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Lowering our greenhouse gas impact at home

January 11, 2017   By Jay Hudson in Environmental Stewardship

Full Lifecycle Assessment of Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Most Emissions from Common Proteins and Vegetables Occur During Production

Everything we do has some type of impact on the environment.

We have all heard that electricity production is responsible for large amounts of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. To be exact, in 2014, the energy sector was responsible for 30 percent of U.S. GHG emissions, with coal-based energy the largest contributor. Using less energy is always a good way to help lower GHG emissions. 

At Santee Cooper, we have seen a decline in the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from Cross Generating Station, our largest coal-fired facility. C02 is a GHG and in 2015, we emitted 5.6 billion pounds less than in 2014, as we rely more heavily on natural gas-fired generation.

Transportation emissions (cars, boats, aircraft, etc.) are also large contributors at 26 percent. Driving more efficient vehicles, maintaining our vehicles or simply driving less can lower our impact at home.

While both of these are certainly large contributors, most don’t realize that agriculture is also a big GHG producer.  Again, for 2014, all agricultural operations in the U.S. were almost 10 percent of emissions.  Since U.S. agricultural operations are very efficient, the GHG agricultural contribution is much higher in other less developed parts of the world.

Actually, food choices can determine how much agricultural operations contribute to GHG emissions. A simple graphic of this can be seen on page 23 of the Environmental Working Group’s Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change and Health. The chart is also referenced in the image with this blog.

While I was aware that beef had a large impact, I had no idea the huge difference between beef and chicken. Large GHG impacts are not limited to meat. The production of cheese is also a large contributor. The bottom line: Eating less lamb and beef is not just a health issue, but can lower GHG emissions at home.