In this episode of Michigan Minds, Dr. Gregory Keoleian discusses how consumers can reduce their carbon footprint in three areas of their daily lives: home, travel and diet. Keoleian is the co-founder and director of the UM Center for Sustainable Systems. He is also his Peter M. Wege Endowed Professor of Sustainable Systems at his UM School for the Environment and Sustainability and Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the UM School of Engineering. His research focuses on the development and application of Life His Cycle Models and indicators to enhance the sustainability of products and technologies.
“Our Mission [at the Center for Sustainable Systems] Developing and applying system-based models and indicators to increase system sustainability. And our vision is focused on accelerating the sustainability transformation of these systems. This includes mobility systems, shelter, water, food systems and energy systems. ”
“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has decided that carbon emissions must be cut in half by 2030 and carbon neutrality must be achieved by 2050. The report shows that we are really falling short on our trajectory to reach these goals,” said Keoleian.
Consumers can play a key role in reducing carbon emissions by making small changes in their daily lives. Keoleian breaks down the regions in the United States that emit the most greenhouse gases, noting that transportation and construction account for the largest emissions, with food production accounting for about one-fifth. increase. Automobiles account for two-thirds of total emissions in the transport sector, and housing produces half of the emissions in the building sector.
Referring to the three regions that emit the most greenhouse gases, Keoleian explains how consumers can reduce their home energy consumption and carbon-related emissions. Heating and cooling account for more than 40% of his energy use in the United States, so consumers should focus on insulating the exterior of their homes, including walls and roofs, Keoleian said. He said the EPA estimates that homeowners can save an average of 15 percent on heating and cooling costs by hermetically sealing their homes and adding insulation to their attics, crawl space floors and basements.
Keoleian also discusses the importance of moving heating equipment from natural gas to clean electricity.
“Then I turn to heating appliances. The most efficient is a geothermal heat pump, which moves heat from the ground to the house very efficiently. A cheaper option is an air source heat pump. In Michigan. We recommend installing a cold climate certified air source heat pump.”
Upgrading appliances can also help consumers save on both energy costs and emissions, Keoleian said. His CSS research conducted over the last 20 years on when to best replace appliances found that refrigerators older than 15 years should be replaced based on energy usage, greenhouse gas emissions and operating costs. I understand.
Other recommendations include washing clothes in cold water, using electric stoves and dryers instead of gas, and switching to LED bulbs, which save 90% in terms of operating energy.
Keoleian says scrubbing the food, rather than rinsing the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, is the most efficient way to wash the dishes. He also recommends turning off the heat dry feature in your dishwasher.
Moving to electric vehicles, ‘right-sizing’ and ‘trip-chaining’ are three things consumers can do to reduce their carbon footprint.
“Right sizing is about scheduling and matching the most efficient vehicle in the home to a specific travel purpose,” says Keoleian. For example, be aware that a family may choose to use a sedan to drive their children to school rather than a larger vehicle such as an SUV. CSS research shows that households can save 20% on energy and fuel costs simply by improving vehicle allocation. He also says trip chains or bundling are an effective way to cut emissions. , is an example of chain travel.
“Furthermore… to reduce our mobility footprint, we should consider using public transport, which is often underutilized, but is much more efficient.”
The third sector is food waste. An estimated 30 to 40 percent of all human-consumable food in the United States is lost or wasted, he says.
“We really need to look at better shopping habits and better management of food at home to avoid spoilage. It has the direct benefit of reducing carbon emissions across the supply chain, all of which can be reduced simply by better managing your diet, what you cook and when you shop. .”
Keoleian says a diet shift from animal to plant can also help reduce carbon emissions. Legumes (such as dried peas, lentils, and beans), soy products (such as tofu), and vegetable proteins such as nuts and seeds dramatically reduce emissions. These shifts also have additional benefits such as reduced grocery bills and reduced risk of diet-related chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
“The point here is that each one of us can play a role and make a difference. Or even a simple action like putting together a trip, making a bigger investment, insulating your attic, installing a heat pump, or buying an electric car. All these actions are beneficial.”
The series will continue until April 2023. Subscribe to Michigan Minds for more episodes.