Here are 8 easy ways to save money by going green — CNBC #ActOnClimate

From CNBC (Greg Iacurci):

  • The U.S. has the highest per-capita greenhouse gas emissions of any other country, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.
  • Americans can take easy steps to cut planet-warming emissions like carbon dioxide and simultaneously save money.
  • Efficient households can save $1,560 a year on natural gas and utility costs over a 50-year period, according to a University of Michigan analysis.
  • 1. Use LED lightbulbs

    LED lightbulbs use at least 75% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last 25 times longer, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

    Households can save $75 on energy costs a year by swapping out just five of their most frequently used bulbs with Energy Star-certified LEDs, according to the Consumer Federation of America.

    (LED stands for “light-emitting diode.”)

    By 2027, widespread use could save more than a cumulative $30 billion at today’s electricity prices, the Energy Department said.

    Replacing all bulbs in a household would be the equivalent of removing roughly 5.3 million to 6.4 million cars from the road, according to an estimate from Katharine Hayhoe, chief scientist at the Nature Conservancy.

    “The basic problem we have is often our default [choice] is not the best, and not necessarily the cheapest,” Hayhoe said. “It’s just the default.”

    (As a practical note: Choose LEDs between 2700 and 3000 kelvins to match the soft, yellow-white light of old bulbs; 4000K to 6500K bulbs will have a cooler or bluish light, according to the Consumer Federation.)

    2. Unplug devices

    Energy consumed by electronic devices in standby mode accounts for 5% to 10% of household energy use — adding up to an extra $100 a year, on average, according to the Center for Sustainable Systems.

    The Center recommends unplugging devices when not in use or plugging them into a power strip and turning off the power strip.

    The Center recommends unplugging devices when not in use or plugging them into a power strip and turning off the power strip.

    3. Change the thermostat

    Households can reduce their heating and cooling bills by resetting their thermostats when asleep or away from home. A programmable thermostat does this automatically according to a pre-set schedule.

    Here’s the concept: Set the temperature lower in colder weather and higher in warmer weather, which uses less energy.

    This may be easier now that Americans who’d been working from home during the Covid pandemic are heading into the office more frequently.

    Households can save up to 10% a year by turning the thermostat 7°F to 10°F from its normal setting for eight hours a day, according to the Energy Department.

    Savings can total roughly $90 a year, according to Mel Hall-Crawford, director of energy programs at the Consumer Federation of America.

    4. Use cold water

    Running a dishwasher and washing machine with cold instead of hot or warm water could save on energy bills, according to environmental experts.

    “Heating water is one of the more expensive things that we do,” according to John Hocevar, oceans campaign director for Greenpeace USA.

    For example, washing clothes with cold water once a week can reduce a household’s emissions by over 70 pounds annually, according to the Center for Sustainable Systems.

    That’s the equivalent of the emissions from driving the average passenger car 80 miles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

    Households can also consider using a drying rack instead of a drying machine, experts said. Drying is responsible for 71% of the electricity required to wash and dry a load of clothes, according to an estimate from the Sustainability Consortium.

    Individuals can also ensure a dishwasher is full before running it, and even setting a timer in the shower to avoid overuse of hot water, experts said.

    5. Cut down on plastic

    Replacing single-use plastic with reusable alternatives has become easier than ever for households, said Eberhardt of the Environmental Defense Fund.

    Consumers can replace Ziploc bags with silicon bags; Saran wrap with beeswax wrap; plastic water bottles with reusable bottles or a water filter; and plastic straws for portable, reusable ones, experts said.

    (The same applies for single-use, non-plastic items like paper towels — which come wrapped in plastic and could be replaced with dish towels or sponges.)

    “You’re really cutting your weekly grocery costs and it’s better for the planet,” Eberhardt said.

    Top 10 sources of plastic pollution in our oceans.

    More than 95% of plastic packaging is made from fossil fuels, Hocevar said.

    And most isn’t recyclable — a commonly misunderstood fact about the plastic Americans toss in blue bins, he said. Even plastic that can be recycled is often only recycled once.

    It’s then burned or put in a landfill, both of which contribute to the release of planet-warming gases, he said.

    Buying non-perishable items in bulk is also generally cheaper and cuts down on plastic packaging, Hocevar added.

    6. Tweak your diet

    The food Americans eat can vary greatly in terms of its carbon footprint.

    Generally, eating a more plant-based diet and cutting red meat intake can be cheaper, more environmentally friendly and healthier — which could help cut long-term medical bills, experts said.

    “Diet is very personal and cultural,” Keoleian said. “But people should know they can save money and really reduce their carbon emissions.”

    For example, beef has about seven times the emissions of fish (farm-raised) and 10 times those of chicken according to some sources. The difference is even starker relative to plant-based foods and proteins — beef has been found to have a carbon footprint 230 times higher than nuts or root vegetables, for example.

    Storm clouds gather as cows graze at the USDA-ARS Central Plains Experimental Range near Nunn, Colo.
    Photo by David Augustine/USDA-ARS via the Fence Post

    Those emissions may come from sources like food production, transportation and packaging. Cows, for example, generate a lot of methane, a greenhouse gas that’s much more potent than carbon.

    Families can consider “meatless Mondays,” for example, to reduce their consumption of red meat, Eberhardt said.

    About 1 in 4 Americans reported eating less meat (beef, pork or chicken) over the past year, according to a Gallup poll from early 2020. The environment was their No. 2 reason for doing so, behind health.

    Trade groups representing farmers and beef producers — the American Association of Meat Processors, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and North American Meat Institute — didn’t return CNBC’s requests for comment on this article.

    Jerry Bohn, a Kansas cattleman and president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, recently pushed back on the notion of decreased consumption of red meat for Americans.

    “U.S. farmers and ranchers are the best in the world when it comes to producing safe, wholesome and sustainable high-quality beef for American families, and doing it with the smallest possible footprint and we’re committed to continuing on that path of improvement,” he said in April.

    Families should also try reducing the amount of food they throw away, Eberhardt said.

    About 30% to 40% of food produced in the U.S. isn’t consumed, with that waste largely on the consumer end — which then produces greenhouse gas as it decays, Eberhardt said. Her family creates a basic meal plan at beginning of every week to avoid buying excess food.

    7. Buy efficient appliances

    Consumers should replace old household appliances with energy-efficient options to help lower their electric bill.

    Those can be anything from refrigerators to dishwashers, microwaves and air conditioners. (Efficient machines will carry an Energy Star label.)

    This might be a longer-term decision for consumers — but doesn’t have to be.

    “Many people think you want to extend the service life [of the old appliance] to save money,” Keoleian said. “You’re actually hurting your wallet by doing that because they are so inefficient.”

    Refrigerators are among the largest users of household appliance energy, according to the Center for Sustainable Systems. (In 2015, the average household emissions from refrigeration equaled about 820 miles of driving.)

    But switching other appliances could have a big difference, too. If all clothes dryers sold in the U.S. were Energy Star-certified, Americans could save more than $1.5 billion a year in utility costs and prevent emissions similar to about 2 million vehicles, according to Energy Star.

    Coyote Gulch’s Leaf charging at the City of Thornton’s Infrastructure Maintenance Center August 31, 2019. Charging infrastructure partially paid for with a grant from the Colorado Energy Office.

    8. Change how you get around

    Consumers can also replace older cars with electric vehicles, for example — which may make sense especially for those who drive closer to home and don’t have “range anxiety” related to recharging. can help consumers identify and compare efficient vehicles.

    There are other, potentially easier steps consumers can take, too. For example, about a fifth of vehicle trips are shopping-related — but combining errands (“trip-chaining”) can help avoid unnecessary driving, according to the Center for Sustainable Systems.

    Even making sure tires are inflated properly can play a role. Fuel efficiency decreases 0.2% for each 1 pound-per-square-inch decrease, according to the Center.

    Carpooling or telecommuting once a week to cut down on driving (and associated costs) may help, too.

    The #ColoradoRiver Indian Tribes become key #water player with #drought aid to #Arizona — The Associated Press #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #LakeMead

    Wheat fields along the Colorado River at the Colorado River Indian Tribes Reservation. Wheat, alfalfa and melons are among the most important crops here. By Maunus at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

    From The Associated Press (Felicia Fonseca):

    The Colorado River Indian Tribes and another tribe in Arizona played an outsized role in the drought contingency plans that had the state voluntarily give up water. As Arizona faces mandatory cuts next year in its Colorado River supply, the tribes see themselves as major players in the future of water.

    “We were always told more or less what to do, and so now it’s taking shape where tribes have been involved and invited to the table to do negotiations, to have input into the issues about the river,” first-term Colorado River Indian Tribes Chairwoman Amelia Flores said.

    Lake Mead on the Nevada-Arizona border has fallen to its lowest point since it was filled in the 1930s. Water experts say the situation would be worse had the tribe not agreed to store 150,000 acre-feet in the lake over three years. A single acre-foot is enough to serve one to two households per year. The Gila River Indian Community also contributed water.

    The Colorado River Indian Tribes received $38 million in return, including $30 million from the state. Environmentalists, foundations and corporations fulfilled a pledge last month to chip in the rest.

    Kevin Moran of the Environmental Defense Fund said the agreement signaled a new approach to combating drought, climate change and the demand from the river.

    “The way we look at it, the Colorado River basin is ground zero for water-related impacts of climate change,” he said. “And we have to plan for the river and the watersheds that climate scientists tell us we’re probably going to have, not the one we might wish for.”

    Tribal officials say the $38 million is more than what they would have made leasing the land. The Colorado River Indian Tribes stopped farming more than 15 square miles (39 square kilometers) to make water available, tribal attorney Margaret Vick said…

    While some fields are dry on the reservation, the tribe plans to use the money to invest in its water infrastructure. It has the oldest irrigation system built by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, dating to 1867, serving nearly 125 square miles (323 square kilometers) of tribal land.

    The age of the irrigation system means it’s in constant need of improvements. Flores, the tribal chairwoman, said some parts of the 232-mile (373-kilometer) concrete and earthen canal are lined and others aren’t, so water is lost through seepage or cracks.

    A 2016 study conducted by the tribe put the price tag to fix deficiencies at more than $75 million. It’s leveraging grants, funding from previous conservation efforts and other money to put a dent in the repairs, Flores said.

    “If we had all the dollars in the world to line all the canals that run through our reservation, that would be a great project to complete,” Flores said. “I don’t think that’s going to happen in our lifetime.”

    The tribe is made up of four distinct groups of Native Americans — Chemehuevi, Mohave, Hopi and Navajo. The reservation includes more than 110 miles (177 kilometers) of Colorado River shoreline with some of the oldest and most secure rights to the river in both Arizona and California.

    While much of the water goes to farming, it also sustains wildlife preserves and the tribe’s culture…

    The tribe can’t take full advantage of its right to divert 662,000 acre-feet per year from the Colorado River on the Arizona side because it lacks the infrastructure. It also has water rights in California.

    An additional 46 square miles (121 square kilometers) of land could be developed for agriculture if the tribe had the infrastructure, according to a 2018 study on water use and development among tribes in the Colorado River basin.

    From the 2018 Tribal Water Study, this graphic shows the location of the 29 federally-recognized tribes in the Colorado River Basin. Map credit: USBR

    With #LakePowell levels ‘frighteningly’ low, new director of the newly created #ColoradoRiver Authority of #Utah aims to protect Utah’s interests in Colorado River — #COriver #aridification

    Colorado River. Photo credit: University of Montana

    From (Ashley Imlay):

    “One of the things I like about the river is that my learning curve is perpetually steep because there are always challenges, there are always one-offs, and there are situations that we are facing on this river that we need to adapt to. Currently, we are facing hydrology and low reservoir conditions the likes of which we have never seen,” Haas said.

    As Utah continues growing and drought intensifies the desert’s water scarcity, lawmakers fear losing some of the the state’s share of the river. Utah’s allocation is 1.725 million acre-feet of water or 23% of the water appropriated to the Upper Basin states that also include Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico. Utah now uses about 1 million acre-feet and plans to develop about 1.4 million acre-feet of water, according to the Division of Natural Resources.

    That’s where Haas comes in. She will lead the newly created Colorado River Authority of Utah, which begins its work in late July, officials announced last Tuesday.

    A watchdog for Utah’s interests
    Utah legislative leadership in the 2021 session sponsored the Colorado River Amendments bill, HB297, which, with $9 million in one-time money and $600,000 of ongoing money, set up the authority meant to serve as a “watchdog” for Utah’s share of water in the drought-challenged Colorado River.

    Amy Haas, executive director, Upper Colorado River Commission, is critical of the 2007 operating guidelines (Source: Bureau of Reclamation via the Water Education Foundation)

    Haas has lived in Utah part-time for the past four years for her work in the Upper Colorado River Commission, where she currently serves as executive director. She first began working on water issues about 20 years ago as an attorney in private practice in New Mexico representing institutional and private water interests. She then worked for New Mexico on policy representing that state in its interstate stream compacts.

    Haas said she’s excited to be a part of Utah’s new authority as it forms “from the ground up.”

    “The river is stressed, currently. I think many people know that, and I would like to be a part of sound water management, prudent water management, and I would like to be a part of a team. Utah has been and will continue to be a responsible steward of its Colorado River allocation. And I think that the authority, and the creation of the authority, really represents that Utah is proceeding in a very responsible manner regarding the development of its allocation,” Haas said.

    In her new role, Haas will work with Gov. Spencer Cox, Brian Steed, executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources, and Colorado River Commissioner of Utah and Colorado River Authority of Utah Chairman Gene Shawcroft “to take full advantage of Utah’s entitlement to the Colorado River while engaging in prudent water management,” she said…

    Lake Powell at historic low

    Haas is stepping into her role even as Lake Powell’s water is at a record-low level. It’s 34% full now, she said, calling it “frighteningly” low.

    “It’s about 35 feet above an elevation where the federal government together with the states (Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah) will develop a plan to operate the reservoir such that the states can meet their obligations under a 100-year-old agreement and also that hydropower generation, which is a very important feature of Lake Powell, can be maintained and will not be jeopardized,” she said.

    If the lake reaches that critical level, the Bureau of Reclamation will go in and shore up its elevations, according to Haas.

    Haas was involved in developing the federally authorized drought contingency plan for the Upper Basin of the Colorado River, which is now being deployed. The plan includes releasing water from federal reservoirs upstream of Lake Powell to store and use in Lake Powell, enhancing cloud seeding, removal of non-native vegetation and additional conservation measures…

    She’s optimistic that the states in the U.S. and Mexico with interests in the river will continue working closely together on its management, as they have done in the past — and that that collaboration will increase due to current conditions. For example, Mexico recently partnered with the Basin states and federal government to take shortages in its allocation of the river, which Haas said helped water managers address constraints.

    Dillon Reservoir fills to 100% capacity — The Summit Daily

    From The Summit Daily (Taylor Sienkiewicz):

    Water releases increase to Blue River but not enough for commercial rafting

    Dillon Reservoir is now 100% full, according to Denver Water, which manages the reservoir.

    Nathan Elder, manager of water supply for Denver Water, said it’s normal for the reservoir to be full this time of year, but he noted that the reason it’s full despite an ongoing drought is because the water is carefully managed, and much less water was released from the reservoir to the Blue River than in an average year…

    Elder said this was a year where the reservoir started out lower than normal and less water flowed in from the melting snowpack…

    Elder noted that Denver Water is bringing much less water through the Roberts Tunnel than it typically would because of good moisture levels in the South Platte Basin, which is at 96% of normal, and water conservation by consumers on the Front Range…

    While more water is being released into the Blue River now — 184 cubic feet per second as of Wednesday afternoon compared with 100 cfs prior to Monday — it’s still not enough for rafting this year. Elder said a flow of 500 cfs is needed for rafting, but the maximum outflow this year will likely only get to about 250 cfs.

    The main reason water levels are low this year is because the snowpack was below average. According to a measurement site at Copper Mountain, the 2021 snowpack peaked at 12.4 inches of snow-water equivalent, or the amount of water held in the snowpack. That’s nearly 5 inches less than the 17.3 inch median for the site, which is based on 30 years of data.

    Recent rain has helped slightly but isn’t as much of a determining factor as snowpack…

    Treste Huse, a senior hydrologist at the National Weather Service in Boulder, said stream flows in Summit County overall are below normal compared with historic levels. Huse said all streams in Summit County are below normal and that Straight Creek is running much below normal — 13 cfs Wednesday near Dillon compared with an average of 55 cfs for the same date. Recent precipitation levels have been above normal, but it hasn’t made much of a difference, Huse said…

    In the past 30 days, the Dillon weather station has recorded 1.69 inches of precipitation — 50% above the normal 1.13 inches in the same time period. And in the past four months, precipitation is slightly above normal. Huse said that while precipitation is above normal, the difference is less than an inch, and with dry soil conditions, it doesn’t make much of a dent in the water supply.

    Colorado Drought Monitor map June 29, 2021.

    Huse noted that while Summit County’s drought conditions have improved, the northern half of the county is still in a severe drought.

    Drier springs bring hotter summers in the withering Southwest — The #Colorado Sun #ActOnClimate #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Lake Mead behind Hoover Dam. Lake Mead last month fell to its lowest level since the Hoover Dam was built in 1936. The shoreline has dropped 45 meters since the reservoir was last full in 2000. Photo by Ken Neubecker via American Rivers

    From The Colorado Sun (Judy Fahys):

    New research reveals a positive feedback loop with negative consequences linked to lower springtime humidity across an already parched landscape

    question has bothered climatologist Park Williams during the decade he’s been probing drought in the Southwest. Like other climate scientists, he knew from research papers and worldwide storm patterns that a warming atmosphere is thirstier and sops up more moisture from oceans and the land.

    “But, in the Southwest, we’ve seen the exact opposite happening,” said Williams, an associate professor in the University of California, Los Angeles’ geography department. “For the last 50 or so years, we’ve actually seen the amount of water vapor molecules in the atmosphere decline” while temperatures have climbed about twice as fast as the global average.

    A new paper from UCLA researcher Karen McKinnon largely solved that puzzle by showing the hottest days in the summer months are getting dramatically drier as a result of the Southwestern spring heating up and leaving less moisture behind to cool the summer through evaporation.

    The study, published in the journal, Nature Climate Change, shows a surprising new way in which heat and humidity are interrelated and comes at the beginning of a summer that is already sweltering and plagued with wildfire and drought. For some, the paper also raises concerns about future warming in southwestern states.

    “When you look at those hottest days, we’re starting to see pretty large decreases in humidity,” said McKinnon, who works in UCLA’s Department of Statistics and Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.

    Her team analyzed spring and summer data from 28 weather stations at airports in southern California, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. They zeroed in on “specific humidity,” a measure of the molecules of moisture in the atmosphere that ignores factors like temperature that are counted in the more commonly discussed “relative humidity.”

    “On these hot dry days, the source of the moisture in the air is basically coming from the soils from the land surface—and we’re seeing declines in near surface soil moisture over the summer over these past couple of decades—and that’s leading pretty clearly to these decreases in humidity,” she explained. “So, we’re having lower humidity days as the soil moisture gets drier.”

    The researchers found that specific humidity had decreased across the region by an average of about 20 percent. And, in California and Nevada, the decreases were about one-third of the mean value…

    A feedback loop brings new drought concerns

    The pattern identified in the study is a positive feedback loop with negative implications. Increasing heat in the spring dries the soil, which, in turn, raises summer temperatures due to the lack of soil moisture, which helps cool the landscape when it evaporates.

    The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor classifies more than half of the West as being in “extreme” or “exceptional” drought, with between 86% and 92% of the land in California, Utah and Arizona in the most severe drought categories. Meanwhile, observations show drought conditions have dominated the region over the past two decades, pushing the Southwest into what’s called a “megadrought.”

    West Drought Monitor map June 29, 2021.

    The drought is easing in Colorado compared with 3 months ago, when the entire state was dry or in drought. The most recent drought map shows about 46% still experiencing some level of parched conditions, with nearly 30% of the state in extreme or exceptional drought.

    Simon (Shih-Yu) Wang, a professor of climate dynamics at Utah State University, called the McKinnon team’s new statistical analysis “a rigorous approach” that reaffirms the significance of the soil moisture and temperature link that researchers have been studying in earnest for a decade.

    “When we don’t have water in the soil, we’re gonna get a lot hotter a lot faster,“ he said of the hot-dry pattern that’s become typical with climate change in the Southwest. “Basically, it’s what you expect in a drought situation in semi-arid regions.”


    Mike Hobbins, senior research scientist at the University of Colorado Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences in Boulder, said the McKinnon study has strong implications, especially for wildfire. Trends identified in the study suggest that fire seasons could become more explosive, he said.

    That’s because fire is strongly influenced by the difference between the amount of moisture the atmosphere can potentially hold and how much it actually has.

    The difference between the two is known as the “vapor pressure deficit.” And the bigger the deficit, the thirstier the atmosphere and the more erratic wildfire becomes. That, plus the dried out condition of vegetation means, “the fire season will grow at both ends,” he said.

    The McKinnon paper noted that the future of this summertime trend remains unclear, even though it’s something that the research team considered in its analysis. Uncertainty surrounding precipitation trends in climate models for the Southwest—some models show precipitation increasing—makes it hard to know how much vapor pressure deficit the region will face.

    The Southwest ought to prepare “for a range of possible outcomes,” McKinnon said. Still, with the projected rise in temperatures and the new information about the hot-dry dynamic leaves little room for optimism about a moister future in the Southwest…

    But Williams, part of a research team behind a paper last year showing that the human-caused share of climate change can be blamed for about half of the historic Southwest drought, also thinks about how the extra warmth from the heat waves might promote enough convection to result in precipitation.

    This story was originally published by InsideClimate News, an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that covers energy, climate and the environment.