While studies show young people to be driving less, many of us still aren’t going to be doing without cars any time soon. As long as urban developments are built to be un-walkable (we’re looking at you, Apple and your new Cupertino Campus), we’re going to have to find a way for everyone to be able to get from a to b and back again without destroying the planet. As it stands, the Environmental Defense Fund estimates that a full 20 percent of US greenhouse gas emissions come directly out of our tailpipes.
Fuel efficiency is on the up, albeit rather belatedly, with the most recent data suggesting that carbon dioxide emissions from new cars sold in the UK has declined 31 percent since 2007. But we’re invariably better off with the ever improving hybrid electric technologies, and the recent New York Auto Show marked the release of some pretty incredible extended range vehicles. As this technology improves, the cars can only be as green as the grid they draw their power from. It’s one thing to steer clear of gasoline, but even better when we can avoid emissions generating fuels altogether.
Similar emissions-reducing advancements are much needed in the aerospace industry. A coordinated project by the biggest manufacturers to develop affordable biofuel technologies for planes is an encouraging move in the right direction, but as we’ve seen, emissions from agriculture are nothing to get too thrilled about.
That said, the whole not-driving idea is also pretty great when one has the chance. And if you’re in an area with exhausting inclines, such as San Francisco, electric bicycles still carry a far lower carbon footprint than many alternatives.
As a growing population, we have a lot of stuff. From consumer electronics to clothing to diapers, a worrying proportion of our ‘stuff’ is made using finite resources, with environmentally destructive practices only to be used for a relatively short amount of time before being tossed into landfill. And if you’re reading Inhabitat, chances are you’ve thought about this at least once or twice in your purchasing practices.
The use of reusable and recyclable coffee cups, shopping bags and other ubiquitous items is increasing with widespread awareness of wastage and availability of alternatives. But there are always ways we can do more to use less, use better, reuse and recycle. Mining for metals commonplace in items from consumer electronics to jewelry causes widespread environmental destruction, polluting water and releasing greenhouse gases into the environment. And many of these metals, when used in consumer electronics, still often find their way into landfill, allowing lead, cadmium and mercury to seep into ground water.
In the instance of consumer electronics, 17 states have taken steps to mandate recycling, but where recycling is not municipally provided, it becomes of even greater importance to take the initiative within our own communities. And for items which don’t need to be new, or disposable, we can keep on recycling, upcycling, salvaging and transforming.
Everything on this list is a contributing factor in global warming, and yet we still have elected officials who argue that it isn’t ‘real.’ A poll recently commissioned by Yale University brought some refreshingly reassuring news, as the majority of participants agreed that global warming was worsening an increasing stream of extreme weather events and natural disasters. Earlier this year surging seas presented evidence that with sea levels predicted to rise 20-80 inches by 2100, 3.7 million residents are at risk from flood waters. Meanwhile scientists looking to the past found that naturally occouring carbon emissions drove the end of the last Ice Age — and that uptick in emissions was far lower than our current surge. Yet we still, absurdly, have politicians who as part of their campaign strategy insist that carbon dioxide emissions do not pose a threat to our environment.
So as we all work towards a greener, more sustainable future, adopting responsible practices to lower and eliminate emissions of all greenhouse gases, it’s time for climate change deniers to finally give in to the evidence.
Happy Earth Day!