Monday, November 30, 2009

In our Backyard: DEP on Climate Chnage

Via Stef '06 at the DEP:

Take the Carbon Challenge, In Our Back Yard

The news about climate change these days can be distressing, if not down-right depressing. With Congress grappling over the intricacies of many-hundred-page climate bills, many of us feel powerless to accomplish much on that front. However, while not one of us will singlehandedly bring about a low-carbon future, each and every one of us can take actions in our own lives and homes to reduce our “carbon footprint”—that is, the amount of climate-change causing emissions our direct actions cause.

The New England Carbon Challenge ( <> ) gives us an opportunity to figure out just how much climate-changing carbon we are responsible for and provides realistic options for measures we can take to reduce that footprint. The Challenge is a joint initiative of the University of New Hampshire and Clean Air - Cool Planet
( <> ) that works to educate, inspire and support sustained reductions in residential energy consumption.

According to the New England Carbon Challenge website, about half of all climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions come from households through their energy consumption for motor vehicles, home heating and electricity usage. With the Challenge’s Carbon Estimator, an individual can enter some basic household data (such as number of people in the home, gallons of heating oil used, etc.) and get an estimate of the amount of carbon emitted by that household in a year. From there it gives a number of options for reducing home energy consumption and the amount of carbon (and money!) saved by taking those actions.

The New England Carbon Challenge also offers opportunities for communities and organizations (such as schools, businesses, faith-based organizations and civic groups) to get involved and be recognized as leaders in reducing energy consumption, putting these towns and groups on the Energy Challenge Map and providing them with tools, resources, strategies, and support to help households estimate their emissions, map out a plan to reduce these emissions, and chart the community’s progress in achieving its carbon-reduction goals.

While not everyone feels compelled to halt climate change, almost no one will say no to saving a few bucks. The New England Carbon Challenge estimates that households that have taken the Challenge are saving about $755 a year in fuel and electricity costs. Now that’s worth taking the Challenge.

To sign up your community or organization, or to find your own household carbon emissions and steps you can take to reduce your emissions and save money, go to <> .

This column was submitted by Andrea Lani, an Environmental Specialist with the Maine DEP Bureau of Air Quality. In Our Back Yard is a weekly column of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

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