Save the Planet, Be Carbon Neutral
By Jim Stewart, PhD, Earth Day Los Angeles (888) 295-8372  Jim@EarthDayLA.org

Recent scientific results show conclusively that global warming is caused by carbon dioxide (and other green-house gases) from human activity.  Americans emit about 24 tons of CO2 equivalent per year per person.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, including over 2,000 of the world’s climate scientists, says that unless greenhouse gas levels in the air are drastically reduced starting immediately, Earth’s average temperature could rise by 11ºF by 2100, producing devastating effects, possibly including the stopping of the Gulf Stream, which will freeze the northeastern US and Europe.  Sea levels will rise 20-70 feet, flooding many populated areas of the US and the world.  Food and water supplies will fall drastically, in addition to over 1 million species becoming extinct.

The good news is that you can inexpensively eliminate your contribution to global warming.  You can be carbon neutral by making an annual contribution to a carbon offset program such as The Climate Trust, which funds high quality greenhouse gas offset projects.  But burning fossil fuels produces more than just CO2.  Health studies show air pollution causes asthma, cancer, premature and low birth weight babies, heart attacks and generally higher risk of death.   And similar health impacts have been found for electricity production, especially from coal (which provides 50% of Los Angeles’ electricity).  In addition, the global oil supply is dwindling.  So each of us needs to drastically reduce our energy consumption of all forms.  Below is a series of steps you can take, many of which are low cost.  

1. Become carbon neutral! Go to www.CarbonCounter.org, fill in the form with your energy use and sign up for a monthly (usually less than $20 per month) or annual contribution from your credit card to fund measures that will neutralize your carbon output.
2. Drive Less, Take Transit or Bike or Walk!  A well-tuned car with properly inflated tires burns less gasoline—cutting pollution and saving money at the pump. If you have two cars, drive the one with better gas mileage whenever possible. Better yet, skip the drive and take public transit, walk, or bicycle when you can.
3. Write your leaders now. Urge them to use existing technology to raise fuel economy standards to 40 miles per gallon.  It’s the biggest single step we can take to curb global warming. Taking this step would save nearly 4 million barrels of oil a day. And you could save $2,000 at the pump over the life of your car.
4. Sign up for Green Power.  Renewable energy solutions, such as wind and solar power, can reduce our reliance on coal-burning power plants, the largest source of global warming pollution in the United States. If you live in Los Angeles, call LADWP (800-473-3652) and sign up for Green Power.  Some other municipal utilities also offer it (but not Edison).  
5. Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. Especially those that burn the longest each day. Compact fluorescents produce the same amount of light as normal bulbs, but use about a quarter of the electricity and last ten times as long.
6. Save energy at home. Start with caulking and weather-stripping on doorways and windows. Then adjust your thermostat and start saving. For each degree you lower your thermostat in the winter, you can cut your energy bills by 3 percent. For air conditioning savings see list. To save heating bills see www.socalgas.com. Finally, ask your utility company to do a free energy audit of your home to show you how to save even more.
7. Become a smart water consumer.  Install low-flow showerheads and faucets.  Then turn your hot water heater down to 120ºF and see hot-water costs go down by as much as 50%.
8. Buy energy-efficient electronics and appliances.  Replacing an old refrigerator or an air conditioner with an energy-efficient model saves electricity bill and cuts global warming. Look for the Energy Star label on new appliances or visit their website at www.energystar.gov. Get rebates, see www.ladwp.com for details or call 1 800 246 0441 for free pick up service, or check your own utility’s website for home appliance rebates.
9. Plant a Tree, protect a forest. Planting shade trees around your house absorbs CO2, and reduces air-conditioning bills.  Call LADWP to have FREE shade trees delivered to your house 800-473-3652.
10. Reduce! Reuse! Recycle!  Producing new paper, glass, and metal products from recycled materials saves 70 to 90 percent of the energy and pollution, including CO2, that would result if the product came from virgin materials.  And please...buy recycled products!
11. Mount a local campaign against global warming.  Educate your community about how it can cut global warming pollution. Support measures at the national, state, and local level that:
  - Make automobiles go further on a gallon of gas;
  - Accelerate the use of clean, renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind;
  - Increase energy efficiency and conservation; and
  - Preserve forests around the world.
12. Buy less. Consumerism is a pattern of behavior that helps to destroy our environment, personal financial health, and human institutions.  See www.verdant.net for info on how to reduce consumerism.
13. Grow your own food, and buy local produce to save transportation fuel. And compost your food scraps.
14. Install solar panels on your roof.