Wednesday, February 04, 2009

13 Things I Learned About Carbon Footprint

I had planned this post long before Thursday Thirteen went away and old habits are hard to break.  I consider myself pretty savvy when it comes to all things green, but there were definitely things that I learned from reading this book.
  1. The three main greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.  Their main sources come from fossil fuels, mining and fertilizers respectively.
  2. SHGC is the "solar heat gain coefficient" for windows.  Depending on your climate, you may need a higher or lower coefficient.  This is different from the U-factor which measures how well a window stops heat flow.
  3. Add a water bottle filled with sand to your 3 or 5 gallon toilet tank to reduce the amount of water per flush.  I also learned from wrestling with my mom's toilet that you can reduce the amount of water by fiddling with the screws on the float.
  4. Burning local wood in a wood stove reduces greenhouse gas emissions because it uses less transportation and distribution networks than other fuels. It is also considered part of the natural carbon cycle.
  5. Green roofs use soil and plants to insulate and moderate temperature of buildings.  Doug and I saw lots of houses with grass roofs in Norway on our honeymoon, and I was completely fascinated by them.
  6. Ethanol produces less greenhouse gases than regular gasoline.  Ethanol from cellulosic plant material (stems and leaves) can reduce greenhouse gases up to 100%. Ethanol from corn starch (the majority produced in the US) can reduce greenhouse gases 25%.
  7. Electric and hybrid cars have up to 72% fuel efficiency rating compared to gas powered cars at 20%.
  8. Turning a fluorescent light on and off within 15 minutes can shorten its life.  This fact has been driving me bonkers because I'm always switching off our CFLs only to flip them on a few minutes later.
  9. Low pressure sodium lamps are the most energy efficient lights that are readily available.  They are used mostly for street lamps.
  10. More than half of the energy to power a large data center is used for air conditioning as opposed to powering the equipment.
  11. Heat islands occur where there is a large expanse of asphalt or concrete and can be mitigated by planting grass and trees through the space or using planter boxes.
  12. Xeriscaping is the practice of using drought resistant plants for landscaping in dry climate areas instead of grassy lawns.
  13. The average food travels 1500 miles before reaching customers.  Lower the carbon impact by buying local foods in season.  This time of year, I see lots of fruits coming from South America!
If you also have a lot to learn about carbon footprint, check out The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Your Carbon Footprint.  If you live in the US  and would like to win my review copy (used but acceptable condition), please leave a comment saying so.  The winner will be picked on February 20th at 11pm.

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