| Ford Church

Carbon Neutral Action Project, 1st Quarter 2006

This quarter’s CAP class’
action project focused on educating people about the practice of being “carbon
neutral” and supporting renewable energy sources. In order to do this we studied conventional
energy sources, alternatives to these, and what it means to be carbon neutral.

In order to fully understand
carbon neutrality you have to know how the conventional energy grid works. We found out that fossil fuels, such as coal
and natural gas, are turned into energy at power plants and then that
electricity is sent to the “grid.” The
grid is best thought of as a general pool of electricity that is fed through
infrastructure like power lines, transformers and household sockets. All the houses and businesses in the
community are connected to the grid and use the electricity from it. Unfortunately, in order for this handy system
to function, we learned that the fossil fuels must be burned to generate this
energy. When fossil fuels are burned
they emit carbon dioxide into the air. In fact, when carbon dioxide is emitted into the air it combines with
other molecules and triples in weight, so for every 6 pounds of gasoline
burned, 18-20 pounds of carbon dioxide and other gases are created.  The existence of these gases in the
atmosphere is regarded by the general scientific community to be a significant
factor in climate change and, as such, the reduction of these gases would
benefit our ecological well-being. Also,
only 15-40% of the carbon dioxide emissions each person produces come from
their personal actions (driving a car, heating a home, etc.). The other 60-85% comes from goods and
services you consume via factory emissions, energy used for transport,

Becoming carbon neutral helps
to fix this problem. To be carbon
neutral means to balance the amount of CO2 you put into the air by either
producing no carbon emissions whatsoever (which is very difficult and nearly
impossible) or by supporting a Green Tag/Sustainable Energy Credit/Renewable
Energy Credit programs. These programs
function by calculating an individual’s carbon emissions and, based on the
amount, providing a dollar amount that then goes toward the subsidizing the use
of renewable energy infrastructure. Much
confusion arises from the question of if you get strictly wind energy once you
buy a Green Tag. The answer is no. The money goes to adding more renewable
energy to the “grid” in the hopes that in the future this alternative energy
will push out conventional sources like coal or natural gas.

We talked to Diane Dandeneau
from the ConservED program about local businesses and companies that are
involved in the carbon neutral movement and we even created a website that
should be up and running soon. In addition
to surveying people and then educating them about what they could do to both
cut down their carbon emissions and support renewable energy to supplement
their emissions, we spent over 35 hours researching the details of this
complicated and controversial topic. When it was all said and done, we learned a tremendous amount regarding
where we get our energy and how we can do very easy and tangible things to
alter this. Ultimately, this will be our
generation’s duty to convert the existing energy structures into more
ecologically sound and efficient ones.

Categories: Action Projects

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