AS SEEN IN USA TODAY’S LIFE SECTION, JUNE 1, 2006
One family takes on carbon dioide
Grass-roots can-do makes dent in use of fossil fuels
"We are probably at one-quarter the carbon emissions of the typical Colorado household," Toor says.
A planned solar hot-water system will reduce emissions even more.
By Tom Kenworthy USA TODAY
Carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel combustion is 82% of the human contribution to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that capture energy from the sun, the Energy Department says. Scientists blame rising temperatures on increasing concentrations of these gases.
BOULDER, Colo. — In a time of global warming, Will Toor and family are leading by example.
Toor, 44, commutes most days by bicycle to his job as a Boulder County commissioner, and when he can't bike, he takes the bus for the short ride from his home.
Toor and his family, which includes son Nicky, 8, and daughter Tera, 3, are doing what experts say must be done if Americans are going to make a difference in efforts to slow global warming.
He and his wife, Mariella Colvin, 43, own one car, a 13-year- old Honda Civic that gets 40 miles a gallon and is driven just 5,000 miles a year.
Their home, though built in 1928, is a model of energy efficiency.
If the USA were serious about combating warming, it would have to reduce carbon dioxide by about 80%, says David Hawkins, who heads the Natural Resources Defense Council's climate center. "It's not rocket science," Hawkins says. "The tools are in the toolbox. The challenge is to get them out of the toolbox and into people's hands."
They cut their electrical use by two-thirds by installing compact fluorescent light bulbs, buying an energy-efficient washing machine and refrigerator and retiring the clothes dryer in favor of an outdoor clothesline.
Because electricity production and transportation account for about two-thirds of humans' carbon dioxide emissions, "the biggest things that need to happen are to make electricity differently and make vehicles that are much more efficient and use lower-carbon fuels," Hawkins says.
Toor and Colvin, an environmental activist who now is a stay- at-home mom, recently installed solar panels on their garage. The system is tied in to the grid and reduced their electric use in the first month to 25 kilowatts. The bill was $2.50.
As part of a major remodeling project, they were able to cut their use of natural gas in half by using passive solar elements such as insulating windows, putting extra insulation in the walls and under the roof and installing a heat-recovering ventilation system.
In that vision, Hawkins says, the USA would generate far more electricity from wind, solar and biofuels, and electric plants using conventional fossil fuels would capture carbon dioxide emissions. Cars would be made far more efficient by running on biomass, which the Energy Department defines as organic material used to produce energy.
But even without government and industry making broad changes, Toor is showing that individuals and families can make a significant difference on their own.
Here’s how energy-saving numbers stack up
1 – Averages from July and December 2005
Sources: USA TODAY research by Tom Kenworthy and Susan O’Brian; Xcel Energy; Energy Information Agency
Toor-Colvin family Electricity use in kilowatts
Average monthly use in Colorado in 20051 Natural gas use in therms
Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
By Frank Pompa, USA TODAY
Automobile mileage 12,497