After going to see Al Gore and the makers of his film, An Inconvenient Truth, speak about the global-warming crisis last week, I was inspired to make some changes to my own energy-consumption habits. I live in New York City, so I already use public transportation instead of a car, but I figure I can do better. Today I visited climatecrisis.org and used the online calculator to figure out how many pounds of carbon dioxide my lifestyle is contributing to the atmosphere. I weighed in at 5,400 pounds—not terrible compared with the American average of 15,000, but far from the ideal, which would be zero.
Then I visited the Web site for my utilities provider, ConEdison, and discovered (after some digging—they sure arent advertising sustainable-energy programs front and center on their homepage) that I could enroll in a program called Green Power that would allow me to buy energy from local wind, solar and low-impact hydroelectric sources (many utility companies have similar programs—check your company's Web site for details) . It will cost only a few extra dollars a month and will help to cut down on fossil-fuel consumption. That alone will bring my carbon net down to 4,600 pounds.
Next, Im planning to sign up for a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program in my neighborhood. Basically, Ill buy a subscription to a nearby farm, and the farmer will bring me a bag of fresh vegetables every week from now till October. This will ensure that most of my food is grown organically and locally, cutting down on the fossil fuels used to ship foods from distant destinations.
The final big contributor to my carbon output is air travel. I fly at least eight times a year, and planes are not gas-sippers. Theres not much I can do to increase the fuel-efficiency of 747s, but I can offset the impact by buying bundles of clean-energy credits—CoolWatts—from nativeenergy.com. Each $2 bundle offsets a ton of carbon dioxide emissions while funding alternative-energy programs and getting you closer to carbon-neutral. Just one bundle will get me to zero for the year, but maybe Id better purchase a few more to offset the damage done by the gas-guzzling hoopty I drove during college.
Meanwhile, stay tuned for the July issue of PopSci, in which we lay out our 10-point plan for solving the energy crisis…. —Megan Miller