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Carbon Diet: Reflections on a Week Well Spent

By:  Bryan Jacob Apr 22, 2013
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Bryan Jacob's wrist watch

Happy Earth Day!

I had a good time blogging for you last week. Today I'm going to reflect back on that low(er)-carbon lifestyle exercise. But I never had a chance to post last week about our household energy use. So let me cover that first:

Home energy use accounts for 25% of our household GHG emissions – our third biggest category behind driving and flying (40%) and food and diet (30%). I want to report that I didn’t neglect this area. While I didn’t have time over this last week to implement “major” infrastructure upgrades (for example, I know I need to replace some single-pane windows), I was able to make a few simple investments.

LED light

One specific upgrade is LED (light emitting diode) lighting. We have an outdoor security light on a photosensor that stays on overnight (dusk to dawn) and has bulbs shining two directions. I had previously “tested” a super-efficient LED bulb. We already had a number of LED bulbs inside our house, but I had been looking for one that is designed for outdoor use – and that could accommodate the dimming control of the photosensor. The test proved successful with one of the bulbs, so I completed the project this weekend by buying/installing another. 

Changing light bulbs may not sound like such a dramatic endeavor, but this does represent a pretty significant investment. Each bulb cost US$53.00. (Wow!  Who in their right mind would pay $50+ for a light bulb?) Well this LED bulb operates on 17 Watts and puts out 1050 lumens (light output equivalent to a 90 Watt bulb it replaced). And it has a rated life of 25,000 hours, so throughout the bulb’s life, it will save us $200.

The other thing I did last week to address our home energy use was to sign-up for our utility’s Green Power Option. Many utilities offer similar programs. And while most do cost extra (ours is $4.50 for each 150 kWh block I buy), I was able to estimate the savings from the energy efficiency upgrades, and channel those savings back into our Green Power purchase. In other words, I don’t expect my bill to go up, rather stay the same – i.e., the energy efficiency projects are paying for my green power.

Okay, Now on to My Reflections From Last Week:

A key learning for me, and it came up several times last week, is that advance PLANNING seems essential for leading a low-carbon lifestyle. Whether it’s clustering calls and webinars onto a single day for the week to enable telecommuting, or investing enough time to understand the public transport schedule and give my car a day off, that won’t happen without planning ahead. (BTW: I also renewed my ZipCar membership, so that option will be available for me again next time.)

I would also say that I’d rather see people doing the wrong thing for the right reason, than doing the right thing for the wrong reason. People I work with have heard me say this before, but it came back to me when I was pondering whether local, organic food necessarily has a lower carbon footprint. I still don’t know the definitive answer (or even if there is one). But my point is to do what you THINK is right. Making these conscious decisions suggests that you’re trying to do the right thing, even when you (we) aren’t sure what the right thing is to make the greatest impact.

And lastly, I’d say “Do the Math.” This is not the same as the message Bill McKibben (350.org) is promoting with that title after his great article in Rolling Stone last year. But I mean, like I implied above, the economics of a $50 light bulb can be overwhelmingly positive. Looking beyond just the initial purchase price (“sticker shock”) and considering the full life of the asset will inform sound investment decisions.

Bryan Jacob wrist watch

The only other thing I want to comment on is that Friday was my 20-year Anniversary with The Coca‑Cola Company. To commemorate that accomplishment, my wife and kids gave me a watch that I just love. It’s made of wood. And for each watch purchased, the company plants a tree. (That’s good news because I had included tree planting in a Personal Sustainability Plan I created a few years ago and I hadn’t planted one yet this year, so now I’m covered.) And I’ll wear that watch proudly to remember both the tree that was planted and my first 20 years with the Company.

Thank you for letting me share this experience with you. Hat's off to those of you who live a low-carbon lifestyle every day. You're an inspiration to all of us. Keep up the good work. And Happy Earth Day again.

Bryan Jacob is Climate Protection Director at The Coca-Cola Company.