Graham Majorhart is the founder of Carby Box, the first carbon offsets to be sold on Amazon.com.
When landing at Nairobi International Airport, one of the first announcements passengers hear on the airplane is “Please make sure to dispose of your plastic bags on board the aircraft because Kenya has a general plastic bag ban and does not allow them to be brought into the country.”
This is a good idea.
As of August 2017, Kenya has banned the use and manufacture of plastic bags for carrying for commercial and household use. From the picture below, it’s easy to see why this was necessary, with increasing pollution from plastic bags domestically, Kenya was facing a major national problem.
Some might argue that an outright ban on household use of plastic bags is a bit extreme.
Support Business by Charging for Plastic Bags
There are other measures that can be taken reasonably, such as those which have been taken by Germany and China: charging for plastic bags.
In 2008, China enacted a law stating that all retail outlets must charge customers for thin plastic bags. From my experience in China for 6 years, the normal price of a plastic bag at the supermarket was about $0.01. Interestingly however, this caused the national usage of plastic bags of the types targeted to drop by about 65%, and it is easy to see why. If we are all forced to ask ourselves “do I need a plastic bag?” there are many times that we will realize that we don’t. Also, it forces the employees at the checkout process to turn off “auto-bagging.”
This type of psychology is reminiscent of the opt-in vs. opt-out programs. Germany has an opt-in system for organ donation and has only 12% consent rate, while its neighbor Austria is opt-out system and has a 99.8% consent rate. If everyone is forced to “opt-out” of taking a plastic bag, there are very few people who will take that leap; however, if everyone is forced to “opt-in” to taking a plastic bag, we will see a dramatic fall in the amount of people taking a plastic bag at checkout.
Germany and the European Union are pushing for reductions in plastic bag use through higher fees on plastic bags and getting support from the retail industry. With strong government leadership, the retail industry can benefit in three ways from charging for plastic bags:
- Increased revenue through plastic bag sales
- Reduced costs for plastic bag purchases
- Lower costs for society for garbage disposal, and lower environmental costs which impact all areas of society including retails – this means lower taxes and lower fees for business
Kenya is at the extreme end of the spectrum in terms of an outright plastic bag ban, but there are good examples to follow from China and Germany – who simply force customers to opt-in to using plastic bags and have proven a major reduction in overall plastic pollution and costs.
And remember, the decisions we make today last for a long time. According to this insightful sign in the Karura National Forest: “Plastic does not go away.”
Graham Majorhart is the co-founder of Carby Box, the easiest way to become carbon neutral – in 1 click through Amazon.
Great video from attn: showing some of the innovations that are taking place in the technology space for fighting climate change:
- Cool Pavement – painting roads a light color reflects sunlight back into space, reducing the heat-island effect. This is the same principle as a white roof / green roof.
- Mister Trash Wheel – automated boat that picks up trash in the Baltimore harbor.
- Seabin Project – Floating Vacuum sucks up trash, debris, oil and other particulate matter in order to purify the water. Apparently clams and oysters can do the same for purifying water.
- Carbon Dioxide capture for indoor agriculture growth – it’s unclear what the net impact on carbon emissions is from this technology, but it does go to show the level of technology required in order to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Unless, of course, we just let forests do their job.
These inventions give us hope for the planet in 2018.
Posted by ATTN: on Sunday, December 31, 2017
Graham Majorhart is the co-founder of Carby Box, the first way to become carbon neutral through Amazon.com.
Frequently the question arises: “Are electric cars really better for the environment than internal combustion engine cars?”
Short answer: yes – electric cars are better in every state than driving an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle.
- The question arises because electricity must be produced somehow, and in the USA electricity is often produced by burning of fossil fuels such as natural gas and coal.
There are two factors at play that make electric vehicles a better choice for the environment:
- The power mix of the United States has a significant portion of wind, solar, hydro and nuclear, which produce few or no greenhouse gas emissions.
- Power plants are more efficient at generating electricity from fossil fuels than cars are – so even electric vehicles powered by natural gas-generated-electricity will usually get more bang for the environmental buck than simply burning gasoline in the engine of the vehicle.
The Union of Concerned Scientists recently published a study on the total greenhouse gas emissions created required to power an ICE vehicle compared to the greenhouse gas emissions from generating the electricity required to power electric cars. The results of this study are clear:
- If you are driving a new electric car such as the Tesla Model 3, Prius Prime or Honda IONIQ Electric, you will have lower emissions by driving that electric vehicle (EV) than from a 50 mpg ICE car.
Here you can see the data from the Union of Concerned Scientists’ study, showing the equivalent fuel economy of one of these new electric vehicles in each area of the country:
If you’d like to use a tool to check electricity use in your specific area, you can use this tool. For example, if you’re up in Middlebury, VT driving a Tesla Model S – you’re getting the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions as 98 mpg ICE vehicle.
Furthermore, electric vehicles are actually getting more efficient over time – this is due both to improvements in technology and the improvements in the power mix of the United States: more and more renewable energy is powering the electricity grid in the US with coal becoming less common every year.
This is a doubly positive trend because electric vehicles are themselves improving, while the electricity they use is becoming cleaner over time. Renewables make up almost 10% of electricity generated in 2017, and this will continue to increase every year for the foreseeable future.
So the answer is clear: electric cars are certainly better for the environment than old-school gasoline vehicles. Additional advantages of electric vehicles include better performance, less money and time for maintenance because they have fewer moving parts, and that they are a money-saver for their owners.
Graham Majorhart is the co-founder of Carby Box, the first way to become carbon neutral through Amazon.com.
A Simple Question
Recently, there was a question asked very simply “What is the solution for global warming?”
The answer to this question is relatively simple: eliminate the use of fossil fuels in every area of society possible and stop greenhouse gas emissions from other sources such as deforestation and agriculture. However, the size of each of these pieces of the solution is often unclear, so here I will provide a breakdown of what climate change means and what the solutions are on a high level. In future posts, we will dig more deeply into the solutions themselves.
What is Climate Change
Climate Change is the general term for a complex set of changes happening to the environment of our planet.
These changes in the environment primarily include:
- More heat energy trapped in the atmosphere
- More heat energy trapped in the oceans
More heat energy trapped in our planet means that the average overall temperature of the planet is rising over time, and thus the term “global warming.”
The reason for the additional heat trapped in the atmosphere and in the oceans is the creation of greenhouse gasses by humans. Greenhouse gasses prevent heat from escaping the Earth. Planet Earth has always had a greenhouse effect, however human activities have increased the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, leading to an increased amount of heat being trapped – this warms the planet.
Main causes of greenhouse gas emissions are:
- Burning and extraction of fossil fuels
- Deforestation, land use and agriculture
A graph from NASA observations of the planet’s atmosphere shows the levels of Carbon Dioxide from the last 400,000 years:
Consequences of Climate Change
According to NASA, climate change has several main effects:
- Increased average global temperatures
- Warming oceans
- Sea-level rise
- Increased extreme weather events such as extreme disasters
- Ocean acidification
- Shrinking ice sheets, shrinking glaciers and reduced snow cover
Climate Change is driven primarily by the use of fossil fuels and secondarily by greenhouse gas emissions through deforestation, agriculture and other less prominent causes.
The primary way to solve global warming is to eliminate the role of fossil fuels in modern society wherever possible. This means transitioning to renewable and carbon-free energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydro which cause less than 3% of the greenhouse gas emissions of fossil fuel energy sources.
Secondarily, deforestation should be prevented and replaced with sustainable forestry and land-use practices. Because plants breathe in carbon dioxide and store it, they actually remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Therefore, in the simple sense, there are two ways to solve climate change.
- Reduce and stop emissions of greenhouse gases including Carbon Dioxide, Methane, and Nitrous Oxide
- Remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by allowing forests, the oceans and other natural systems to act as carbon sinks – which is what they naturally do. We can encourage this removal of greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere by ending deforestation, ocean habitat destruction and promoting sustainable forestry.
In practice, preventing the emissions of greenhouse gasses means that the following actions must be taken:
- Transportation must end reliance on fossil fuels – must be powered by clean electricity. 28.5% of 2016 emissions in the USA are from transportation.
- Electricity production must come from clean energy sources such as hydro, wind, and solar. 28.4% of 2016 emissions in the USA are from electricity production.
- Industry must learn to capture emissions from chemical production, cement production and utilize green energy for all energy needs. 22% of 2016 greenhouse gas emissions in the USA are from industry.
- Residential and Commercial owners must become efficient with heating and cooling of buildings, as well as utilizing green energy such as solar and wind. 11% of 2016 greenhouse gas emission in the USA are from residential and commercial users – primarily from heating and electricity use.
- Agricultural practices must be improved to use fewer fertilizers, less industrial production of beef, and better sustainable agricultural practices such as sustainable crop rotation and reduced tilling of the soil (which releases carbon). 9% of 2016 greenhouse gas emissions in the USA were from agriculture.
- Land Use and Forestry – cutting down trees not only releases the carbon stored in that tree and in the soil, but also prevents that tree from taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere during the course of its life. Sustainable forestry and land use lead to carbon dioxide being taken out of the atmosphere.
The solution to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is a worldwide commitment that must be enacted across nearly every sector of industry and personal choice. Fortunately, the technology to switch to renewable energy such as solar and wind is readily available, and is now cheaper in most places than energy coming from fossil fuels such as coal and gas. The switch to renewable energy will solve a large piece of the puzzle, if we can act fast enough to implement.
In 2015, 195 parties signed the Paris Agreement, which is a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to prevent the worst aspects of climate change from ever taking place.
Governments, companies and individuals all play a role in solving climate change.
- Governments can set effective regulations to reduce carbon emissions such as a carbon tax
- Companies can commit to sustainable sourcing (look at IKEA for inspiration on sustainable wood sourcing, or Apple for renewable energy use)
- Individuals can commit to reducing their carbon emissions through simple actions like: driving a well-maintained, fuel-efficient vehicle, putting good insulation on their homes and purchasing new heating systems, switching to low-cost energy efficient appliances and lights and turning every electronic device off when it’s not in use.
In addition to reducing our carbon footprints, we can all also take the additional step of offsetting the emissions we cannot prevent through. Carbon offsets projects are projects that prevent greenhouse gas emissions and provide a mechanism for individuals and companies to take direct action on climate change.
We can all play a role in solving climate change in many areas of our lives: citizen, worker, individual. The fundamental premise is: reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Sources used in this article: NASA, EPA, NOAA
Graham Majorhart is the founder of Carby Box, the first way to become carbon neutral in 1-click through Amazon.com.