By Huck Fairman
Most local readers know about the climate crisis we face, and they recognize that we have limited time to reduce emissions before the problem becomes catastrophic.
What many may not be aware of are the numerous, diverse efforts to reduce our carbon emissions. Among those widely known are electric vehicles, solar panels, and wind, but there are others.
Drawing carbon out of the atmosphere is one approach, but the question is: what to do with it? A New Jersey company, Solidia, produces reduced-carbon cement and paving tiles. (As much as 40 percent of global emissions come from buildings and construction.)
What local residents can do is seek lower-carbon products for their homes or businesses.
Three relatively new companies, Interface, CarbonCure, and Lanza-Tech, are also seeking ways to use captured and recycled carbon dioxide (CO2), from factory exhaust, to inject into concrete, which both sequesters the CO2 and strengthens the concrete.
Another company, Twelve, uses “metal catalysts” to transform CO2 by “bubbling it through water,” which allows it to produce “fossil fuel-free” consumer items, such as sneakers and sunglasses. Again, this is something consumers can seek out and support.
While none of these strategies alone will get us by 2050 to where we need to be, together they can bring us closer. Those studying the climate situation agree that we need to do pretty much everything we can think of.
Interface, in Atlanta, following four years of research, now produces “commercial flooring” which includes “a latex created from smokestack exhaust.” This commercial carpeting has a negative carbon footprint, as its production pulls CO2 from the air.
In Canada and Norway, owners and contractors are choosing wooden buildings over concrete ones, as the treated wood is long-lasting, sequesters CO2, and does not require the same high level of energy expenditure to produce.
Government, at all levels, and military acquisitions can also be mandated to buy carbon neutral or negative products. The U.S. Postal Service will be switching to electric vehicles. The military, which buys about 4 percent of the nation’s fuels, could also contribute to that transformation.
Locally, if state assistance were available to help transform the many local landscaping and gardening vehicles and tools – trucks, lawnmowers, blowers – to battery-powered items, cleaner air, fewer emissions, and less noise would result.
Increasing tree or vegetation coverage can also help sequester emissions and shade properties. Bicycling in the area reveals sharp differences in tree coverage, which individuals or communities can address – again responding to the widely accepted guidance that we need to do all we can to address climate change.
In this vein, a local landscaper and gardener, Jose Davila, of R&W Landscaping, brings to the Princeton area an artist’s eye and vision, in his Picasso-esque shaping of trees and shrubs. His ability can transform a property or garden into enhanced and engaging beauty, and can encourage wider usage of CO2-absorbing plants.
Thus businesses, in exploring and providing products that reduce or absorb CO2, and residents and their representatives that encourage and support them, can together join in the efforts to reduce the emissions that are trapping heat and changing environments. If all will take the steps they can, we as a civilization will have a better chance of saving the world we have known.