Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Steps Toward Becoming a Hippie*

Illustration by Robert Neubecker/Slate

In the recent few months, I have noticed my tendencies drifting toward becoming more environmental, more sustainable and more conscious of what I do and where I spend my money.

I have begun reading more and more environmental blogs, like The Worsted Witch along with my daily allotment of knitting/craft, writing and photography blogs.

Yesterday, The Worsted Witch discussed how Slate and Treehugger were combining forces to create an eight-week green challenge to "evaluate and reduce your carbon emissions between now and the end of the year."

I along with The Worsted Witch find their reasons to be compelling:

The average temperature of the Earth's surface has risen about 1 degree Fahrenheit over the past hundred years, and overwhelming evidence suggests that most of the increase is due to greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide released by humans. Though a 1-degree increase might not seem like much, even a small rise in global temperature significantly changes the climate, potentially resulting in major storms and droughts, disruption of the food supply, and the catastrophic spread of disease.

Human carbon-dioxide emissions come mainly from two sources: burning fossil fuels and changes in land use, such as deforestation. Americans are the climate's worst enemy. On average, each of us is responsible for about 22 tons of carbon-dioxide emissions every year, according to the United Nations, compared with an average of six tons per person throughout the rest of the world. That means the typical U.S citizen emits the equivalent of four cars.

For the next eight weeks, Slate and Treehugger has invited us to think about our own individual contribution to global warming and to tighten our belts in terms of our carbon consumption. The dieting goal is to reduce the amount of CO2 we release into the atmosphere by 20 percent.

To participate, take a short quiz that will serve as your weigh-in, and then keep track of the carbon pounds you lose each week with the help of reminders and tips from the program. Every week between now and Dec. 11, you'll be asked to assess your consumption on subjects such as transportation, food, clothing, electricity and even holiday shopping.

In the interest of full disclosure, my annual carbon emissions are 27,845 lbs or the equivalent to the emissions from 2.73 passenger cars. Now I am below average for the average US citizen BUT above average for the average Frenchman.

Average carbon emissions per year, per person:

United States : 44,312
Qatar : 117,064
France : 13,668
India : 2,645
Kenya : 440

So last night I took the first step toward reducing carbon emissions and replaced the light bulbs in my bedroom from incandescent light bulbs to compact flurescent lightbulbs (CFLs). Now I just need to figure out how to change the ones on the bathroom mirror.

As The Worsted Witch says, "If you're going to do just one thing for the planet, make it the switch to compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs). Although they cost several times more than regular incandescent light bulbs, they also last about 10 times longer, which means for that every CFL used, there are eight less incandescent light bulbs ending up in landfills."

For more information on CFLs, click here

*I will never be able to become a true hippie because I really like make-up and you can't stop me from dyeing my hair!
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