growing number of people these days are debating whether to buy a hybrid car,
use public transportation, or ride a bike to work. Those decisions impact what is being called a person's
"carbon footprint" - the amount of carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases a person's activities produce. Producer
Zulima Palacio looks into the issue of the carbon footprint and offers suggestions on how to
reduce it. Mil Arcega narrates this Searching for Solutions report.
Almost every action in our daily lives - being at home with the lights on, watching TV or
driving a car - involves energy use. And most energy use produces carbon dioxide and other
Now, governments and environmental organizations are
measuring the carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases our activities produce. This
is called the carbon footprint.
"A carbon footprint is essentially the sum total
of an individual's energy use," explains Katie Mandes of the PEW Center on Global Climate Change.
A carbon calculator can help individuals measure
their carbon footprint. Just type "Carbon Footprint" into your
favorite search engine, and you will find thousands of groups that can measure
A "Personal Emissions
Calculator" can be found on the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency's website. When you answer questions about your
house, transportation routines and lifestyle, the calculator itemizes and adds
up your energy use.
"A well-designed calculator will give an
individual specific tools and tips that they can use to immediately begin to
reduce their carbon footprint," Mandes added.
Scott Sklar has been working to reduce his carbon
footprint for nearly 40 years. He has transformed his 1920s house outside
Washington, D.C. into an environmentally friendly home, using many kinds of solar
"On my 3.1 kilowatt house, I have two kilowatts
of polycrystalline across the top roof and a half a kilowatt of photovoltex on
the smaller roof and my solar water heater equals about over a half a
kilowatt,” Sklar said. “So I have 3 kilowatts on a 3.1 kw house, which means on
a day like today, it's a spring day, I am not drawing any electricity from the
Sklar installed additional insulation throughout his
home, a vent in the attic to lower the inside temperature during the summer, and a wind turbine to generate electricity,
in addition to the solar water heater.
"When I put that on in the mid 1980s, that added
about eight dollars a month to my mortgage. I was saving $25 a month in energy
cost, and now I am saving $40 a month on my energy cost, and it's all been paid
off,” Skiar added.
Around the house, Sklar has planted fruits and
berries, and he collects runoff water in barrels to water his garden. In the
basement, he keeps batteries that store
the electricity from the solar panels. "These are 24-deep cycle batteries. They don't
need any maintenance, and they store the electricity from the panels across the
roof," he explained.
Sklar has energy-efficient appliances and ceiling
fans that circulate air.
He gives tours of his property to clients of his
company, The Stella Group. It helps
government and private companies transform their buildings so they are energy
Over the past three years, Sklar has been testing
hydrogen fuel cells. "This electricity is made without heat, without noise
and the only emission is pure water, and the water actually waters this little
tree here in the corner," Sklar said.
He says about 80 percent of today's clean energy is
"The global warming issue is finally, I think,
taking root, that people have to do something about it themselves first before
they worry about governments or anybody else getting involved," he said.
Sklar drives a hybrid car. He says in the near future home energy will be tied to onsite energy systems, whether solar,
wind, fuel cell or other clean technologies, and this will help reduce our carbon footprint.