I was all set to snark this Wall Street Journal article on ways to lower your carbon footprint. But it’s actually a really good article, so I’ll mostly leave it alone.
My minor beef is with the way the article is framed as one of those “here’s the real deal” pieces, promising to cut through the wildly impractical or dubiously effective conservation tips on offer from other sources, as well as dispense with the all the confusing mumbo jumbo around energy statistics.
The article then proceeds to offer up exactly the same common-sense conservation tips you’re likely to hear elsewhere — drive less, use CFLs, turn down your thermostat, buy Energy Star appliances — with a healthy side order of mumbo jumbo about the carbon intensity of your regional power grid.
But that’s fine. It’s great, actually. These are really good tips, and the reason they get floated so frequently is because they truly are the most effective ways for regular folks to cut down their footprint. I even learned something: conscientious recycling can actually reduce your household emissions by about 10%. So go read the article and then do what the Wall Street Journal says.
Minor beef #2: the article includes the obligatory mild scolding from an environmentalist who informs us that whatever we’re doing, it’s not the right thing.
In broader terms, Jeffrey Harris, of the Alliance to Save Energy, a coalition of business, environmental and government interests, thinks more people should ask, “How much do we need to live a quality lifestyle?” He thinks that question inevitably leads to others, such as, “Do we really need oversized cars and oversized houses?”
He believes people’s focus needs to move beyond energy efficiency, even if conservation is necessary. “The focus has to be on consumption,” he says, “because the atmosphere doesn’t care about efficiency, it responds to the volume of greenhouse gases put into it.”
Those are fine questions to be asking, but the focus should be on reducing greenhouse gas emissions however is expedient. I’m not even sure what that last quote means, but I’m pretty confident the atmosphere doesn’t care how big our houses are. It cares about how much fossil fuel we burn to power them. So three cheers for efficiency.