By now, most of us understand how crucial it is to reduce emissions and live sustainably, and are doing our part to reduce our carbon footprint through various means.
It is vital that industries do the same. Here is a summary of the outsized environmental impact that is being made by some of them, and the measures being taken to bring them in line:
Transportation accounts for 29 percent of the total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. While driving can never be eliminated, emissions can at least be curtailed.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) are working together to do the latter, by establishing standards that improve vehicles’ fuel efficiency. Through these regulations, a projected six billion metric tons of emissions will be cut over the lifetime of passenger vehicles sold between this year and 2025. Heavy-duty trucks, meanwhile, project a CO2 emission reduction of 270 million metric tons.
While carpooling, autonomous vehicles and ride-sharing services can also help alleviate this problem, legislative changes could have as big an impact as any.
Generating electricity results in 28 percent of U.S. emissions. Coal, natural gas, and petroleum account for nearly two-thirds of our total electricity produced. Renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric power, make up a mere 16.2 percent of electricity, but it stands to reason that we can shift our electricity to become more sustainable.
Again, a large part of the EPA’s strategy to combat emissions from electricity involves increasing efficiency of existing fossil-fuel power plants by using advanced technologies or by substituting natural gas or petroleum for coal. In addition, the EPA is seeking to increase end-use energy efficiency, hoping to reduce the total amount of energy needed to power homes, businesses, and industries. These efforts have removed over 290 million metric tons of emissions and saved Americans over $30 million in energy costs.
This sector makes up 22 percent of our emissions, whether by direct or indirect means. Direct emissions involve the burning of fuel or chemical reactions that are used to create products, from petroleum being used in making plastics to producing materials like iron, steel, and cement. Indirect emissions refer to the emissions created through the use of electricity to power the machines and facilities that create the products. In addition to this, a third of the emissions from industrial production are a result of leaks from natural gas and petroleum-based systems.
One of the main methods for reducing emissions in this sector is recycling. By using scrap steel and scrap aluminum to reproduce those materials, it saves time and energy that would otherwise be devoted to smelting new aluminum or forging steel. The EPA continues to espouse energy efficiency to reduce emissions, and the use of sensors — part of a larger trend toward the Industrial Internet of Things — can help with leak detection.
While these areas have mostly to do with business and large-picture changes, individuals can still work to reduce their own carbon footprint and to encourage those around them to do the same. By considering sustainability and emission reduction in one’s decisions as a consumer, it could very well lead to shifts in the market and urge businesses to change their practices.