-existing-views
Retrieved 8/17/14

“Personal Stories About Global Warming Change Minds”
NYtimes.com
Heidi Cullen, 7/30/14
http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/07/29/will-fiction-influence-how-we-react-to-climate-change/personal-stories-about-global-warming-change-minds
Retrieved 8/17/14

“George Marshall on communicating climate change following extreme weather events”
TransitionNetwork.org
Rob Hopkins, 3/20/14
https://www.transitionnetwork.org/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-03/george-marshall-communicating-climate-change-following-extreme-weather-eve
Retrieved 8/18/14

“Sleepwalking into Disaster: Are We in a State of Denial about Climate Change?”
George Marshall, 9/22/05
http://www.rainforestinfo.org.au/climate/marshall.htm
Retrieved 8/18/14

The Aquaponic Gardening Community (online forum)
http://community.theaquaponicsource.com/forum

Essex Farm: About Us
(this is the farm that offers its members a CSA that can provide all of their food)
http://www.essexfarmcsa.com/portfolio/about-us/
Retrieved 8/24/14

“3-D Printing Will Be a Manufacturing Engine for the Economy”
Daniel S. Hamermesh, 8/12/14
NY Times
http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/08/11/will-3-d-printers-change-the-world/3-d-printing-will-be-a-manufacturing-engine-for-the-economy-20
Retrieved 8/26/14

“3-D Printers Are No Rival for Mass Production”
Nick Allen, 8/12/14
NY Times
http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/08/11/will-3-d-printers-change-the-world/3-d-printers-are-no-rival-for-mass-production-6
Retrieved 8/26/14

“With 3-D Printers Comes the Possibility of Medical Miracles”
Mick Ebeling, 8/11/14
NY Times
http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/08/11/will-3-d-printers-change-the-world/with-3-d-printers-comes-the-possibility-of-medical-miracles
Retrieved 8/26/14

“3-D Printers Allow Designers to Go to a New Level”
Kacie Hultgren, 8/11/14
NY Times
http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/08/11/will-3-d-printers-change-the-world/3-d-printers-allow-designers-to-go-to-a-new-level
Retrieved 8/26/14

“Space Travel Will Be Easier and Less Costly With 3-D Printers”
Alison Nordt, 8/11/14
NY Times
http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/08/11/will-3-d-printers-change-the-world/space-travel-will-be-easier-and-less-costly-with-3-d-printers
Retrieved 8/26/14

“3-D Printers Mean More Plastic in Landfills”
Luke Heemsbergen, 8/11/14
NY Times
http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/08/11/will-3-d-printers-change-the-world/3-d-printers-mean-more-plastic-in-landfills
Retrieved 8/26/14

“Community Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan”
City of Arcata, CA
http://www.cityofarcata.org/filebrowser/download/15824
August 2006

“Assessment of Arcata’s Community Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan”
Fall 2009
http://humboldt.edu/sustainability/sites/default/files/envs411_080009-11.pdf
Hackett, John et al

Zero Energy Homes presentation

“Zero Energy Homes”
Presentation by Li Ling Young, Efficiency Vermont
for Net Zero Montpelier
Thu, Nov 13, 2014
Montpelier, Vermont
A similar presentation by Young at a different location can be viewed online at http://www.brattleborotv.org/efficiency-vermont/path-zero-energy-homes-li-ling-young-hd

“The Turning Point: New Hope for the Climate”
Al Gore, 6/18/14
Rolling Stone
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-turning-point-new-hope-for-the-climate-20140618
Retrieved 11/9/14

“Americans Still Favor Energy Conservation Over Production”
Gallup
http://www.gallup.com/poll/168176/americans-favor-energy-conservation-production.aspx
4/2/14
Retrieved 12/5/14

Americans Want More Emphasis on Solar, Wind, Natural Gas
Gallup
http://www.gallup.com/poll/161519/americans-emphasis-solar-wind-natural-gas.aspx
3/27/13
Retrieved 12/5/14

Energy Star

Energy Star Program
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
http://www.EnergyStar.gov

Dishwashing
American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
http://www.aceee.org/consumer/dishwashing
Retrieved 12/21/14

Dishwashers
Efficiency Vermont
https://www.efficiencyvermont.com/For-My-Home/ways-to-save-and-rebates/Appliances/Dishwashers/General-Info/Overview
Retrieved 12/21/14

“Do Space Heaters Save Money and Energy?”
Kiera Butler, 1/10/11
Mother Jones
http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2011/01/will-space-heater-save-you-money-and-energy
Retrieved 12/30/14

Dauncey, Guy
The Climate Challenge: 101 Solutions to Global Warming
New Society Publishers, 2009

Gore, Al
Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis
Rodale, Inc., 2009

“Study provides new metric for comparing the greenhouse gases methane and carbon dioxide”
Apr 28, 2014 by David L. Chandler
http://phys.org/news/2014-04-metric-greenhouse-gases-methane-carbon.html
Phys.org
retrieved 1/1/15

“Climate impacts of energy technologies depend on emissions timing”
Morgan R. Edwards & Jessika E. Trancik, 25 April 2014
Nature Climate Change
abstract at http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v4/n5/full/nclimate2204.html
retrieved 1/1/15

“Evaluation of Net Metering in Vermont”
Vermont Public Service Dept.
10/1/14, revised 11/7/14
http://publicservice.vermont.gov/sites/psd/files/Topics/Renewable_Energy/Net_Metering/Act%2099%20NM%20Study%20Revised%20v1.pdf
retrieved 1/4/15

“Solar”
U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy
http://energy.gov/eere/renewables/solar
Retrieved 1/5/15

“Want to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint? Choose Mackerel Over Shrimp”
NPR
April Fulton, 7/29/14
http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/07/29/336301714/want-to-reduce-your-carbon-footprint-choose-mackerel-over-shrimp
Retrieved 1/8/15

“Going Green: Carbon footprints revisited”
SeaFood Business
Lisa Duchene, 5/1/09
http://www.seafoodbusiness.com/articledetail.aspx?id=4294994142
Retrieved 1/8/15

“Fueling the Fleet, Navy Looks to the Seas”
(about synthesizing jet fuel from the carbon in seawater)
US Naval Research Laboratory
Daniel Perry, 9/24/12
http://www.nrl.navy.mil/media/news-releases/2012/fueling-the-fleet-navy-looks-to-the-seas
Retrieved 1/17/15

“US navy synthesizes jet fuel solely out of seawater; costs $3-6 gallon”
ZME Science
by Tibi Puiu, 4/14/14
http://www.zmescience.com/research/us-navy-synthetic-jet-fuel-seawater-0423432/
Retrieved 1/17/15

“Can ‘Green Cement’ Make Carbon Capture and Storage Obsolete?”
New York Times
John J Fialka, ClimateWire, 8/13/10
http://www.nytimes.com/cwire/2010/08/13/13climatewire-can-green-cement-make-carbon-capture-and-stor-9325.html?pagewanted=all
Retrieved 1/17/15

“Frequently Asked Questions About Biochar”
International Biochar Initiative
http://www.biochar-international.org/biochar/faqs
retrieved 2/1/15

biochar

“What Is Biochar?”
International Biochar Initiative
http://www.biochar-international.org/biochar
retrieved 2/1/15

“Heat & Cool Efficiently”
US Environmental Protection Agency
http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=heat_cool.pr_hvac
retrieved 2/3/15

“A Guide to Energy-Efficient Heating and Cooling”
US Environmental Protection Agency
August 2009
http://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/publications/pubdocs/HeatingCoolingGuide%20FINAL_9-4-09.pdf?6752-4ef7

“Savings Project: Lower Water Heating Temperature”
US Environmental Protection Agency
http://energy.gov/energysaver/projects/savings-project-lower-water-heating-temperature
Retrieved 2/3/15

“How to Clean a Clothes Dryer Vent”
wikiHow
http://www.wikihow.com/Clean-a-Clothes-Dryer-Vent
Retrieved 2/3/15

“Energy Saver 101 Infographic: Home Heating”
US Dept of Energy
12/16/13
http://energy.gov/articles/energy-saver-101-infographic-home-heating
Retrieved 2/26/15

“#AskEnergySaver: Home Energy Audits”
US Dept of Energy
1/24/14
http://energy.gov/articles/askenergysaver-home-energy-audits
Retrieved 2/26/15

“Home Energy Audits”
US Dept of Energy
http://energy.gov/public-services/homes/home-weatherization/home-energy-audits
Retrieved 2/26/15

“Energy Audits”
Efficiency Vermont
https://www.efficiencyvermont.com/For-My-Home/ways-to-save-and-rebates/audits-insulation-air-sealing/Audits
Retrieved 2/26/15

Low Carbon Diet: A 30 Day Program to Lose 5,000 Pounds
David Gershon
Empowerment Institute, 2006

“Average Daily Media Use in the United States from 2010 to 2014”
Statista.com
http://www.statista.com/statistics/270781/average-daily-media-use-in-the-us/
Retrieved 3/12/15

“Do Energy-Efficient Appliances Add Up?”
by Craig Guillot
Bankrate.com
http://www.bankrate.com/finance/personal-finance/do-energy-efficient-appliances-add-up-1.aspx
Retrieved 3/12/15

“Refrigerator Retirement Savings Calculator”
US Department of Energy
http://www.bankrate.com/finance/personal-finance/do-energy-efficient-appliances-add-up-1.aspx
Utilized 3/12/15

“Adding Wall Insulation Has a Lengthy Payback Period”
Jeanne Huber, 12/14/2010
Houselogic
http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/insulation/adding-wall-insulation/
Retrieved 3/30/15

“The Potential of Biomass to Curb Global Warming”
May 2014
Alliance for Green Heat
http://www.forgreenheat.org/issues/cooling_climate_change.html
Retrieved 3/30/15

“Bulletin #7217, Maine Home Energy: Options for Home Heating Fuels and Energy Systems — An Overview”
(includes chart rating each option on e.g., convenience, cost, efficiency)
The University of Maine Extension
http://umaine.edu/publications/7217e/
Retrieved 3/31/15

“Home Energy Sources”
(list of emissions by fuel source, but not compared to each other with equivalent units)
Carbon Independent
http://www.carbonindependent.org/sources_home_energy.html
Retrieved 3/31/15

“Carbon emissions of different fuels”
(deals with fuels for heat and transport, thus doesn’t include non-fuel renewables)
Biomass Energy Center
http://www.biomassenergycentre.org.uk/portal/page?_pageid=75,163182&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL
Retrieved 3/31/15

“How We Calculate”
Carbonfund.org
http://www.carbonfund.org/how-we-calculate
Retrieved 3/31/15

“Implications of Shale Gas Development for Climate Change”
Richard G. Newell and Daniel Raimi
American Chemical Society
April 22, 2014
Published in Environmental Science Technology, August 5 2014
http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es4046154?source=cen

“Georgia Mt. Community Wind Open House draws over 750 local visitors”
originally published in Vermont Business Magazine, June 2013
http://georgiamountainwind.com/georgia-mt-community-wind-open-house-draws-over-750-local-visitors/

“After the Flood: Vermont’s Rivers and the Legacy of Irene”
(YouTube playlist of program in 4 parts)
November 26, 2013
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLX5V6zW7pAiYEC3bIrK3ymOegGrPwg0xT

“Cheap, Abundant Shale Gas Won’t Significantly Cut U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions”
Janet Pelley, Chemical & Engineering News
May 2, 2014
http://cen.acs.org/articles/92/web/2014/05/Cheap-Abundant-Shale-Gas-Wont.html

“Climate Change: 10 Years to Cut Off Nuclear War, Plagues”
(no longer available online)
Fairfax Climate Watch
April 2013
http://www.fairfaxclimatewatch.com/blog/2013/04/climate-change-10-years-to-cut-off-nuclear-war-plagues.html

“Carbon Cutoff Point ‘Is 27 Years Away'”
Alex Kirby
Climate News Network, 10/27/2013
http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/carbon_cut-off_point_is_27_years_away_20131027

“Global warming’s new frightening deadline”
Pete McMartin
Vancouver Sun, 3/9/13
http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Pete+McMartin+Global+warming+frightening+deadline/8071552/story.html

“New global warming deadline: Reverse it in 8 years or it’ll be too late”
Doug Powers
MichelleMalkin.com, 3/28/12
http://michellemalkin.com/2012/03/28/new-deadline/

“Climate change deadline 5 years – IEA”
News23.com, 11/10/11
http://www.news24.com/SciTech/News/Climate-change-deadline-5-years-IEA-20111109

“We already blew the deadline to avoid dangerous climate change”
Christopher Mims
Quartz, 12/6/12
http://qz.com/34443/we-already-blew-the-deadline-to-avoid-dangerous-climate-change/

“The Deadline for Global Warming: Reversing the Effects of Climate Change Before 2017”
Luisa Crisostomo
International Business Times, 11/16/11
http://au.ibtimes.com/articles/250465/20111116/deadline-global-warming-reversing-effects-climate-change.htm#.UqMZqvRDs24

“Carbon Footprint Of Best Conserving Americans Is Still Double Global Average”
MIT
ScienceDaily, 4/29/08
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080428120658.htm

How to Live a Low-Carbon Life: The Individual’s Guide to Stopping Climate Change
Chris Goodall
Routledge, 3/30/07

Building Powerful Community Organizations

Building Powerful Community Organizations: A Personal Guide to Creating Groups that Can Solve Problems and Change the World
Michael Jacoby Brown
Long Haul Press (September 28, 2007)

Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living
The Union of Concerned Scientists, Seth Shulman, Jeff Deyette, Brenda Ekwurzel, David Friedman, Margaret Mellon, John Rogers, Suzanne Shaw
Island Press; 6th edition (April 3, 2013)

The Burning Question: We Can’t Burn Half the World’s Oil, Coal, and Gas. So How Do We Quit?
Mike Berners-Lee, Duncan Clark
Greystone Books (September 21, 2013)

Flight Behavior: A Novel
Barbara Kingsolver
HarperCollins, 11/6/12

The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience
Rob Hopkins
UIT Cambridge Ltd. (April 1, 2014)

“Clean Break: The Story of Germany’s Energy Transformation and What Americans Can Learn from It”
Osha Gray Davidson
InsideClimate News (November 8, 2012)

Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
Bill McKibben
Times Books (April 7, 2010)

Remaking Holidays for Sustainability: Ways to Improve Any Holiday

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.

You want me to stop doing WHAT?

Flying. I’d like it if you stopped using airplanes. I’m not saying you have to or that I’m going to make you or that you should: I’m just hoping you’ll think about it.

downed airplane

The number of things we could be doing every day to reduce our carbon footprint and fight climate change disaster is unmanageable, overwhelming. Reducing paper and plastic use, recycling, reusing, repurposing, gardening, public transit, local foods, avoiding processed foods, solar and wind power …  I don’t know if you have time to tackle it all at once, but there’s no way I can manage. I have to change at most a few things at a time–which is why it’s essential for me to to figure out the things I can do that will make the greatest impact and do those first.

Number one on my list? Not flying.

For millions upon millions of years, not flying for humans has been a no-brainer. Then the airplane comes along and suddenly we’re Jonathan freakin’ Seagull.

I totally get the wonder of flight. I don’t mean the feeling of it, which for humans generally means getting a little queasy, trying not to spill the little airplane meal, and looking out a small window at a weirdly disconnect landscape; I mean the possibilities. Years ago I flew to Japan, and while I visited, there wasn’t a day I didn’t look around me to see and feel that holy crap, I was in Japan, and my two shoestring trips to Europe after I got out of college felt even more life-changing to me. On the other hand, as wonderful as those trips were, did I really need to go to Japan or Belgium or Hungary? No, not really. It was fun and fascinating, but there are other fun and fascinating things to do in the world.

Travel to foreign countries used to be one of my favorite things. Now that I see the real cost of it–which is not counted in dollars but in disasters–the shine has worn off.

I understand there are a lot of people who travel for business. The first thing I would suggest is that this often isn’t strictly necessary, just convenient and even, from a cost standpoint, reasonable. The second thing I’d suggest is that if you’re in a business that really does require a lot of air travel, you could make a disproportionately huge, positive impact on climate change by finding a way to cut way back, or to stop it. The third thing I’d suggest is that if your job really requires air travel and you don’t have the means to change it, it may be worth considering another job if you want to fight climate change.

Easy for me to say, though. Except for vacations and writing-related events, I generally have no reason to fly. Yet it being easy for me to say this doesn’t take away any of its importance. I’m sure I’d be more convincing on the subject if I were a former world-traveling business prodigy who had stopped flying instead of some schmuck who started taking regional vacations, but I’m doing my best.

Just how bad is air travel? Of course it depends on the specifics, but two or three round trip transatlantic flights can do as much damage to the climate as everything else an average American might do during the course of a year put together. All of the heating fuel, the driving, the fertilizers and fuel to bring you food, the cow methane, the household waste, and everything else: it’s doubled by a few flights.

As far as alternatives are concerned, the best and easiest is often to stay put or go to some alternative destination close by. Trains, boats, and buses are good bets, each having a much smaller carbon footprint than airplanes. Even cars are a lot better than planes, with hybrid, plug-in electric, and highly fuel-efficient cars of course being the preferred way to go. A trip by car can come close to emitting the same amount of greenhouse gases as a flight of the same distance, depending on the circumstances, but airplane emissions occur high in the atmosphere, where they have several times the impact they would have on the ground.

No one is going to stop you from flying. Few people even care at this point, but I hope you’ll be one of them, if you aren’t already. If fighting climate change is important to you, there’s not a single thing I can recommend that can reduce your footprint so easily and so profoundly.

Photo by The_ Incredible_ Mr.E

Where the Carbon Comes From: Getting a Clue

I’m only at the very beginning of a process of understanding how we’re individually contributing to the climate change problem, but in the past week or so, I’ve come across some useful information, and I thought I’d share some of it here.

Note to self: avoid airplanes
One of the miracles of the modern world is being able to step onto a plane and step off later that same day halfway around the world. It’s an amazing thing to be able to do. It’s also, as it turns out, a huge climate pig (no offense intended to pigs). According to this, Americans are individually responsible for, on average, about 20 tons (TONS!) of CO2 being spewed into the atmosphere every year. That’s bad enough, but according to the same page, one round trip transatlantic flight adds another 3-4 tons to the total. Just one trip! In around 16 hours of travel, we can do as much damage as we do with all the purchasing, plugging in, turning on, heating, driving, eating, wasting, etc. that we do for two entire months. For me, that’s way over the line: I intend to avoid air travel as much as possible unless and until fuel consumption for airplanes changes radically.

What’s the breakdown?
Fellow Codexian and writer Laurel Amberdine posted this chart, “Total U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Economic Sector in 2010,” which I found well worth contemplating.

EmissionsBySector2010

Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about how emissions are broken down to draw conclusions about how we as individuals figure in. For instance, if I buy a set of placemats and have them shipped to me from Idaho, is the impact of the shipping figured under “Industry” or “Transportation”? Is electricity used by a light manufacturing site under “Electricity” or “Industry” … or even “Commercial & Residential”? Where do emissions having to do with building go? It’s clear to me that I need to learn a lot more about all of this.

I was dismayed to read that one British supermarket chain that had committed to carbon impact labeling for all of its products has given up the job as too difficult and time-consuming. I think carbon labeling is a desperately needed step, if it’s accurate.

A split within the climate change community
I also came to realize that there’s a quiet but problematic divide among people committed to fighting climate change. On one side are the people who think that we can go on living more or less as we currently do, consuming an enormous amount of energy and resources–but that we need to simply change over to more sustainable energy generation methods.

The other side, where I stand, is populated by those who believe that in order to make a real difference in the climate change problem, we need to radically scale back our lifestyles–to stop buying tons of cheap goods manufactured overseas, stop insisting on eating foods that are out of season a thousand or more miles from where they’re grown, stop jetting around the globe, and stop driving everywhere (among other changes).

Coal is worst, natural gas is temporarily acceptable [NOT!]
I hadn’t realized that there’s a big difference in emissions from different fossil fuel sources.  Coal, apparently, is the absolute worst–and it’s plentiful in many developing or partly-developed places around the world, where the need for energy and wealth of any kind is most acute. [Later note: A metastudy done after I originally published this article reveals that natural gas is just about as bad as coal as soon as we take into account the side effects of harvesting it, especially of fracking. Fracking can release methane, which is 20-25 times as potent as carbon dioxide in causing climate change. On the whole, gas might be a little better or a little worse than coal, but the best estimate puts it right about on par. Be wary of propaganda claiming otherwise! It is most likely based on an incomplete footprint assessment–a “toeprint,” as the term goes.]

I’ve also come across several reliable sources of climate change information now that recommend we adopt natural gas more widely for a short period as a transitional fuel until we can get to all-renewable or nearly-all-renewable sources.

All grist for the mill–although I guess we had better make that a water mill. Wish me luck getting a better handle on this. I wish the same to you.