Climate and Energy
"I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy.
What a source of power!
I hope we don't have to wait 'til oil and coal run out before we tackle that."
- Thomas Edison

Ten Steps to Reduce your Carbon Emissions
(metric version)

by Guy Dauncey
author of Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change

1. How now, brown CO2?

A typical family of three with two cars which flies off to an annual vacation might produce 50 tonnes of CO2 a year. The same family, living in a small, efficient house with no car could produce as little as 10 tonnes. So the first step is to know how much CO2 you produce. Use a carbon calculator to work out what your total emissions are.

2. To drive, or not to drive?

A bicycle produces no CO2, and nor do your feet – so walking and cycling are good news. Start using the bus service more often. And the train! Maybe join a car-sharing group?

A typical car produces 3 times its weight in CO2 emissions, so the smaller the car, the fewer the emissions. There’s a world of difference between a Honda Insight (2.8 tonnes a year) and a Dodge Ram Wagon (11.5 tonnes). If you must drive a car, try to buy the most efficient model.

3. On your way, officer!

A heavy-handed driver with poorly inflated tires will produce 30% more emissions than a skillful driver with properly inflated tires. Speeding decreases efficiency, too. You will burn 25% less fuel driving at 90 km/hr than at 110 km/hr - and earn fewer speeding tickets, too. 55 kph is the most fuel-efficient speed.

4. Sleep tight, sweet home

A typical house produces 8 - 10 tonnes of CO2 a year from the gas, oil or electricity that are used to heat it. Arrange to have an EnerGuide assessment for your home, and then act on the advice. By caulking to stop drafts, increasing your insulation, installing programmable thermostats, and a few other things, you can reduce your emissions by up to 30%, reduce your fuel bills, and make your home snug and comfy.

5. Out, foul fridge!

A clunky old clothes washer uses twice the energy of an efficient front-loader. The same applies to fridges, dryers, dishwashers and water heaters. If you’ve got an inefficient old fridge chuntering away in the basement, it could be producing a tonne of CO2 a year, all on its ownsome. By switching to Energy Smart appliances and efficient lights, and installing programmable thermostats, you could save 4-5 tonnes of CO2 a year.

6. Here comes the sun

A solar hot water heater on your roof may reduce your emissions by 0.7 tonnes, depending on your source of electricity, and how much hot water you use. A 2kW solar PV system may save you 2.5 tonnes, if you live in a sunny area, and can afford the $22,500 cost. Here’s hoping the government follows New York, California and Japan by introducing subsidies. The price should begin to fall dramatically in 2005 when Japanese mass production heralds in the solar revolution.

7. Bye, bye, Miss Canadian Coal

If you live in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Nova Scotia or PEI, an additional $5 to $15 a month will buy you green energy from solar, wind or geothermal, instead of coal, oil or gas.

8. Moo!

This might surprise you, but cows produce copious amounts of methane, since the favorite activity of their famous three stomachs is burping. Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas, and the average beef-eater is responsible for 0.35 tonnes of greenhouse gases (expressed as a CO2 equivalent) a year. So eat less beef! Also, by eating more locally grown food, you will reduce the CO2 needed to ship food around the world, and by eating more organic food, more farmers will be able to store more CO2 in the soil, since organic farming stores carbon, while chemical farming does not.

9. Don’t fly me to the moon

One day, airplanes may fly on hydrogen or biodiesel. Until then, a 4,000 km flight will generate 2.9 tonnes of CO2 per passenger. A return trip to the moon, if Air Canada flew that far, would generate 580 tons per passenger (400,000 kilometres each way).

10. Tis a gift to be simple

Let’s be honest – we live in the world’s most materialistic culture. Everything we buy needs energy to produce, package and transport, and it all produces CO2. Recycling helps – every recycled bottle saves 0.5kg of CO2, compared to making a new one, and every recycled newspaper saves 100 grams of CO2. But best of all is to buy less stuff, so there’s less to be manufactured, less to consume, less to worry about, and less to dispose of when it’s dead.

Tis a gift to the Earth to be carbon neutral

Finally, if you want to counteract the effect of your carbon emissions, you can do so by buying carbon offsets that will either absorb your emissions (by planting trees) or prevent the release of a similar amount of carbon. The going price is around $13.33 a tonne, so if you produce 30 tonnes of CO2 in a year, you owe the Earth $400 in carbon taxes. The Climate Trust, in Oregon, and the Solar Electric Light Fund, based in Washington, both accept carbon neutralizing contributions that will offset your emissions.

Guy Dauncey is the co-author (with Patrick Mazza) of Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change (New Society Publishers, 2001). He lives in Victoria. His website is