Tuesday, January 2, 2007

New Year's Resolution: Reduce My Footprint

Since 2nd grade science class we've all been aware, at least abstractly, of the footprint we each leave on Earth. Whether it is greenhouse gases or garbage in landfills. But with so many conflicting messages out there ("oh it is just el nino /the cyclical pattern" vs. An Inconvenient Truth), most of us have not felt compelled to do much (if anything) to reduce that footprint. After closing the books on an alarmingly balmy, record-breaking December (e.g., first snow-less December on record since 1877, record breaking 10.6 million sq mile hole in our Antarctic ozone) and a flurry of new articles documenting accelerating change, I am actually starting to get scared. Scared enough that I was impassioned this weekend to resolve to reduce my footprint.

For me, the straw that broke the camel's back was this article published by the National Center for Atmospheric Research on Dec 11th, which I came across thanks to Paul Kedrosky's blog, Infectious Greed. In it, he quotes an article from the New York Observer which I too will quote a part of here:

"On Dec. 11, the National Center for Atmospheric Research released findings showing that because of greenhouse emissions, the retreat of Arctic sea ice is increasing so rapidly that there won’t be any ice left in the Arctic Ocean in the summertime in 2040. "

This really boggles my mind. I've seen pictures of retreating glaciers (and actually saw several in South America), but no ice in the Arctic Ocean?? [Drowning polar bears???] Along these lines, the NYTimes reported just recently that a 41 sq mile giant ice mass broke free of Canada in the Arctic 16 months ago. It seems like every day there is a new article on how climate change is accelerating.

It is easy to take comfort in knowing other people are working on this problem, and I'll admit we can all take comfort knowing there are really smart entrepreneurs working on clean technologies encouraged by a high rate of change, but the climate change is accelerating right now. So as we wait for technologies to catch up, I'll be trying to do my part to take the extra steps to reduce my global footprint.


Matt said...


Great minds (or maybe just young VCs) think alike. I posted on the same issue today - http://punctuative.com/2007/01/02/a-touch-of-ecocentrism/

Hope you'll grab the "call to action" badge and/or head to NativeEnergy.com to offset your emissions as a first step.


David Dufresne said...

Hey Sarah,

1st, thanks for blogrolling me (even though my blog, so far, isn't much). I'll do the same.

All these posts about footprint and global warming reminded me to track down this animated short from the 80s (won the Oscar). You might like it. Very inspiring for anyone with an interest for entrepreneurship...



Yuri said...

Hello, I have been looking around, and I can't find any good tips on how to reduce my daily emissions. Can you help me out??? Thanks!!!

Sarah Tavel said...

Yuri - I keep coming across new tips that I am trying to compile, but here are some I got from Slate.com:

• If every American household replaced just one incandescent light bulb with a CFL, we'd prevent 800,000 cars' worth of greenhouse-gas emissions.

• Replace your halogen bulbs, too. They can get as hot as 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit, which means you could cook an egg on one. CFLs will save you money, as well as CO2 pounds.

• Cable and video-game boxes, DVD players, and other electronics can use as much energy in standby mode as a 75-watt light bulb that's left on. If a device offers an "off" option for standby lights, use it. Otherwise, try plugging electronics into a power strip, which you can turn off when they're not in use.

• How many times have you left your cell-phone charger plugged in, even when your phone is not? Wall chargers for things like iPods and cameras suck energy out of the socket, even when not attached to their mates. With the national average at five chargers per person, unplugging adds up.

• Rechargeable battery docks for gadgets like drills and handheld vacuum cleaners can draw from the socket five to 20 times more energy than is stored in the battery. Unplug them once tools are juiced.

• When replacing an appliance, look for the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star label, which indicates higher efficiency than what's legally required.

• If your refrigerator is near a stove, dishwasher, or heating vent, move it to a cooler spot. Vacuum the coils every few months to eliminate dirt buildup and check to make sure the door gaskets don't have air leaks. Set the temperature between 35 degrees and 38 degrees Fahrenheit for the fridge and at zero for the freezer.

• If you use window air-conditioning units, buy the proper size for the room you plan to use it in. (Here's how.)

• If you have central air conditioning, be sure to clean the evaporator and condenser coils, as well as the airflow components. When clogged, they reduce efficiency. Check the refrigerant level, too. (Here's how.) You can also use a programmable thermostat to help regulate temperature.

• Ceiling fans circulate air both to cool spaces and to keep them warm. Since they don't change the temperature, they should be turned off when you leave a room.