How The Disadvantaged Can Help Reduce Carbon And Save Money
Dan Watch is an expert in sustainability who advises international developers at Harvard University each year (e.g Dignitaries from all allied countries). He has extensive experience in designing and building sustainable research facilities, for the architectural firm Perkins Will. His primary focus is helping build a sustainable world for everyone.
All people should focus on reducing their food waste now, purchase green power and electric vehicles.
People with lower incomes, less than $42,000 a year, usually are very efficient and create less waste than people with higher incomes but there are opportunities for the lower-income strata to reduce their carbon footprint to address climate change.
When most people think of solving the climate crisis they think about generating more electricity and minimizing fossil fuels. The reality is that the way we make, distribute, manage, eat and waste food has a very significant impact on the carbon footprint of the environment. When food is disposed of in a landfill it rots and becomes a significant source of methane – a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.
Reduce food waste by buying “ugly” food that is perfectly healthy and tasty. An average U.S. household spends about $5,850 per year on food, according to the Agriculture & Applied Economics Association. The average U.S. household loses $1,866 on wasted food per year, according to a recent Penn State study. Another study showed Simply cutting waste in half for a US household (family of four), could save $77.75 per month!
It is estimated that on average an American meal travels around 1,500 miles from growth to plate. 250,000 tons of greenhouse gases are distributed into the atmosphere every year due to importing food products. Understand how far the food is being shipped then buy and grow locally to keep the carbon cost down.
Plant-rich diets are a big opportunity to save money and improve your health. Reduce the amount of beef and other meats that you eat. The bigger the animal the more harm is done to the climate. Cattle alone account for 4% of global emissions. Some opportunities include shopping at ethnic markets that usually cost less than grocery stores. Buy food whole, not pre-cut. Use digital store coupons. Use Apps like: “Too Good To Go” and “Food Rescue Hero” to reduce food waste. The finding of a new study published by Sous Vide Guy titled “Exploring Opinions on Plant-Based Eating” found that meat-eaters spend $23 more per week on groceries than do vegetarians, vegans, or those who don’t eat meat for any reason. If each person could reduce their meat consumption by at least 20% that would help.
Support Community Solar projects that work for many neighborhoods or towns where citizens go together to commit to a solar farm which can be located on large flat warehouse roofs, under power lines where the land is not being used, or simply in a large open field. Community Solar projects free residents of the burden of ownership and maintenance while offering immediate savings, no upfront cost and reduction of your carbon footprint. The Community Solar Concept is suitable for all including renters, condo-owners, and homeowners. You are supporting local, clean energy by simply signing up for short-term contracts with many offering no cost to cancel. For community solar, utilities use a process called “virtual net metering,” which means that when your share the community solar farm it produces energy, then you get the credit on your utility bill–just as if you had produced it on your own roof. Encourage your local politicians and businesses to get Community Solar developers in your neighborhood. A few resources:
- Solstice’s complete guide to community solar
- Vote Solar nicely summarizes the community solar market’s potential here.
- This white paper on why developers should be considering community solar
- Some of the bigger name community solar developers to consider ForeFront Power, NextEra Energy, 38 Degrees North, and Revision Energy, to name a few.
RIDE, AND IF POSSIBLE PURCHASE, ELECTRIC VEHICLES such as bikes, buses, trucks, and cars. Electric bikes are a very popular and affordable means of transportation. The EPA estimated with 2019 data that 19% of all greenhouse gases are created by light-duty vehicles- cars. The key to purchasing electric vehicles is the tax incentives by federal and sometimes state governments.
A 2018 study from the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute found that electric vehicles cost less than half as much to operate as gas-powered cars. The average cost to operate an EV in the United States is $485 per year, while the average for a gasoline-powered vehicle is $1,117. The cost of electricity should continue to go down with further improvements in renewable energies, the development and mass production of electric vehicles and electric storage.
Benefits of electric vehicles for low-income families include:
- Electric vehicles are estimated to run about 500,000 miles which is about twice as long as a gasoline engine vehicle. They are a long term investment.
- There are 10% of the parts meaning the maintenance costs are also less. The resale value is high so it can be difficult finding a lower priced, used electric vehicle. The Nissan Leaf has a car priced at $27,400 for 149 mile battery, before the Federal Tax incentive that currently is $7,500 (if you pay $7,500 or more in taxes).
- The government tax incentives may increase as policies are being agreed to in 2022. Used electric cars may have also tax incentives in the near future.
- The electric charging infrastructure is relatively easy and is much more developed than the gasoline driven cars of 100 years ago. A typical daily roundtrip commute is 30 miles. Electric cars can be plugged into a basic 110 outlet that charges 4 miles an hour. If you plug in overnight for 8 hours you have enough for your daily commute. You can increase the battery charge to 25 miles an hour by using a type 2 charger that runs off 40 or 50 amps. Local charging stations can also be used.
- More jobs are being created that are opportunities for the next generation to raise their family income.
Electric vehicles today are a better long-term investment than gasoline-driven cars/ trucks and will get even better with more incentives and lower prices as the market grows. The electricity to run the vehicles can and should be generated by renewable energies such as wind and solar.
To summarize, continuously learn about the best solutions and then advocate businesses and all levels of the government to accelerate sustainable solutions. Your voice and vote is very important.