Question: What can we personally do to help alleviate global warming and other environmental problems?
Answer: In the United States, automobiles, power plants and industry each contribute about a third of the total human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide. These are the areas that we as individuals should focus on to reduce our collective carbon footprint. Most of us know how to reduce carbon emissions related to transportation: drive fuel-efficient cars and drive less often (or use public transportation). The sources of fuel for power plants vary greatly from region to region, so it is important to learn the sources for your home region.
Here in Connecticut, about 40 percent of our electricity comes from the combustion of fossil fuels. There are many ways to cut electricity use with energy-efficient appliances: I cut my home’s electricity bill by about 25 percent simply by switching all bulbs to the compact fluorescent variety (CFLs). Students can pick up CFLs for free at the Cardinal Technology Center. Also, many states, including Connecticut, give homeowners the option to purchase their electricity from non-carbon-based sources.
The final important sector, industry, is the one we probably think least about, but it is as important as automobiles and power plants. Moreover, you can probably make the biggest impact in this sector because you are making dozens of decisions every day involving goods and services. You can think about the carbon footprint of each of your daily transactions: the organic orange from Spain or the conventional orange from Florida? The fuel-efficient brand-new Prius or the old gas guzzler? In the aggregate, these questions become important.