The check I wrote for $111.40 has left me with a clear conscience, at least, for this year.
I donated that amount to The Conservation Fund, which will plant 10 trees to offset my family’s carbon footprint for 2009.
I am now a foot soldier in the battle against global warming. My general, Uncle Sam, has been procrastinating so I’ve gone rogue. I am on a mission to reduce my family’s carbon dioxide emissions, which led me to the GoZero Calculator on The Conservation Fund Web site. The calculator determines your carbon footprint by estimating the sum of carbon dioxide you produce through home energy use, auto transportation and air travel. It also takes into account household garbage and whether you recycle or not. Once determined, it informs you how many trees will offset the impact of your energy usage.
The average American household annually produces just over 20 tons of CO2. The Conservation Fund estimates it takes 16 trees nearly a century to sequester that amount of CO2. The Fund will plant those trees for you in protected parks and wildlife refuges throughout the United States for a donation of about $200.
My family’s annual CO2 emissions totaled 13.3 tons, hence my donation of $111.40 to plant 10 trees.
I recently reduced our carbon footprint by nearly a ton when I blew in six more inches of insulation into the attic and added a programmable thermostat. These two items have cut my heat bill 18 percent. Not only have I reduced my footprint, I’ll save about $200 a year on an investment of $275. That return over two years (45 percent) will beat anything I can get from the stock market.
The old adage a penny saved is a penny earned is not true. A penny earned, after you deduct federal, state and local taxes, is worth a lot less than a penny saved.
We built our house in 1990, insulated it well, purchased energy saving appliances and installed unique energy-efficient shades called Window Quilts on all windows. These shades have an R-value of 5.5 and when closed seal drafts out.
The average American home annually uses 11,827 KWh of electricity and 945 therms of natural gas, according to the GoZero Calculator. My usage is 10,236 KWh and 783 therms. That’s 13.5 percent less electric usage and 17 percent less natural gas usage. I have 2,252 square feet of living space, about the same as the typical new home according the National Association of Home Builders and more than the average home built in the 1970s at 1,500 square feet.
My primary focus has been saving money through energy efficiency. I gave little thought to my carbon footprint until recently. However, as increased scientific evidence buttresses the case for global warming and its dire consequences, I’ve decided to do my small part to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
I hope to further reduce our impact when I replace our 2000 Pontiac van with a more fuel-efficient vehicle. However, it will be difficult. The van gets 24 miles per gallon. An efficient small car does not fit our lifestyle, so we are looking at crossovers and smaller SUVs, but most of them are rated less than what I get with a full-size mini-van. The Honda CR-V, for example, is rated at 27 highway and 20 in the city. I want 30 mpg. If I can get that, I can save about $430 annually at $3 a gallon while further reducing our carbon footprint.
Of course, we’ve made some lifestyle changes too. For example, we wash clothes in cold water and run the dishwasher only when it is full. I don’t see us hanging clothes on the line or washing dishes by hand, but we do balance lifestyle with energy use.
Whether you believe global warming is real or not, reducing your carbon footprint has real personal financial benefits. As far as my contribution to the Conservation Fund to plant 10 trees, it is more symbolic than practical. However, if the average American could cut their carbon footprint in half, that’d save an estimated 1.1 billion tons, almost the total annual CO2 emissions from autos in the U.S. That’s a start.