The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 16, 2008


What’s in your carbon footprint?

Communities across Massachusetts are taking on the challenge of reducing carbon emissions through a program known as Low Carbon Living (LoCaL).

Launched in 2007 by the Massachusetts Climate Action Network (MCAN), the LoCaL program is modeled on the nationally directed Low Carbon Diet (LCD) program. The LoCaL program provides trainings, web resources, outreach and events to help carbon dieters succeed. Residents of 50 cities and towns, including Acton, Bedford, Concord, and Lexington have started a LoCaL team or been trained as a team leader, making Massachusetts a strong contender for “Biggest Loser” in the national battle of the carbon bulge.

How low can you go?

The LoCaL Program offers a user-friendly way to reduce the financial and environmental costs of home energy usage. LoCaL households aim to lose 5,000 pounds of CO2 emissions in a year. The program provides a step-by-step guideline for achieving this goal.

Step one is awareness. Households begin by measuring their carbon footprint through a simple energy audit. This can be a fun family activity, where each member can see its impact and opportunity to make a difference. Participants then customize their CO2 “weight loss plan” by choosing from a menu of 24 suggested actions proven to increase efficiency and cut emissions. Even those who are already lowering thermostats and using CFL bulbs will find many ideas to build on these positive actions. Households then track their energy saving practices monthly.

LoCaL programs can be implemented by individual households or teams of five to eight households with no limit on the number of teams within a community. For example, the Concord goal is 1,000 LCD households. Working on a team adds creative ideas, camaraderie, practical support, and celebration of success, keeping morale and momentum high over time.

The program not only lowers emissions, it also lowers expenses. Turning off electrical appliances, TVs, computers, etc. when not in use can yield estimated savings of 58kWh/month (kWh = kilowatt hour). This equates to $6 to $11/month or $72 to $132/year, with an annual CO2 “loss” of 315 pounds. Washing clothes in cold water can generate savings of 63 kWh/month for savings of $7 to $12/month or $84 to $144/year and an associated CO2 loss of 343 pounds. By achieving real CO2 weight loss in just one month, LoCaL participants are motivated to sustain these and similar changes over time, melting additional CO2 pounds and establishing new habits that can shift the tide of climate change.

Carlisle is going LoCaL beginning May 29 with a town-wide information session from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Union Hall sponsored by Carlisle Climate Action, an MCAN member, and the First Religious Society’s Environmental Action group.

Through programs like LoCaL, Americans are positioned to become major players in the global CO2 reduction effort. At a time when bad news about the environment can be overwhelming, it is welcome good news to know that sustained conservation practices -- a strategy well within the reach of every household -- can make a difference. Whether your motivation is economic or environmental, LoCaL offers a proven path for communities to meet the mounting challenges of climate change. With so much at stake, what have we got to lose? ∆

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito