Tips and tricks to celebrate the holidays sustainably

By Alec Lundberg

Trying to be more sustainable over the holidays? We’ve got you covered! There are many things we can all do to greatly reduce our carbon footprint.

Changing your diet AND eating locally can significantly help reduce the impact of greenhouse gas emissions! Meat and dairy makes up 14.5% of all global CO2 emissions. Beef alternatives like the Beyond Burger and the Impossible burger are around 20 times smaller than that produced by the same amount of beef. For some plant-based foods, production emissions can be below zero. This means that the production of these foods removes CO2 from the atmosphere— This is particularly true for nuts because some nut trees can be incorporated onto agricultural land – increasing its uptake of CO2. Additionally, transporting food by air emits around 50 times as much greenhouse gases as transporting the same amount by sea.

Switching to a vegetarian, vegan, or other type of diet can make all the difference! A switch to veganism, for example, could save almost 8bn tonnes of CO2e a year by 2050, when compared to a “business-as-usual” scenario. (By comparison, all food production currently causes around 13.7bn tonnes of CO2e a year.)

Dairy-alternatives like Oat Milk have significantly smaller carbon footprints in terms of land-use impacts and water requirements compared to regular dairy.

“The latest academic studies find that plant milks cause less than half the emissions of dairy milks, but these could be reduced even further by using renewable energy in production and when recycling the packaging.” Another thing to keep in mind when grocery shopping is that certain vegetables have a lower carbon footprint than others, with zucchini, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, and fennel being the lowest. Peas and beans also have a low carbon footprint because they absorb nitrogen. It’s been scientifically proven that eating less meat and dairy helps keep C02 emissions low. This is crucial if we want to meet the standards set by the Paris Climate Accords!

https://interactive.carbonbrief.org/what-is-the-climate-impact-of-eating-meat-and-dairy/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3394405/

https://slate.com/technology/2009/11/which-fruits-vegetables-and-other-crops-have-the-smallest-environmental-footprints.html

Start a garden and grow your own food! Gardening yourself gives you the greatest amount of control over what goes on your plants and into your soil. By growing your own food, you’ll get peace of mind knowing what you are eating and what has gone into producing that item. Not only does commercial farming emit harmful chemicals into the air as mentioned above, but it also pours harmful chemicals into our soil and water. Conventional farming utilizes an extreme amount of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers to grow their commercialized crops, filling our earth and the foods that we are consuming with harmful chemicals, some that have even been proven to cause cancer and other diseases.

By growing your own garden, you are the one to decide what goes on your plants and into your soil, allowing you to reduce the amount of harmful chemicals polluting our environment and waterways. Organically growing your own food is sustainable and nourishes your soil by using safe and natural fertilizers and products. Growing food yourself also eliminates the concern of monocropping, which greatly reduces biodiversity, relies heavily on pesticides and commercial fertilizers, and often involves heavily mechanized farming practices. You’ll also avoid consuming plastic packaging, which often can’t be properly “recycled.” Yes, it’s true, growing a garden is one of the most sustainable practices on the planet!

https://www.onegreenplanet.org/environment/how-growing-your-own-food-can-benefit-the-planet/

https://www.trianglepest.com/blog/what-are-environmental-benefits-growing-your-own-food

Travel light, green, and offset emissions! The travel sector accounts for 8% of global carbon emissions. Climate change research by the BBC found that compared to air travel, you can reduce your CO2 emissions between 50% and 80% by taking a train, coach, or even a full passenger car instead. If you must travel by plane, you can still make more climate-friendly choices! Choosing a greener airline can offer greener forms of air travel. Major carriers such as Virgin Atlantic, United Airlines, and JetBlue have each launched sustainability programs to improve fuel efficiency, initiate recycling programs, and adopt the use of biofuels. For a more detailed list of popular airlines, view this list from greenvacations.com. Packing light can also make a difference— The heavier the plane, the higher the fuel consumption and the bigger the carbon footprint. And if you’re embarking on an action-packed holiday with surfboards, skis, or camping goods, try to rent them locally instead. Don’t forget, if you’re worried about the emissions incurred during travel, there are a myriad of ways to offset them! You can purchase carbon offsets to restore the natural balance at websites like https://sustainabletravel.org/.

Live in a bike-friendly neighborhood? Electric bicycles are selling like hotcakes – and they have been for years.

Even in the US where the public has been slower to catch on to e-bikes, new electric bicycle companies have reached over a hundred thousand sales in just two years. The more established electric bicycle companies in the US are raking in hundreds of millions of dollars in funding as investors awaken to the huge surge in e-bike adoption. In Europe, electric bicycles are even more common and are actually projected to outsell cars by the middle of this decade. Not just outsell electric cars. All cars.

https://electrek.co/2020/05/01/electric-bike-sales-skyrocket-during-lockdown/

How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint When You Travel? – Terrapass

Invest sustainably! Did you know that there are all kinds of sustainable funds now offered on investment platforms? Make your dollar truly green with affordable funds that don’t invest in fossil fuels and instead support alternative/renewable energies, water conservation, and companies that have pledged to mitigate climate change!

https://www.fidelity.com/mutual-funds/investing-ideas/sustainable-investing?imm_pid=700000001752670&immid=100775&imm_eid=ep60581816211&gclid=CjwKCAiAs92MBhAXEiwAXTi2533GsBwNpo6IrVtbietsgrCzHBzm2cRzuvJtw6rhnYfJJn_ekXKegRoCumsQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

Lastly (and maybe most importantly)… Call and email your politicians! Demand that your senators and representatives pass sweeping environmental changes. Keep up the pressure and let your voice be heard! It’s important to know that just 100 of all the hundreds of thousands of companies in the world have been responsible for 71% of the global GHG emissions that cause global warming since 1998, according to The Carbon Majors Database, a report recently published by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). Only your politicians can hold these companies accountable and enact laws that enforce climate accountability! Remember, Climate Change affects us all, some more disproportionately than others—particularly minorities and indigenous people. Often, minorities live in areas that are more prone to destruction due to Climate Change. Everyone is entitled to a clean and healthy planet. Go Green this Thanksgiving!

https://citizensclimatelobby.org/

https://www.sierraclub.org/redwood/napa/blog/2020/11/how-minorities-are-disproportionately-affected-climate-change-and-what-we

https://www.activesustainability.com/climate-change/100-companies-responsible-71-ghg-emissions/?_adin=02021864894–

Sustainable Habits (Into the Unknown)

By Mariaisabel Blancarte

How It Started

Sustainable habits are vital and essential to our everyday lives and to the way the world operates. Although not always easy to adapt to, they allow us to make replacements that contribute to the overall health and conservation of our planet. In all honesty, prior to learning about the effects of plastic, specifically with straws, I was hesitant about using paper straws myself. They felt odd to drink out of, and I didn’t like the way they became soggy. I definitely was…not a fan. However, I later came to see that the small compromise of drinking out of a paper straw far outweighed the negative effects that plastic straws, and plastic overall cause to our environment. Similar to many of you all, I saw the negative effects that plastic straws have on marine life during a class at my university. The video displayed a helpless turtle who was struggling to breathe due to a plastic straw that had become stuck in its nose. It was extremely saddening to see, and it led me to looking deeper into plastic straws and the way that they not only harm animals, but the environment as a whole. What makes plastic straws so detrimental to our environment? They are “one of the most common types of single-use and overproduced plastics… and are also not biodegradable”. This means that once we finish using them, if not disposed of correctly (if not recycled), they can end up in wildlife habitats. This then leads to toxins being released into environmental and marine systems and also poses a physical danger to those animals that may consume the products by accident.

In efforts to curb these negative effects caused by straws, there are great alternatives. As previously mentioned, paper and metal straws are swaps that can prevent use of non-biodegradable material. However, there are many sustainable habits and products that aren’t so common. In this blog, I’ll cover commonly known sustainable practices, but also go into practices and habits that aren’t as widely known.

Covering the Basics

Reusable Water Bottles and Masks

Before getting into the less common and known sustainable habits, it’s always essential to cover the basics. One great way to avoid using plastic products, aside from metal straws, is through the use of reusable water bottles. Reusable water bottles are a great option because they require less oil use for production and hence, “release less carbon dioxide”, which is amazing for our atmosphere and environment as a whole. Along with other noteworthy reusables, are masks. Even prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, masks were a concern for the environment. This is because the “majority of masks are manufactured from long-lasting plastic materials, and if discarded can persist in the environment for decades to hundreds of years”. By making use of reusable face mask options, especially with materials such as cotton, it can help reduce plastic used, and hence avoid landfill and toxic chemicals in the land and sea.

The Less Common Sustainable Practices

Eat Less Meat

Many individuals may not know that meat consumption is directly related to the conservation and sustaining of water. According to Footprint, “A single pound of beef takes, on average, 1,800 gallons of water to produce”. By limiting the meat purchased and consumed, everyone can take part in conserving water. By sustaining water that is clean, it can allow us to put water to better uses that are good for our environment. 

Buy Used Items

Another great sustainable practice is going the “used” route. For example, as mentioned by Arcadia, there are many items that we use in our daily lives or as household items that can be bought used. For example, these products include “furniture, clothing, tools, and more”. Major companies that are known for selling used items include Goodwill, as well as the Salvation Army. What makes using “used” items such a great sustainable practice is that by re-using an item, it prevents it from being disposed of improperly and ending up in a waste system that can directly negatively affect wildlife and cleanliness in the environment. 

Vote

Finally, voting is an amazing way to participate directly in the sustainability of the planet. In order to ensure the safety of our communities, and our environment as a whole, it is vital to be politically involved. As mentioned by the Center for Biological Diversity, we should “vote for candidates with strong environmental platforms. Urge your representatives to pass stronger policies to limit greenhouse gases, fight climate change, and protect our wildlife”. By voicing out our concerns and demands as a community, we can ensure that our views and earth are represented in critical policies. As humans on this earth, it is our responsibility to keep it safe, one sustainable practice at a time!

Sources:

“How Do Straws Hurt the Environment?” Association of Zoos & Aquariums. Accessed October 13, 2021.

KOR Water, “How Reusable Water Bottles Help the Environment,” Kor Water (Kor Water, April 16, 2019).

Keiron Roberts Research Fellow in Clean Carbon Technologies and Resource Management, Cressida Bowyer Senior Research Fellow in the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries, Simon Kolstoe Senior Lecturer in Evidence Based Healthcare and University Ethics Advisor, and Steve Fletcher Professor of Ocean Policy and Economy. “Coronavirus Face Masks: An Environmental Disaster That Might Last Generations.” The Conversation, September 18, 2021.

“The Water Footprint of Food.” FoodPrint, August 11, 2020.

Arcadia, Team. “10 Sustainability Practices You Can Follow at Home.” Blog. Arcadia, August 2, 2017.

 “12 Ways to Live More Sustainably.” 12 Ways to Live More Sustainably. Accessed October 14, 2021.

The Disarray of Fast Fashion

by Vaishnavi Kuppa

On average, many of the clothes in our closets are said to be used about seven months before they end up in landfills. Either they aren’t trending anymore, too big or too small, damaged, not useful or just hoard up closet space that we want to clear out so we can buy new clothes. The cycle then continues; wear and throw, wear and throw almost like single use plastics. 

It isn’t that different, considering the majority of our clothes use polyester which is a type of plastic. 

This unsustainable cycle that takes place in our everyday lives is called fast fashion. Fast fashion is cheap clothing that is mass produced and styles that mimic luxurious brands and the latest trends. They tend to appeal to a larger group of consumers, who cannot afford luxury branded clothing but would all want the illusion that those clothes offer. However, the end results from mass produced retailers end up being of low-quality clothing which fuels throwaway culture. 

Social media plays a big role in why people partake in fast fashion. Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and Twitter have driven people to share their glow up or haul videos, which have led consumers and followers to splurge on outfits to make themselves appear trendy, and to match their favorite idol or influencers. The emergence of many online retailers such as Shein, 

Amazon, YesStyle, Forever 21, Fashion Nova and H&M selling these cheap clothes have made it easily accessible for consumers to buy clothes that they don’t even need. 

So, what are the problems with fast fashion? 

As mentioned previously, polyester is to be one of the most-used fabrics in the fashion industry. Polyester is made from fossil fuels and one of the biggest concerns with this material is that it sheds microplastics. Similar to conventional plastics we know of, polyester also takes about 200 years to biodegrade. So if clothes are being bought and thrown at a rapid speed, these microplastics will pile up in landfills or in the process of washing clothes and enter into waterways such as the oceans. The fashion industry also is depleting our natural resources and water is one of them. According to the UN, a single pair of jeans would take 2000 gallons of water and would also generate a large amount of wastewater with microplastics in it. 

Because of the fast-paced process of buying and getting clothes, it has also amassed major textile waste and pollution. Transportation and packaging related pollution increases when most people are buying clothes online and having it shipped to their doorstep. Aside from going to landfills, the clothes that end up in garbage trucks are sometimes burnt. Burning mountains of clothes every single day is one of the leading ways that carbon dioxide emissions are being released, which worsens global warming. Sometimes these are clothes that have not been sold or used and are just extra stock. Various companies such as H&M have been burning their mass produced unsold garments (that equal up to $4.3 billion) to make room for clothes that represent newer trends. 

Aside from environmental problems, fast fashion also encourages companies to exploit their workers by making them work in harsh conditions and paying them low wages. Fast fashion is cheap for a reason— it is unethical and to make profit from selling clothes at such low prices, workers are generally paid very little. They are working for long hours in often harmful workspaces since they expose the workers to toxic chemicals in unventilated establishments. 

What are some solutions to combat this problem? 

Reflect before buying: Before buying clothes, reflect a little bit and ask yourself these questions: What occasion are you buying this outfit for? Do you already have something similar you can use? How many mes will you actually wear the clothing item? If you’re buying for the sake of retail therapy, maybe reconsider. 

Keep and reuse for longer: Don’t throw it out just because you already took pictures with an outfit for your Instagram! It’ll help you save money as well as saving the environment to repeat outfits and it’s extremely unlikely that anyone even notices. Even with damaged clothes, many platforms such as TikTok are promong MIY (make-it-yourself) videos for crocheting, knitting or embroidering clothes. It could be a new hobby you can take on! 

Buying second-hand/thrifting: Second hand clothes seem to have a stigma that they will be dirty or damaged or out of trend, but that’s a misconception! Consumers have many options for them from shopping in-person at thrift stores such as Goodwill, to buying from online second hand stores such as thredUp. These services make sure the clothes you are paying for are of best quality, and they’re sure to have something everyone likes. 

Selling clothes: It’s simple, why not make some of the money that you spent on buying your clothes? Apps such as thredUp, Poshmark, and Depop not only allow you to buy second-hand, but you can also sell your clothes on those platforms! With the money you make from selling, you can buy other second-hand clothes, which will be economically beneficial for you as well.

Donang to friends, family, or anyone who needs it: Pass-me-downs, hand-me-downs and sharing clothes with friends and family is a sustainable way to not let your clothes go to waste and increase their use span. There are also options to find donating clothes bins to charitable organizations such as the American Red Cross or your local social services institution that help to make good use of your clothes. 

Shop from sustainable brands: Quality or over quantity will be a good use of your money and you won’t have to throw out clothes as often. Many sustainable brands are also small businesses that you can shop locally for, which will reduce your carbon footprint with transportation. They are also mostly up to date with the fashion trends, so you’ll be in good hands. 

Remember, not everybody is perfect when it comes to buying sustainably. Our economic situation influences us to shop cheap and mass-produced products but little changes in what we do once we have these clothes can make a huge impact.

References: 

  • hps://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/arcles/2021-05-22/gen-z-balances-sustainable-thrihau l-and-fast-fashion-sheinhaul-on-ktok 
  • hps://goodonyou.eco/what-is-fast-fashion/ 
  • hps://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2019/05/13/three-reasons-why-fast-fashion-is-becoming -a-problem-and-what-to-do-about-it/?sh=29bab481144b 
  • hps://www.thesustainablefashionforum.com/blog/the-problem-with-fast-fashion hps://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.2752/175174112X13340749707123 
  • hps://www.contrado.co.uk/blog/what-is-polyester-a-closer-look-into-this-love-it-or-hate-it-fab ric/ 
  • hps://sewport.com/fabrics-directory/polyester-fabric 
  • hps://www.wsj.com/arcles/the-high-price-of-fast-fashion-11567096637
  • hps://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/pung-brakes-fast-fashion 
  • hps://insideoutstyleblog.com/2018/11/discover-the-average-lifespan-of-clothes-and-what-you -keep-longest-even-though-you-dont-wear-it.html 
  • hps://goodonyou.eco/what-is-fast-fashion/ 
  • hps://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/press-release/un-alliance-sustainable-fashion-address es-damage-fast-fashion

Replace your Gas Appliances by 2035

By Angela Deegan

Fast forward to the year 2035 in San Diego. We’ve achieved our goal of a 100% clean power supply. All our electricity needs are supplied by carbon-free power. We’re proclaiming we’re a carbon-free city. But half the energy in our homes is still from burning natural gas?  

Half of California residential energy use is “natural gas” – a fossil fuel. If in 2035 we’re still using gas for space and water heating in our homes, we will have failed. We will have missed a huge opportunity to tackle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and worsening climate extremes – which we could easily have done by switching our gas appliances to electric. 

We must make the switch from fossil-fuels to electricity. It’s how we leverage the clean electricity goals that groups like SanDiego350 and many others have worked so hard to put in place. This concept of using 100% clean power for everything is referred to simply as “electrify everything”. It is key to slashing our greenhouse gas emissions and fighting against worsening climate extremes. “Everything” means everything that currently uses fossil fuels – like cars, buses, small engine lawnmowers, emergency generators, you name it! Inside the home, it means gas appliances. 

We’re in a climate emergency. Here in California, it’s all around us – more destructive wildfires, longer fire seasons, hotter heat waves, coastal flooding. Continuing to add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere will only make it even worse.  

Clean electricity is generated from renewable sources such as wind, solar and geothermal – not fossil fuels, like coal and gas. San Diego and many other California municipalities have committed to 100% clean electricity by 2035. 

We’re well on our way towards the 100% clean electricity goal. In 2019, California’s electricity supply was 63% carbon-free. Each year as we approach the 2035 deadline, our power supply must get cleaner. If we can reach 100% clean electricity much sooner than 2035, all the better. 

Let’s learn about how, by making smart decisions and planning ahead, you get the most out of this clean electricity in your homes.

The Opportunity

The easiest way to cut GHGs emissions from the home is to replace gas-burning appliances with electric ones.

In new homes, gas-burning appliances are the default. This commits the new homeowner to decades of natural gas use. It needs to change and is changing.  In fact, many cities in California and around the U.S. are introducing bans on gas connections in new homes

In existing homes, the challenge is to change to electric appliances powered by clean grids. This is where individual homeowners can make a real difference.

Gas appliances and pollution

Don’t be under any illusions about “natural gas”. No matter what fancy, expensive gas advertisements tell you, it is not “clean natural gas.” It is dirty. In California, most of it comes from fracking, which causes environmental destruction, polluting both water and air. Natural gas leaks frequently from storage facilities and from pipelines. It leaks as the highly potent, planet-warming GHG, methane.  When it’s burned, it emits carbon dioxide, a GHG that remains in our atmosphere for hundreds of years. 

There’s yet another reason to free your home of gas usage. Besides greenhouse gasses, natural gas combustion also causes other types of pollution in and around your home. The pollutants include carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), particulate matter, and formaldehyde. These are linked to various acute and chronic health effects, including respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease, and premature death. 

Gas appliances vent the pollutants to the outside of the home, with one exception – gas stoves/ovens. These release combustion pollutants directly inside the living areas of the home This is a major reason why the air inside the average home is dirtier than the outside air.

From Effects of Residential Gas Appliances on Indoor and Outdoor Air Quality and Public Health in California, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, April 2020

Appliance Replacement

So how do we go about replacing our gas appliances with efficient electric ones? There are two approaches:

  1. All at once – perhaps as part of a home remodel
  2. As gas appliances need replacing

Most of us will make the switch when our gas appliances need replacing . But it means we have to “go against the grain.” When replacing old appliances homeowners usually replace “like for like.” When shopping for a replacement HVAC system, sales technicians often won’t even offer an electric option unless you specifically request it.  They’ll *more* likely suggest a more efficient gas appliance than the one you’re replacing.

But the goal is not to use gas more efficiently, it’s to eliminate gas. You don’t do that by installing a new high efficiency gas furnace or water heater. You do it by switching to an electric appliance. 

By installing any new gas appliance, you lock into decades more of carbon emissions, so insist on electric!

Best electric options

Each gas appliance we replace with an electric one means that much more clean electric power needs to be produced. And that’s a good thing. But it will be difficult. To reduce the power needed, minimize the resources required to generate it (e.g. heavy metals for solar PV panels) and make it easier to meet our GHG reduction goals, we must ensure that our homes are well-insulated and the electric appliances we install are efficient.

Heating/drying – Heat Pumps

For those homes with gas furnaces and water heaters, these two appliances account for over 85% of the home’s gas use. The modern electric replacements for these use heat-pump technology. 

Heat-pumps work by transferring heat rather than burning fossil fuels to create heat. This makes them more efficient. In fact, a heat pump generates two to four times as much heat from the same amount of electricity as the older-style electric resistance heaters. 

A heat-pump water heater in the author’s garage

A heat-pump HVAC system is an all-in-one system that works as an air conditioner in the summer, and works in reverse to heat the home in the winter. To heat the home, it transfers heat from outside to inside while to cool, it transfers heat from inside your home to outside. 

Heat-pump water heaters and dryers work on the same principle. 

Heat-pumps for space heating and cooling come in two basic forms. Split systems are similar to the standard ducted systems, where the air is delivered through ducts into the different rooms. Then there are ‘minisplits’ which are also becoming popular. These still have the outside unit, but allow homeowners to use several cartridges inside the house. They don’t use ducts. Instead, the cartridges are placed right in the room, so they blow hot or cool air depending on the need, to condition the room. Some people like these because it allows them to heat or cool one room or area at a time.

SanDiego350 volunteer, Wendy Mihalic remotely controls a mini-split HVAC system cartridge in her home. Photo by George Jiracek

To appreciate the value of heat pumps, consider the energy savings. The standard electric storage water heater is estimated to use 3,500 kWh per year. By contrast, a similar heat-pump water heater is estimated to use much less power – 1,000 kWh per year.

Since heat-pumps use outside air to heat, whether we’re talking about heat-pump water heaters, or space heaters, they work most efficiently in warmer climates so they are perfect for California.

Heat-pump dryers come with some added bonuses over gas dryers:

  • They don’t require ventilation so are easier to install
  • They dry laundry at low temperatures, so they are gentler on clothes

Cooking – Electric ovens with Induction Stove tops

Even stove technology has changed. Unlike the standard electric burner, gas burners are more responsive to temperature control. But now we have an electric option that surpasses that – induction stove tops.

With induction, the pan is heated directly – rather than the burner first and then the pan. This greatly reduces the risk of burns. It also makes for a faster, more efficient way of cooking than even with gas. And it means your kitchen stays cooler while cooking. Induction compared to gas: more control, better response time, and a healthier, cleaner kitchen

Be aware that, since induction is based on electromagnetism, your pots and pans must be magnetic. If a magnet sticks to it, it’s induction-ready. Bear this in mind next time you’re buying pots and pans.

SD350 volunteer, David Harris, cooking up something delicious on his portable induction stove. Photo by Elaine Dorsey

Weatherize your home

It’s important to review your home’s energy efficiency before purchasing new home heating/cooling systems. If your home is well-sealed and insulated, it will take little energy to heat and cool it.

Is your home leaky? Does it have adequate insulation? Do your HVAC ducts leak, and are they properly insulated? Addressing such issues reduces the amount of heat needed to heat the house. A well air sealed home also leads to better inside air quality.

To cut water heating costs, hot water pipes should be insulated. Insulated pipes result in less loss of heat as water passes through them. This allows the water heater to be set at a lower temperature, saving energy.

Take advantage of ‘Time of Use’ Pricing

California utilities generally charge customers using ‘Time of Use’ (TOU) pricing. Under these pricing plans, electricity is cheaper outside of the late afternoon and evening period – generally the hours of 4pm to 9pm. 

Most modern heat pump systems can be programmed, enabling you to leverage TOU pricing for cost savings. Just program the devices to do the bulk of their work (heating or cooling) during the hours preceding high price periods, then program to turn down during peak pricing hours.

Heat-pump water heaters can also be programmed to take advantage of TOU pricing – i.e. to heat water when electricity is abundant and cheap. This is like having a battery for your water heating – in that you can store the energy. It also constitutes a big advantage over ‘on-demand’ water heaters. Because those systems don’t have a storage tank, when you need to use hot water is when you must heat the water.

 Screenshot of App showing water heating schedule for  the pictured water heater

Wiring considerations – plan now

The electric versions of the four common household gas appliances – HVAC, water heater, stove, dryer – typically require 240 volt power sources. If you make the switch, you’ll be using less energy overall, but more electricity. So ensure your circuit-breaker box has adequate capacity and that you have 240 volt outlets where you’ll need them. Ideally upgrade the circuit-breaker box all at once – to save money. And if your pocket-book allows, this would be the perfect time for you to install solar PV panels too! 

Don’t be caught unprepared when you need to replace your gas appliance. If the wiring is in place, it may take a couple of hours to replace a gas furnace with an electric furnace. If it isn’t, too often, it can take several days to get someone to install the wiring. Many families won’t go without hot water for a few days, so they end up replacing gas with gas – committing to another decade plus of gas use.

Ending the Natural Gas Age

It has been said “The Stone Age didn’t end for lack of stone, and the oil age will end long before the world runs out of oil.”

So too must the age of natural gas come to an end. Our ever-cleaner power supply provides us with the means to this end. We must take full advantage of it to squeeze out as much GHG usage as we possibly can. Only when we switch to it for our appliances and our transportation will we make the deep GHG cuts that are necessary. 

There are many difficult tasks ahead in eliminating GHG’s. Replacing our gas appliances isn’t one of them. That’s the easy part. The “no brainer”, “low hanging fruit” part. We’ll still be using the same basic equipment. Your hot water will still reach the shower at the same temperature, your HVAC will still send heat through those same ducts to heat your home in winter. The difference is you’ll now be using modern technology to produce clean heat, rather than burning fossil fuels, and helping our planet in the process.

Food Vision 2030

What’s your food vision for San Diego County? What food issues do you care about? Share your thoughts on the FV2030 community engagement platform!

By: David Pearl, SD350 Food & Soil Committee Member

Our friends at the San Diego Food System Alliance are hard at work on Food Vision 2030, a plan for transforming San Diego County’s food system over the next ten years. In their own words, “The goal of Food Vision 2030 is to inform planning, policy, program, and investment opportunities that improve the food system in San Diego County.”

SDFV2030 is now in the community engagement phase, and they want to hear from you! Visit the community engagement platform to provide feedback on the region’s food system and what you would like to see reflected in the ultimate vision.

If you want to focus on the intersection between climate and food, there is a section specifically for that.

We hope you’ll take the time to make your voice heard.

It’s Time For a Better Deal

By: Amanda Ruetten, Public Policy Organizer

San Diegans pay higher utility prices than most Californians. The high prices and San Diego’s dangerous air pollution rates are especially hard on vulnerable low-income communities, where family budgets are tight and asthma rates are growing. The utility company rakes in profits while we provide the public land necessary for its business. That’s the way it’s been for 100 years. This year, for the first time in 50 years, we finally have a chance to change our city’s outdated, one-sided deal with San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E). 

SDG&E’s 50-year franchise agreement with the City of San Diego to distribute gas and electricity on the City’s public right of way expires in January 2021. The City is required by its Charter to select the next energy franchisee through a “free and open competition”.  

SanDiego350 and its allies are campaigning for a better deal. We are in a climate crisis and the City of San Diego has one of the most progressive Climate Action Plans in the nation, with a goal of getting to 100% clean electricity by 2035.  To ensure we meet that goal, the City must award the next franchise agreement to a company that supports our clean energy goals. There must be guarantees that the utility — unlike the existing situation — will not undermine these goals by lobbying against clean energy programs at the state level, or imposing higher fees for solar home owners and low income community members. A shorter term and required penalties for violating any agreement provisions would provide increased accountability, and the franchise fees should be paid for by corporate shareholders rather than the customers.  

The franchise agreement is determined in an open bidding process and then it must be adopted by a two-thirds majority vote of the city council. That vote is expected later this year. There is an opportunity for us to have a voice in what happens. 

Join us to learn more about this campaign and how you can get involved. We’ll have an in-depth workshop on Sunday, June 7th. Or email me.

California Should Not Risk Its Clean Energy Future on Extreme Strategies

California will soon decide whether to combine its electric grid management with western states dependent on coal mining and coal-based electricity. This massive change has been proposed in the form of Assembly Bill 813 and before that in Assembly Bill 726. If passed, either of those bills would provide an avenue for coal-fired electricity to gain access to the California market. This would make the transition to renewable energy even harder.

Unifying California’s grid operations with other western states would be a huge risk. Thankfully better options are available.

[Read more…]

You Can’t Get Clean Energy From Natural Gas!

Pretty… toxic Picture Credit: Pexels

Originally published by the San Diego Free Press on January 26th 2018
By Edward Bergan / SanDiego350

In retrospect, branding the toxic gas that emerges from underground deposits as “natural gas” was a stroke of marketing genius. It sounds so, well, natural. But natural gas is much more like “organic tobacco” – harmful in any form.

The more experts study natural gas, the more evidence they find that this fossil fuel is inflicting great damage on our environment. It is damaging when it’s burned and damaging when it’s extracted from the ground. In fact, the extraction and burning of natural gas to produce electricity is a dirty process. This dirty process impacts the clean water and air we need to live. [Read more…]

Tom Steyer draws large crowd for climate change lecture

by Celeste Oram

Over 400 San Diegans arrived at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Hillcrest Thursday evening to hear a decisive, energetic message on clean energy and climate action from climate advocate and philanthropist Tom Steyer. The public talk, organized by grassroots climate action organization SanDiego350, was co-sponsored by over 20 San Diego community groups. In a week of devastating natural disasters and controversial political announcements, the clarity of Steyer’s clean energy message was warmly received by a fired-up audience.

Welcoming remarks by the cathedral’s Dean, Penny Bridges, soberly reflected the urgency of the evening’s discussion, and a moment’s silence was held for victims of recent natural disasters: Hurricanes Harvey and Irma; wildfires on the West Coast; flooding in Pakistan and Bangladesh; landslides in Sierra Leone.

[Read more…]

Lonely? Try Talking about Cow Flatulence

By Bellamy Dryden

This past Saturday, April 29, I celebrated an important milestone with 5,000 strangers at the Peoples Climate March in downtown San Diego. After that same march in 2014 I adopted a vegan diet, cold turkey, so to speak. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Three years later, I’m healthier and happier.

2017 People's Climate March

2017 People’s Climate March. Photo courtesy of SanDiego350.

What better way to celebrate than with a perfect stranger holding a sign that says “Cow Farts are Destroying the Planet”?

I changed my diet for two reasons. One: it’s an easy and useful way for me to help combat climate change. Two:  it meant that I would never, ever, EVER have to eat a cricket burger with a side of mealworm “fries.”

Why not celebrate such an important day with friends and family? Well, I’m the only environmental vegan in my circle. Besides, my family and friends are far flung, so we use Facebook to keep in touch. The friends and neighbors I see in real life like me just fine, but online, it’s really lonely being the dietary outlier, the green sheep, the tree-hugging vegan. [Read more…]