Report: Vermont has lowest carbon emissions in nation
The analysis, which calculates how much energy is used and produced in each state, found that Vermonters consume the least amount of energy in the country, using state and federal data.
Each Vermont resident, on average, produced about 11 tons of carbon dioxide in 2003, the most recent year data were available across the country.
In the same year, residents in Wyoming produced 127 tons of carbon dioxide, while Georgia, which placed right in the middle of the state count, produced 21 tons.
The report and interactive map were produced by Eredux.com, a technology and environmental education company based in Washington D.C.
Carbon dioxide emissions are used to measure the carbon footprint of an individual, workplace, municipality or state. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and some scientists argue that reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is a way to combat global warming.
Paul Cameron, director of Brattleboro Climate Protection, has been using carbon emission data to track how the town has been making progress toward reducing its energy use.
Since 2000, Cameron said, Brattleboro's carbon footprint has been reduced by about 20 percent, largely through switching to biodiesel and improving the energy efficiency of the town's buildings and schools.
"There has been a lot more awareness over the past year and it's hard to pick up a publication without seeing a story about global warming," Cameron said. "The awareness has grown and the key question remains is whether or not it will translate to action."
According to the Eredux report, Vermonters are changing their energy use patterns. Along with leading the nation in per capita use, Vermont also was one of the leaders in overall consumption of greenhouse gas producing energy.
The state produced about 107 million tons of carbon dioxide through its energy use, according to the report. Texas led the states in total carbon output, emitting 672 million tons of carbon dioxide. Texas used more coal, petroleum and natural gas than any other state did.
Vermont's small population helped it rise to the top of the list, but the state's energy portfolio of mostly nuclear and hydroelectric power also created less greenhouse gases than other states that rely on coal, petroleum and natural gas.
"Vermont is the greenest state in the country. They have a lot to be proud of," said Ed Arnold, an information technology specialist with Eredux. "The best way to combat global warming is to think globally and act locally and we wanted this site to help folks see how their states and cities compare."
While Vermont measured up well compared to the other states, there are specific challenges that Vermonters face as they try to reduce the carbon footprint further.
According to the data, Vermonters use more energy for transportation that many urban areas and the cold climate forces a higher than average heating oil consumption rate.
Barbara Duncan, executive director of the Vermont Earth Institute, a statewide energy reduction nonprofit, also said that the large amount of older homes in the state make it hard to conserve energy.
"There is more work for us to do," she said. "People are beginning to look at their carbon footprint but it is still not a household word."
The Vermont Earth Institute has a carbon emission worksheet on its Web site to help calculate household carbon dioxide output.
Once individuals start looking at how they contribute to global warming, they can start making decisions to bring down Vermont's output even further.
She points to consuming local products and weatherization as some immediate steps that can be taken to save energy.
"We want people to be mindful of the everyday actions they take to reduce their ecological footprint," Duncan said. "When you realize the things you can do you can start making changes. If you work 30 minutes away, it is hard not to drive, but you can make a difference in things like the food you eat. It is harder to switch jobs than it is to switch to a local yogurt."
The national carbon footprint data are available online at www.eredux.com.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311 ext. 279.
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