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July 24, 2014
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A Calculated Change

For the past year, many members of my generation have found the impending climate crisis compelling and hard to ignore. After being told for the millionth time, “you can make a difference,” I began a recycling plan at my parent’s house. This consisted of signing up on the City of Tulsa website (cityoftulsa.org/Environment/Recycling/) for a pick-up service.

Excited by the fact that I can, indeed, “make a difference” without all the trouble of making an effort, I began to turn my computer all the way off when I left the room. Now I unplug unused appliances, replace burned out lights with compact florescent light bulbs (CFLs) and print on both sides of computer paper.

It was invigorating, except that the more I learned, it became crippling. It turns out greenhouse gas emissions are a serious problem. These gases are accused of trapping the sun’s heat inside the atmosphere and throwing off the earth’s balance.

However, in this new “carbon conscious” world, we are being equipped with tools that allow us to have a significant impact on the environment.
One of these tools is the “carbon footprint calculator.” There are many versions of this tool available online. My favorites are the carbon calculators found on the EPA and LiveNeutral websites.

At liveneutral.org, simple calculators can determine an individual or family’s carbon output based on vehicle usage, air miles logged or utility bills. After completing your calculations – which takes about 2 minutes – the website offers valuable and creative tips to reduce your carbon “footprint.” Tips are family friendly and are often activities that families can try together.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon calculator is difficult to find on the EPA website. I recommend typing “EPA Carbon Calculator” into a search engine. This calculator is more precise than others. After filling in information about your current carbon output, the website will also help calculate how specific changes would lower your “footprint.” For example, you can see exactly how much a one-degree change in the thermostat setting reduces your personal emissions.

Or try one of these calculators:
safeclimate.net/calculator/
begreennow.com/calculator
carbonfootprint.com/
calculator.aspx
nature.org/initiatives/climate change/calculator/

Before starting with any calculator, gather your recent utility bills. In most cases, the process requires information about your average energy usage.

And, if you’re concerned about how much energy you use in the first place, Public Service Company of Oklahoma offers calculators at PSOklahoma.com. There, you can get estimates of energy use costs, get a feel for what your home’s appliances cost to operate, and learn how to save money by switching to CFLs.

If calculating personal emissions and controlling energy costs are simply not enough, the possibility for further study is expanding. Universities are now offering environmentally conscious courses not only in ecology and biodiversity, but also in architecture, engineering, urban planning, economics and public health.

Primary and secondary schools across the nation are implementing curriculum which explores the climate crisis and identifies solutions. Worldwide, more than one million students and teachers are registered with Go Green schools, an education initiative.

Since June of last year, 550 university presidents have signed an agreement pledging to make their campuses “carbon neutral.” In Oklahoma, the agreement has been signed by University of Central Oklahoma president, W. Roger Webb and University of Oklahoma president, David Boren.

Talya Henderson is the Environmental Sciences graduate program coordinator at Oklahoma State University. Although the program has been in existence for 31 years, Henderson says that “people are starting to think about sustainability” and the program is attracting students who are passionate about climate change and sustainability. OSU offers graduate and undergraduate degree programs in Environmental Sciences.

As I sweat through the summer months, I’m starting to believe that maybe I can “make a difference” after all. I still believe that alone, none of us can make a significant improvement in the environment, but if we all take small steps together, we can make a world of difference.

Julie Moncrief graduated in May from the University of Tulsa with a degree in Film Studies. She interns in the Corporate Communications Department at PSO.

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