Being green isn’t always easy. There’s a million products and services claiming to be green, many just greenwashing, and knowing where to put your money is tough. But starting with the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions makes a lot of sense.
Electricity and heat generation created 41% of fossil fuel related carbon dioxide emissions in 2010. The average home uses 1000kWh hours of electricity per month, which generates 12420 lbs of CO2 for a PSE customer (PSE is a large Washington state energy utility). PSE power is actually greener than many other electricity providers as about a third of the power is hydro, but the other two thirds is mostly coal and natural gas.
While getting solar panels on your roof is a great solution, it isn’t viable for everyone – you may not get enough sun, have an HOA, live in an apartment, etc.
However many utilities offer green power programs, where you buy power from green sources instead. PSE’s green power generates energy from wind, solar, low impact hydro, livestock and landfill gas, etc. The benefit for the cost is what’s really stunning – for the average home about $10 a month will get 100% green power service generating just 2.31 lbs of CO2 annually – cutting out about 12400 clbs of CO2.
How big an impact is getting green power on CO2 output? If you gave up eating chicken and replaced it with tofu, you’d need to swap out over 2000lbs of chicken to get the same effect (EWG). If you gave up driving, you’d need to drive 11260 miles less each year in the average car to get the same effect (EPA). Needless to say that’s a lot of meatless mondays and biking around to get the same effect as green power.
Green Power + EV
Transportation is another huge area for CO2 emissions. According to the EPA the average gas car puts out .9061lbs of CO2 per mile, meaning 10873lbs of CO2 to drive 12000 miles. An EV driven the same 12000 miles getting 4 miles per kWh would consume 3000kWh…putting out less than one pound of CO2 using PSE green power.
The price for such greenness is actually quite amazing. My last bill was 10.6¢/kWh for green power, meaning going 12000 miles would cost $318. Going 12000 miles in a car averaging 30mpg with gas at $2.75 costs $1100.
While green power marginally costs more than regular power, the difference in CO2 output is stunning. Few, if any, changes in lifestyle the average person could do would match the impact of using green power.
Note: Updated on April 5th 2017 with latest PSE CO2 numbers.