Quantcast

Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living

Energy

Union of Concerned Scientists

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) announced the release of Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living, a consumer-oriented book based on an in-depth, two-year effort to determine the most effective actions individual Americans can take to reduce their carbon emissions.  

“After two years of research, we learned that when it comes to reducing your carbon emissions, what matters most, in order of importance, is: what and how you drive, the energy you use at home, and what you eat,” said Brenda Ekwurzel, a co-author and climate scientist at UCS. “Most of the carbon reduction strategies presented in the book will also help readers save money and live healthier lifestyles.”

The largest chunk of Americans’ carbon emissions—more than a quarter—come from transportation, and the lion’s share of those are from driving, according to Cooler Smarter.

“If you’re in the market for a car, switch to one with better fuel economy,” said David Friedman, deputy director of UCS’s Clean Vehicles Program. “Upgrading from a 20 mile-per-gallon car to a 40 mile-per-gallon car will reduce your annual carbon emissions by almost 4 tons and save you about $18,000 in gas over the lifetime of the car.”

Even if you don’t replace your car this year, the researchers pointed out, you can still reduce your emissions and save money by tuning up your car, keeping your tires pumped up and avoiding aggressive driving. These steps can save the average driver around $500 per year at today’s gas prices. You can also reduce how much you drive by carpooling, bicycling or using public transit a few times a week.

The second biggest thing Americans can do to reduce their carbon emissions, according to the UCS guide, is manage energy use at home.

“The average American home leaks so much air that it’s like leaving a window open year round,” said Jeff Deyette, assistant director of energy research and analysis in UCS’s Climate and Energy Program. “Our advice? Get an energy audit to identify where to seal up. It could save you $275 or more in heating and cooling costs a year. No one wants to be heating or cooling their neighborhood.”

Cooler Smarter also recommends installing—and making proper use of—a programmable thermostat; switching out incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents or LEDs, which can save more than $140 a year in lighting costs; and investing in an efficient refrigerator, likely the single largest user of electricity in the home after the furnace, central air conditioning and lighting. 

The third category Americans can focus on when it comes to reducing their carbon footprints is the food they eat.

“The advice is simple,” said John Rogers, book co-author and senior energy analyst at UCS. “If you want to cut your global warming emissions, eat less meat, especially red meat. It’s pretty shocking to think that a pound of red meat has the same emissions as 18 pounds of pasta. And of course, we already know that eating less red meat also has proven health benefits.”

Cooler Smarter challenges readers to begin by cutting their carbon emissions 20 percent this year and provides clear, simple steps to get the job done—enabling each American to reduce his or her emissions by literally 4 tons annually on average. An accompanying UCS web feature helps people get started by providing 20 actions they can take over 20 days.

The book busts some myths along the way to keep readers focused on what matters most. For example, you shouldn’t worry much about how far your food has traveled when deciding what to buy at the grocery story because just 4 percent of food emissions on average come from transportation. It also shows that, for all the discussion of whether paper books or e-readers are greener, you will emit more in one 6-mile trip to the bookstore than the emissions caused by either, so it’s better not to sweat the small stuff.

“Cooler Smarter busts myths and presents real, effective steps for addressing carbon at the personal level,” said Rogers. “On average, the activities of each American add some 21 tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year. That’s more than you would cause by driving a typical car around the world at the equator. It’s also four times the annual global average of emissions per person. Those figures mean we each have an enormous impact, but they also highlight that we have a tremendous opportunity to do something about those emissions.”

If all Americans cut their emissions by 20 percent it would be the equivalent to shuttering 200 of the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants.

For more information, click here.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Micromobility is the future of transportation in cities, but cities and investors need to plan ahead to avoid challenges. Jonny Kennaugh / Unsplash

By Carlo Ratti, Ida Auken

On the window of a bike shop in Copenhagen, a sign reads: Your next car is a bike.

Read More Show Less
An American flag waves in the wind at the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco, California on May 17 where a trial against Monsanto took place. Alva and Alberta Pilliod, were awarded more than $2 billion in damages in their lawsuit against Monsanto, though the judge in the case lowered the damage award to $87 million. JOSH EDELSON / AFP / Getty Images

By Carey Gillam

For the last five years, Chris Stevick has helped his wife Elaine in her battle against a vicious type of cancer that the couple believes was caused by Elaine's repeated use of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide around a California property the couple owned. Now the roles are reversed as Elaine must help Chris face his own cancer.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Butterfly habitats have fallen 77 percent in the last 50 years. Pixabay / Pexels

The last 50 years have been brutal for wildlife. Animals have lost their habitats and seen their numbers plummet. Now a new report from a British conservation group warns that habitat destruction and increased pesticide use has on a trajectory for an "insect apocalypse," which will have dire consequences for humans and all life on Earth, as The Guardian reported.

Read More Show Less
Six of the nineteen wind turbines which were installed on Frodsham Marsh, near the coal-powered Fiddler's Ferry power station, in Helsby, England on Feb. 7, 2017.

Sales of electric cars are surging and the world is generating more and more power from renewable sources, but it is not enough to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to stop the global climate crisis, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Read More Show Less
"Globally, we're starting to see examples of retailers moving away from plastics and throwaway packaging, but not at the urgency and scale needed to address this crisis." Greenpeace

By Jake Johnson

A Greenpeace report released Tuesday uses a hypothetical "Smart Supermarket" that has done away with environmentally damaging single-use plastics to outline a possible future in which the world's oceans and communities are free of bags, bottles, packaging and other harmful plastic pollutants.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Children are forced to wear masks due to the toxic smoke from peat land fires in Indonesia. Aulia Erlangga / CIFOR

By Irene Banos Ruiz

Pediatricians in New Delhi, India, say children's lungs are no longer pink, but black.

Our warming planet is already impacting the health of the world's children and will shape the future of an entire generation if we fail to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (35.6°F), the 2019 Lancet Countdown Report on health and climate change shows.

Read More Show Less
Private homes surround a 20 inch gas liquids pipeline which is part of the Mariner East II project on Oct. 5, 2017 in Marchwood, Penn. Robert Nickelsberg / Getty Images

The FBI is looking into how the state of Pennsylvania granted permits for a controversial natural gas pipeline as part of a corruption investigation, the AP reports.

Read More Show Less
Three cows who were washed off their North Carolina island by Hurricane Dorian have been found alive after swimming at least two miles. Carolina Wild Ones / Facebook

Three cows who were washed off their North Carolina island by Hurricane Dorian have been found alive after swimming at least two miles, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less