A Greener Life

May 19, 2008

A study by a group of students at MIT tells us that if you think you are doing your part to reduce global warming, think again. 

Bill Gates - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2008
Creative Commons License photo credit: World
Economic Forum

The students interviewed people from many walks of life and concluded that there is a threshold energy use that no one in the US can avoid, whether they are a homeless person or Bill Gates.  They found that there are many aspects of the infrastructure of our American life – other than transportation and electricity usage that we may not be examining when trying to conserve energy, such as the products and services we use and how they are created and transported, the food we eat and how it is processed,  government services such as road construction and maintenance,  what products we import, how our clothes are made, how hospitals and other services are run.

Individual households use about 1/5 of US energy consumption.  The other 4/5 is used by industry, and government.

The implication of the article is that there is nothing we can do about this threshold.  I think this assumption must be examined, as it denigrates the power of democracy. We do have impact on what our government does and how it regulates business and our lives, but most people don’t know how or have enough interest to care,  because our lives are so comfortable.

Creative Commons License photo credit: PBoGS

The first step in participating in the decision making in our country is education.  Back to Civics 101.

Where do we learn about energy? If you are a beginner, the easiest information is on children’s energy education Web sites.   

In the news media we learn that all levels of our US government are carrying out initiatives to reduce our carbon footprint. An example is the recent Houston City Council passage of green building codes for commercial buildings.

The US Green Building Council is a non-government, non-profit group of organizations in the building industry who have established principles for building which are environmentally and socially responsible.  “LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a voluntary, consensus-based national rating system for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings.”

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy sponsor an energy efficiency program called Energy Star.

Energy at dusk
Creative Commons License photo credit: Ryan McD

The goal is to find ways to contribute to bettering our carbon footprint. You can come to the Wiess Energy Hall and learn all about petroleum and alternative energies so that you have the knowledge you need when you participate in conservation, efficiency, safety and pollution programs.

So yes,  the US uses a huge amount of energy,  but we can do more than just produce hot air criticizing.  We can learn and then take action  – not just in our daily lives,  but in the efforts of the entire nation.

Watch for more about energy efficiency and conservation in future posts to our energy blog.

Authored By Claire Scoggin

As Director of Wiess Energy Hall Programming, Claire coordinates energy education activities for schools, universities and business; promotes energy-related events, and generally works on spreading the word about the Wiess Energy Hall, the premiere energy resource worldwide. Check out her posts for all things energy – from the “Big Bang” to sustainability.

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