'We are all crew members'
I got my title from a quote in an Omnimax film called “A Beautiful Planet” that was playing at the Great Lakes Science Center this summer. The film is about how the astronauts living at the International Space Station see Earth, and it’s absolutely amazing. During the film, climate change is addressed, and how the space station crew can see the direct effects of climate change on the Earth.
This past July was the hottest month recorded on Earth since record keeping began in 1880. In fact, each month since October 2015 has set a new high for heat for that respective month. For example, August 2016 was the hottest August ever recorded. NASA has warned that warming of recent decades is out of step with any period over the past millennium. There is a 99% chance that 2016 will be the warmest year on record; 2015 beat 2014 for the warmest year and 2016 is on pace to beat 2015.
Each of us is a member of Earth’s crew. The International Space Station can’t function properly without each crew member doing their part – it is the same with Earth. It is each of our responsibility to take care of the planet and do our individual part to stop climate change. Make no mistake, we can do it!
Carbon dioxide is Earth’s worst enemy. It is released when oil, coal and other fossil fuels are burned for energy; energy we use every day to power our homes, our cars, our smart phones, computers, etc. Our thirst for energy is insatiable it seems. Scientists predict cataclysmic changes in the environment, with the world warming beyond 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, without radical cuts in carbon emissions.
What can you do? We can reduce our energy demands every chance we get. If we each use less, we will curb our contribution to climate change. Here are some suggestions.
The easiest thing you can do is to make sure your lights are turned off when not in use, and your computer and other non-essential electronics and appliances are turned off when not in use. Switching your light bulbs to LED will use 80% less energy, and will save you money too.
Heating and air conditioning account for almost half of our home energy use. Sealing drafts and ensuring adequate insulation is a great way to reduce energy for heating or cooling your home. Additionally, installing a programmable thermostat saves energy, as you can program it to heat/cool less to match your daily schedule. For example in the winter you can keep your thermostat on a low temperature if you are at work all day, and set it to warm up right before you get home.
Another way to help curb your energy use is to make sure you purchase energy efficient appliances when you need to replace your current ones. Since 1987, when energy efficient appliances were introduced, it is estimated that 2.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide have been prevented from entering the air. In addition, Energy Star appliances can save you up to 30% on your electric bills! Good for the earth, good for your wallet!
If you would like to ensure the electricity you use in your home is not contributing to carbon emissions, you can look into solar panels. In Cuyahoga County, we have a unique opportunity to join a solar co-op and use group buying power to get discounts on solar panels for your home. Please check out the Ohio United Solar Neighborhoods website at ohsun.org for more information about how the co-op works and how much it would cost – and save! Federal tax credits are available for people who have solar panels installed. They’re a great way to reduce carbon emissions from electricity use.
Buying local produce also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is estimated that 10% of U.S. energy goes into growing, processing, packaging and shipping food. When you purchase locally sourced food, energy is saved because that food did not need to be shipped far. Additionally, if each of us actually ate all of the food we purchased, we would help prevent methane gas from entering the air.
Methane is what is produced when food in a landfill breaks down, and contributes greatly to climate change. It is estimated that 40% of the food in the U.S. is thrown into the trash and ends up in a landfill. You can take it a step further and start to compost any food scraps you have leftover, keeping food out of the trash all together. If you do this, please make sure you research what can and can’t be composted.
Purchasing fuel-efficient cars helps keep carbon dioxide out of the air; by 2025 all cars and light trucks must meet clean car standards, which means they will average 54.5 mpg. In 2011, the average was 28.3. If you are in the market for a new car soon, please consider a fuel-efficient model. Also, don’t idle your car. If you are waiting more than 10 seconds, turn off the ignition. In addition to environmental harm from idling, you are wasting gas (and in turn wasting money!). Turn it off!
Another simple step you can take: plant more trees in your yard. Trees absorb carbon dioxide; one large tree can absorb 40 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. Additionally, trees around your home can help reduce your air conditioning and heating needs.
SPREAD THE WORD
Last (but not least) talk to your friends, family and neighbors about the easy ways they can be contributing members of Earth’s “crew”! Remember, each and every one of us is part of Earth’s crew. It is up to us to do our individual parts.