Thursday, April 26, 2012

Taking Action to Curb Climate Change

By Wong Ee Lynn 
Green Living 
Special Interest Group 
Selangor Branch

Human well-being, we have learned, is linked more closely than most people realise to the great marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Carbon emissions must not exceed Nature's capacity to withdraw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and neutralise the carbon. Carbon dioxide is part of life, yet rising carbon dioxide levels are implicated as the primary cause of climate change since 1950. In order to mitigate climate change-related environmental damage, our only hope is to ensure that emissions of CO2 from human activities are limited to levels that can be absorbed by trees and plants through photosynthesis. The Challenge: The world's inhabitants will need to find politically acceptable ways to reduce their CO2 emissions level by 80%.

Personal choices are not a substitute for political action. Global problems could only be comprehensively solved through actual reforms in public policies that engage most people and institutions. Similarly, however, political action is no substitute for leading lives that reflect our environmental values. As long as people keep buying energy guzzlers (e.g. big vehicles as status symbols, large mansions for small families), businesses and manufacturers will continue producing them. The following are commonsense actions each of us can take to effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our homes, cars and businesses. These suggestions also happen to cut our expenses and improve our health and quality of life.  

Every litre of fuel we burn releases approximately 2.6 kilograms of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We can, however, significantly reduce our road transport emissions by planning our trips and errands and practicing efficient driving techniques.  

1. Observe the Speed Limit
Over 50% of the energy required to move a vehicle down the road is spent overcoming aerodynamic drag (pushing air out of the way). When driving faster, the aerodynamic drag and rolling resistance increase. Consequently, the fuel economy decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph.  

2. Overdrive Gears and Cruise Control
When using overdrive gears, it's possible to still drive at highway speeds, but the engine speed decreases. Overdrive gears reduce both fuel consumption and engine wear. Also, using cruise control on highway trips helps maintain a constant, steady speed rather than a variable speed and as a result helps reduce fuel consumption.

3. Anticipate Traffic Situations
Anticipating traffic conditions ahead and not tailgating can improve gas mileage by 5 to 10 percent. This driving strategy is not only safer, but also reduces wear on tyres and brakes. When driving in the city, nearly 50 percent of the energy needed to power a vehicle is for acceleration. Unnecessary braking wastes that energy. Avoid driving during rush hours. Leaving your home for the office half an hour earlier, and leaving the office only after the traffic jam has subsided, can help you make huge fuel savings.  

4. Avoid Unnecessary Idling
No matter how efficient the car is, unnecessary idling wastes fuel, costs money and pollutes the air. If waiting for more than a couple of minutes, turn off the engine. Also, do not leave the car idling while running into a store for a "quick" errand, as it is also an open invitation for auto theft.  

5. Carpooling, Mass Transit, People Power and Telecommuting
On one or more days a week consider: - Carpools and ride-share programs - Walking or biking to work - Telecommuting one or more days a week 6. Vacations A loaded roof rack can decrease fuel economy by as much as 5%. Therefore, to reduce the aerodynamic drag of these space savers and improve fuel economy, place items inside the trunk whenever possible.  

7. Tyre Maintenance
Be sure the tyres are properly inflated. Car manufacturers are required to place a label in the car stating the correct tyre pressure. This label may be found on the edge of the door or door jamb, in the glove box, or on the inside of the gas cap cover. If the label lists a psi range, use the higher number in order to maximize fuel efficiency. Under-inflated tyres cause fuel consumption to increase by as much as 6%, cause the tyres to wear quicker and can make it difficult to handle the vehicle. Be sure wheels are aligned and brakes are properly adjusted to minimize rolling resistance.  

8. Change Your Motor Oil and Air Filter Regularly
Changing the oil regularly will increase the life of the car's engine. Clean oil reduces wear caused by friction between moving parts and it removes harmful dirt and grit from the engine. The car's air filter keeps impurities in the air from damaging internal engine components. Not only will replacing a dirty air filter improve fuel economy, it will protect the engine. Clogged filters can cause up to a 10% increase in fuel consumption.  

9. Keep Your Engine Tuned
Studies have shown that, depending on a car's condition; a poorly tuned engine can increase fuel consumption by as much as 10-20 percent. Following the recommended maintenance schedule in the owner's manual will save fuel, help the car run better and last longer.  

Households use over 1/5 of the total energy consumed in the country. An average suburban family creates 4.5 tons of carbon dioxide from home electricity use every year. Adopting these simple, low-cost energy conservation measures could reduce staggering amounts of carbon emissions.  

While Cooking:
1. Match the size of the gas ring to the size of the saucepan or you will be paying to heat air.
2. Put a lid on saucepans, so the contents heat quicker and you use less energy.
3. Pressure cookers and steamers are more efficient and allow you to cook several different foods on one ring. 4. Microwaves use less energy than ovens and do not require preheating.  

Electrical Appliances:
1. Don’t leave appliances like TVs, stereos, PCs and cordless phones on standby mode.
2. Unplug equipment once fully charged - e.g. mobile phones, shavers, batteries and electric toothbrushes - otherwise they keep drawing electricity.
3. Buy high quality appliances with Energy Star ratings. Cheap, generic appliances may appeal to the impulse buyer, but they use energy less efficiently and will cost you more money in the long run in terms of utility bills and the cost of repairs and replacements.  

1. Avoid leaving fridge doors open. Each minute the door is open takes three minutes of energy to cool down again.
2. Avoid putting hot or warm food straight into the fridge. Allow it to cool first.
3. Defrost your fridge regularly to keep it running efficiently and cheaply. If it seems to frost up quickly, check the door seal.
4. Keep the fridge in a cool room. Set temperatures accurately: Fridge 5°C; Freezer 18°C.  

Washing machine and dishwasher:
1. Wash on the low-temperature programme.
2. Try to have full loads when using the washing machine and dishwasher.  

Tumble dryer:
1. In sunny weather, dry your clothes outside and enjoy the fresh smell that only comes from line-dried clothes.
2. If you have to use a tumble dryer, don’t put very wet clothes inside. Wring them out or spin-dry them first.  

1. Keep window ledges clear of clutter to get the most daylight in your home. Pull curtains back during the day and keep plants trimmed so they don’t block incoming light. Keep bulbs and shades clean.
2. Turn off lights when not needed.
3. Dimmer switches reduce consumption and help create the lighting effect you want.
4. Fluorescent lights use less electricity than ordinary bulbs.
5. Energy saving light bulbs use 80% less than ordinary bulbs, and last ten times longer.
6. When away, outside lights can be arranged to come on automatically, instead of being left on permanently.
7. Light-coloured walls, ceilings and floors, as well as mirrors, reflect daylight, making maximum use of natural light.

Studies have shown that 42% of an average family's energy bill is spent to keep homes at a comfortable temperature. Strive to reduce the cooling load of your air-conditioning units by employing cost-effective conservation measures. The efficient cooling tips below save money and energy, and improve our comfort levels:
1. If possible, delay heat-generating activities like dishwashing and ironing until evening.
2. Keep the house shut tight during the day. Don't let in unwanted heat and humidity. Ventilate at night either naturally or with fans.
3. Install awnings on windows to provide shade.
4. Plant trees for shade around the house, especially as ‘sun-breakers’ outside windows.
5. If you absolutely need air conditioners, buy a high-efficiency air conditioner with Energy Star rating.
6. Your air-conditioner’s size and horsepower should be as according to your needs. When buying a new air conditioner, make sure it is not oversized.
7. Do not use a dehumidifier at the same time your air conditioner is operating. The dehumidifier will increase the cooling load and force the air conditioner to work harder.
8. To reduce energy wastage, seal all air conditioner ducts.
9. Keep the thermostat set at 78 degrees F or higher if using ceiling fans. Don't air-condition unused rooms.
10. Maintain your air conditioners properly to maximize efficiency. Clean the filters every month if you use it frequently. Normal dust build-up can reduce airflow by 1% per week.
11. Provide shade for your room air conditioner, or the outside half of your central air conditioner if at all possible. This will increase the unit's efficiency by 5 - 10%.
12. Install window shades or mini-blinds. Mini-blinds can reduce solar heat gain by 40-50%.  

It is crucial that each of us understand the role we have to play in tackling climate change. Climate change is a result not only of factory emissions and government logging concessions, but also of everyday actions such as switching on appliances and purchasing foam food packaging. All over the world today, communities and non-profit organisations have instituted climate change initiatives, while individuals have made behavioural modifications to reduce the impact of their daily habits on the environment. Our actions must be borne out of a deep personal conviction that what we do is meaningful and is crucial in the battle against environmental damage and degradation. Facing the challenge today will lead us into a cleaner, greener future tomorrow.

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