RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—When your day is so busy that it's a major victory just to sit down for dinner by 6 o'clock, it's often hard to wrap your head around such far-reaching issues as global warming and proposed cap-and-trade or carbon tax policies aimed at tackling the monumental problem. But making a huge difference to help the environment and human health, without putting forth a lot of effort or money, is in your reach. A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that basic actions taken by everyday people at home can indeed make a difference.
THE DETAILS: In the study, researchers used a behavioral approach to look at household carbon-cutting measures involving existing technology. They found that strategies like home weatherization, routine vehicle maintenance, and using a clothesline instead of a dryer could cut U.S. carbon emissions by 5 percent over five years, and 7.4 percent in 10 years. That’s the equivalent of France’s total carbon output, or of total emissions from the U.S.’s petroleum refining, steel, and aluminum industries, says study author Thomas Dietz, PhD, professor of sociology and environmental science and policy at Michigan State University in East Lansing.
He says within 10 years, national implementation of these relatively simple measures could save an estimated 123 million metric tons of carbon per year in year 10, which is 20 percent of household direct emissions or 7.4 percent of U.S. national emissions. "I've seen many analyses that make wild assumptions about how hard or how easy it is to get people to change their behavior, without any basis in science," he said. "Our analysis is based on science. We look at what has been feasible in bringing about changes in energy-consumption behavior."