Offsetting your Yale Flights

Considering that out-of-staters and non-New Englanders comprise about 54% of Yale Students (including 10% international students), the fact is that a lot of us fly to get to and from Yale. In 2000, 1409 freshman matriculated, and of them, roughly 760 were not from the New England or “Middle Atlantic” area (Regional Origins of YC Freshmen PDF).

Almost inevitably, this means that about this many students had to fly to get to Yale at the start of the term, and that most of them probably had to fly to get back home at the end of term. And let’s not forget the winter break, where the majority of these students do fly home.

Let’s do the math

1 flight from San Francisco to Hartford (with a layover in Chicago) generates about .58 metric tons of carbon dioxide. A flight from Florida to Hartford generates about .2 metric tons of CO2. You get the picture.

When you add up averaged domestic flight emissions data for one class of Yalies from the south, the middle states, the south-west, and the pacific coast, and multiply for Winter Break and end-of-term, Yalies must create at least 828 metric tons of carbon dioxide every year on flights alone- and that’s not counting international students, Thanksgiving break, Spring Break, a capella tours, study abroad, and summer study abroad!

If you include international students, the numbers more than double: if you calculate average international-regional flight emissions and multiply them by 3.75 (domestic students’ numbers were multiplied by 4: coming to Yale, going home for winter break, coming back from winter break, going home at end of term. I changed this to 3.75 for international students because I figure some of them will stay in the states for winter break, but may take a domestic flight), these flights would have to generate about 1,247 metric tons carbon dioxide.

This brings us to an average total of about 2,075 metric tons of carbon dioxide for one undergraduate class’s  flights in one academic term. Multiply this average by the 4 undergraduate classes and you find that

Just by flying to and from school, Yale undergraduates create 8,300 metric tons of CO2 in a single term.

Though this number was obtained using averages and estimates, the numbers are still pretty astounding. To give some scope to this number, an average two-person household (including waste, electricity, cars, heating, and gas) emits 18.8 metric tons per year. This means that over the course of a term, a bare-bones CO2 emissions estimate reveals that

Yale’s undergraduate flights alone are equivalent to an entire year’s worth of carbon dioxide emissions from at least 441 American homes.

What’s the solution?

It’s not as if we can force our families to move to New England. When flying is a necessity, one of the best ways to repair the CO2 damage done is to pay an organization that specializes in offsetting, like the highly-acclaimed UK group Climate Care, to do it for you.

On their home page, they have a neat calculator (used for all the calculations above) to determine how much CO2 your flights have created, and how much money it would cost to offset the flights. To give you some ballpark estimates, offsetting a flight from JFK to London costs about $13.75. To offset a flight from San Francisco to New York costs about $10.25. From Dallas to Hartford, it costs $4.60.

I know what you’re thinking: Who are you going to get to buy these for you? Well, as someone who’s up to my ears in useless stuff, and can’t afford to bring back another suitcase full of unneeded winter gear from my naive California relatives this Christmas, I for one am going to ask for greener gifts this holiday season – one of which is going to be a handful of carbon offsets from Climate Care UK.

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Cut the Waste – No more paper coffee cups!

Coffee-statistics.com tells us that Americans alone consume 400 million cups of coffee per day — that’s 146 billion cups of coffee per year!

What’s really disturbing is that the US Census tells us that the American population as of 2007 is 301,621,157. 400 million cups per day for 300 million people!

Now, just imagine how many of those drinks are poured into single-use disposable coffee cups. According to Starbucks, if 50 customers at each location used reusable mugs, we would save 150,000 cups per day, reducing waste by 1.7 million pounds of paper per year.

Doing your part is easy – just bring a thermos or a mug to the coffee shop with you. Yale STEP has made it even easier with their stylish new STEP Mug, available for only $5. Contact your college’s STEP coordinator for one now!

The New Taboo: Bottled Water

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You may have heard the buzz surrounding the use of bottled water, and it seems like what was once quite an ordinary artifact at most barbecues, conventions, parties, and any other get-togethers (not to mention regular, everyday usage) has become a veritable symbol of wastefulness – and for good reason.

Here are 10 interesting (and somewhat scary) facts about bottled water:

1. “An estimated 25 percent or more of bottled water is really just tap water in a bottle—sometimes further treated, sometimes not treated at all.” – Allaboutwater.org

2. Drinking bottled water is 1000 (one thousand!) times more expensive than drinking tap water.

3. “In an interesting study conducted by Showtime television, the hosts found that 75% of tested New York City residents actually preferred tap water over bottled water in a blind taste test.” – Allaboutwater.org

4. “Bottling and shipping water is the least efficient method of water delivery ever invented. The energy we waste using bottled water would be enough to power 190,000 homes. But refilling your water bottle from the tap requires no expenditure of energy, and zero waste of resources.” – PBS.org

5. “The Earth Policy Institute estimated that to make the plastic for the [water] bottles [consumed annually] burns up something like 1.5 million barrels of oil, enough to power 100,000 cars for a year.” – SeattlePI.com

6. “Nearly 90 percent of [water] bottles are not recycled.” SeattlePI.com

7. “Bottled water is actually much less regulated than tap water. There are a number of studies in which we find arsenic, disinfection byproducts and bacteria in bottled water.” – SeattlePI.com, quoting Gina Solomon

8. 30 million water bottles are thrown away every day, and each one of them takes 1000 years to biodegrade. – emagazine.com.

9. “In one case, bottled water labeled as “Alaska Premium Glacier Drinking Water: Pure Glacier Water from the Last Unpolluted Frontier” was actually drawn from Public Water System #111241 in Juneau.” – emagazine.com.

10. Buying one gallon’s worth of bottled water is three times more expensive than buying one gallon of gasoline. – emagazine.com

If all that wasn’t enough to convince you not to buy bottled water, consider this: “Instead of relying on a mostly preexisting infrastructure of underground pipes and plumbing, delivering bottled water—often from places as far-flung as France, Iceland or Maine—burns fossil fuels and results in the release of thousands of tons of harmful emissions. Since some bottled water is also shipped or stored cold, electricity is expended for refrigeration. Energy is likewise used in bottled water processing. In filtration, an estimated two gallons of water is wasted for every gallon purified.” – emagazine.com

 

Now, here are tips for alternatives to buying bottled water:

 

-Get a filter for your tap (unless your tap water is quite good in the first place). There are many ways to go about doing this, from getting a Brita-filter to go over your faucet spout to installing one right into the sink system.

– Nalgene bottles are great.

-Brita pitchers are also really great for those who can’t get the faucet filters (e.g. college students).

-For barbecues, parties, and other events, use pitchers or water dispensers that you can use over and over again. In conjunction with these, try to also provide reusable cups instead of disposable cups, and if you must use disposables, try to get recyclable disposables.

 

Unplug for Thanksgiving Break!

Hey guys, just a reminder to UNPLUG all of your electronics before going home for Thanksgiving! After all, why let all those appliances draw electricity when you’re not even going to be here?

Psst: this would be easier for you if you used surge protectors (see this post). Think about investing in some for your suite. Not only do they help save a bunch of energy, they make things like this much, much easier. Instead of unplugging bunches of different appliances, you only have to unplug two or three surge protectors!

Also, don’t forget to turn off your radiators. In the meanwhile, while we’re still here, have you turned those down yet? If you can, be sure to do so! After all, why waste energy overheating your suite just to get all sweaty when you get blasted by the heat coming in from the cold?

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And speaking of Thanksgiving, why don’t you print out this list from About.com for your family? Everybody likes an Eco-Friendly Thanksgiving:

 

1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

To make your Thanksgiving celebration as eco-friendly as possible, start with the three Rs of conservation: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Reduce the amount of waste you produce by buying only as much as you need and choosing products that come in packaging that can be recycled.

Carry reusable bags when you do your shopping, and use cloth napkins that can be washed and used again.

Recycle paper, and all plastic, glass and aluminum containers. If you don’t already have a compost bin, use your Thanksgiving fruit and vegetable trimmings to start one. The compost will enrich the soil in your garden next spring.

 

2. Buy and Eat Locally Grown Food

Buying only locally grown food is one good way to have an eco-friendly Thanksgiving. Locally grown food is good for your table, your health and the environment. Locally grown food tastes better than food that has to be grown and packaged for maximum shelf life, and it requires less fuel to reach store shelves. Locally grown food also contributes more to your local economy, supporting local farmers as well as local merchants.

 

3. Make Your Meal Organic

Using only organic food for your feast is another good eco-friendly Thanksgiving strategy. Organic fruits, vegetables and grains are grown without chemical pesticides and fertilizers; organic meat is produced without antibiotics and artificial hormones. The result is food that is better for your health and good for the environment. Organic farming also produces higher yields, increases soil fertility, prevents erosion, and is more cost-effective for farmers.

 

4. Celebrate at Home

Thanksgiving weekend is one of heaviest for highway travel in the United States. This year, why not reduce global warming and improve air quality by lowering your auto emissions at the same time that you lower your family’s stress level? Skip the stressful holiday travel and celebrate an eco-friendly Thanksgiving at home.

 

5. Travel Smart

If you must go over the river and through the woods, there are still ways to have an eco-friendly Thanksgiving. If you drive, use less fuel and lower your emissions by making sure your car is in good working order and your tires are properly inflated. If possible, carpool to reduce the number of cars on the road and lower the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to air pollution and global warming. If you fly, consider purchasing carbon credits to offset your portion of the carbon dioxide emissions generated by your flight. A typical long-haul flight produces nearly four tons of carbon dioxide.

 

6. Invite the Neighbors

The original Thanksgiving was a neighborly affair. Having survived their first winter in America only through the generosity of the native people who lived nearby, the Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock celebrated a bountiful harvest with a three-day feast to give thanks to God and their Indian neighbors. Your neighbors probably haven’t saved your life, but chances are they have done things to make your life easier or more enjoyable. Inviting them to share your eco-friendly Thanksgiving is an opportunity to say thank you, and also to reduce auto emissions by keeping more people off the road or ensuring shorter trips.

 

7. Plant a Tree

Trees absorb carbon dioxide—a greenhouse gas that contributes to the greenhouse effect and global warming—and give off oxygen in return. Planting one tree may not seem to matter much in the face of global climate change, but small things do matter. In one year, the average tree absorbs roughly 26 pounds of carbon dioxide and returns enough oxygen to supply a family of four.

 

… and you can find the rest at 10 Tips for an Eco-Friendly Thanksgiving.

Also, check out these other links for a Greener Thanksgiving:

http://www.environmentaldefense.org/pressrelease.cfm?contentID=2470

http://www.grist.org/advice/possessions/2003/11/20/index.html

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/442725/eco_friendly_thanksgiving_ideas.html

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/423844/how_to_prepare_an_ecofriendly_thanksgiving.html

http://www.sierraclub.org/sustainable_consumption/articles/thanksgiving.asp

http://psychology.suite101.com/article.cfm/how_to_plan_a_green_thanksgiving

Green Weddings

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Though the majority of you Yale Students won’t need to think about this anytime in the near future, at our last meeting, fellow RA Sara Smiley Smith brought up a really interesting subject: green weddings! There are a lot of ways to green a wedding:

– Use environmentally friendly invitations (and printed things in general)

– Use organic foods/catering, makeup products…

– Where appropriate, use as many recycled and recyclable products as you can (programs, thank-you cards, menus, flatware, etc.)

– Buy eco-friendly wedding rings (from recycled precious metals, etc.)

– Use a hybrid luxury car

– Ask your guests to buy you eco-friendly gifts (energy-star appliances, etc.)

– Get an eco-friendly wedding dress (yes, they exist!)

– …and many more! (See 10 Steps to a Green Wedding: http://sierraclub.typepad.com/greenlife/2007/03/10_steps_to_a_g.html )

Here is a slew of links you might find intriguing:

Green Wedding Services,

http://www.greenweddings.net/greenservices.html

Great Green Weddings,

http://www.greatgreenwedding.com/default.php

Environmental Wedding Favors,

http://www.favorideas.com/wedding-themes/unique-themes/green-or-environmental-wedding-favors/

Nice Day for a Green Wedding,

http://www.grist.org/advice/possessions/2003/05/08/

How Green Was My Wedding,

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/11/fashion/11green.html

Green Elegance Weddings,

http://www.greeneleganceweddings.com/

Global Giving, a resource for charitable and green gift registry,

http://www.globalgiving.com/howitworks.html

Perhaps, even though you yourselves probably won’t need these links anytime soon, you can bring up the idea of a green wedding in casual conversation if you know any couples that are planning to seal the deal…

PS: Don’t forget about a green honeymoon! (Ecotourism?…)

Energy-Saving Tip #1: Power Strips

Surge Protector

Even when they’re powered off, laptop and cell phone chargers, TVs, stereos, and other electronics continue to draw electricity from the grid if plugged in.

One great way to save energy would be to unplug your laptop and cell phone charger when you’re not using them. More effectively, you could plug your cell phone charger, laptop charger, printer, TV, stereo (and/or any other appliances you don’t need when you’re not in the room) into a surge protector. When you leave the room, simply flip that switch off (or better yet, unplug the power strip!), and save energy without the trouble of having to unplug a mass of cables and plugs!

At the very least, when you happen to go out of town for a few days, be sure to unplug your TV, stereo, desktop computer, and/or any other large appliances that won’t be used while you’re gone.

For more tips on how to live sustainably, visit http://www.yale.edu/sustainability/takeAction.htm .