Shrinking Our Carbon Footprints – Addie Greene

The Master Climate Protector class, sponsored by Southern Oregon Climate Action Now (SOCAN), emphasizes reducing our carbon footprints—the amount of greenhouse gases we release. The footprint is based on size of home, number of household members, family income, and other criteria. “In the Rogue Valley, fully 44% of our contributions to global emissions result from our individual consumption, (driving, home heating and air conditioning, flying, etc.),” according to SOCAN. That means we all can make a difference.

            The carbon footprint calculator tells us how many metric tons a year of CO2 (equivalent) a household produces in the categories of auto travel and air fare, utilities and home construction, food, goods, and services. My household consumes 41 metric tons a year—slightly better than the Rogue Valley average, but 25 metric tons of that, or 61%, is spent on electricity.

            Heating a 47-year-old house has been a challenge, even though the upstairs thermostat never goes above 68o and the downstairs thermostat stays at 50o except during the evenings. So the solution probably is to buy a heat pump for an installed cost of between $2000 and $8000.

            Another way to shrink your carbon footprint is to buy a hybrid or electric vehicle. The federal government is offering tax credits ranging from $2500 to $7500 on 10 models. These are the Chevy Bolt, the Tesla Model X, the Nissan Leaf, the BMW i3, the Toyota Prius Prime, the Honda Clarity, the Chrysler Pacifica, the Ford Fusion Energi, the Kia Nero, and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

            Oregon, in addition, offers a Charge Ahead Rebate of $2500 for residents who meet income qualifications, and a Standard Rebate of up to $2500 for hybrid and electric vehicle buyers.

            Installing solar panels also is a way to reduce carbon footprint. According to the Web site Energy Sage, the average cost per watt in Oregon for installing solar panels is $2.90 after a 30% federal tax credit. A six-kilowatt system ranges in cost from $11,802-$15,162, and a 12-kilowatt system ranges in cost from $19,670-$25,270. The site calculates that the 20-year savings from installing solar panels in Portland is $17,291.

            Residential wind turbines, though not as popular as solar panels, vary in price (at Home Depot) from $425 for 400 watts to $4356 for 3000 watts. The Missouri brand varies in price from $300 for 500 watts to $805 for 2000 watts. The greater the number of blades (used in low wind areas) the higher the cost. The diameter of a five kilowatt wind turbine is 18 feet and a 10 kilowatt turbine 25 feet.

            Other ways to reduce carbon footprint: Do all errands in the same location (say Medford) at the same time. Avoid air travel when possible. Buy local, either from a farmers’ market or a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) co-op.