By John Mitterholzer
May 21, 2009
Annually, Americans emit more than 7.5 billion tons of carbon. Responding to increasing concerns about the carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming, a number of options are now available to reduce those emissions.
Citizens can make donations to reduce their carbon emissions, but it’s hard to know where those donations are going. It’s likely that more people would donate money to reduce carbon emissions if they knew their donations would be invested in their own community for visible improvements that not only protect the climate but create green jobs in the local economy.
That’s the idea behind the Cleveland Carbon Fund, the first community-based, open-access carbon reduction fund in the U.S. Anyone can make a voluntary donation to reduce their carbon footprint in a quick, easy and ethical way, and nonprofit organizations are granted ‘money’ to fund projects that promote sustainability in the region, such as tree planting, home weatherization and compact fluorescent light bulb replacement.
With the Cleveland Carbon Fund, donors contribute to real environmental, social and economic benefits. Founding partners of the innovative effort include: The Cleveland Foundation, Cleveland Clinic, The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the City of Cleveland and the George Gund Foundation.
Making a donation to a carbon reduction fund should be a last resort. First, you should do everything possible to reduce carbon emissions yourself. For the remaining carbon footprint you can’t eliminate, a carbon fund provides a great way to get closer to having a zero carbon footprint.
Here are some inexpensive ways you can lower your carbon footprint at work and at home:
Replace Light Bulbs: Replace incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient compact fluorescents. While CFL bulbs cost a bit more, they last far longer and use 75% less power (saving a household $100-$150 a year).
Keep a Closed Door Policy: Keep doors closed to limit turning on heating or air conditioning units. Moving a thermostat down two degrees in winter and up two degrees in summer can save 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide and $98 a year. Use weather-stripping to seal drafts around windows and doors to cut expenses and reduce the burning of fossil fuels.
Un-Plug Electronic Devices: Electronic devices, such as VCRs and chargers, that stay plugged-in all day draw power-even when they are turned off. Ten plugged-in household items draw 240 watt hours a day. Turn off computers or maximize its sleep mode, and unplug all chargers or appliances that are not in use.
Conduct an Energy Audit: Schedule a free energy audit with your local utility provider. This can help pinpoint where your home is energy inefficient.
Replace Showerheads: Install low-flow showerhead valves that use half as much water and provide the same level of pressure, saving the average household $11 in water heating every three months. Take shorter showers and use less heated water.
Fully Loaded: Run dishwasher and laundry machines only when they are full to save water and protect the environment.
Bring A Cup: Each year, using disposable coffee cups everyday generates at least 20 pounds of paper plus several hundred plastic covers. Bring a cup when buying coffee. Many local shops provide a discount for doing so.
Support Local Farms: Fruits and vegetables are transported on trucks that drive an average of 1,500 miles from field to supermarket. Support local farmers to significantly reduce the number of miles food travels and cut down your carbon footprint. Visit www.localharvest.org to find local farmer markets.
Buy Energy Star: Look for the Energy Star mark of approval. Energy Star appliances use considerably less energy than standard appliances. See details at www.energystar.gov.
Cloth Shopping Bags: When shopping, bring a cloth bag to take items home.
Freebies: Use the public library and borrow items that are only needed once or twice. Go to www.freecycle.org and join a local group to exchange or borrow things.
Cut the Commute: Choose an energy-efficient car. More importantly, curtail driving; try biking or walking when possible.
Public Transportation: Use it! Visit public transit and walking directions at www.maps.google.com.
Carpooling and Trip-Linking: Find carpool groups in your community, and plan car trips better to avoid spontaneous single trips and to minimize mileage.
Recycle Paper Waste and Print Double-Sided: Use paper made from post-consumer waste, and recycle paper and newspapers. Reuse old faxes, reports, letters and other documents. Once printed on both sides, recycle!
No Junk Mail: The average adult gets 41 pounds of junk mail a year (think of the unnecessary energy consumed to produce and deliver it). Visit www.41pounds.com or www.GreenDimes.com for options to stop junk mail distribution.
Reduce Packaging and Plastics: Wherever plastic is manufactured, harmful chemical emissions are released. Recycle unwanted plastic bags and water bottles.
To calculate your carbon footprint online, visit www.clevelandcarbonfund.org.
John Mitterholzer is the George Gund Foundation’s senior program officer for the environment. Prior to joining the Foundation, he was a program officer at the Cleveland Foundation and has served as executive director of Great American Downtown in Nashua, N.H., and Historic Nashville. John currently serves as the chair of the Cleveland Carbon Fund Advisory Committee. He can be reached at [email protected].