The Power of RECs to Improve Human Health
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by Amy Haddon on 04/25/2013
Every day at Renewable Choice, we help our customers buy renewable energy, primarily in the form of renewable energy credits, or RECs. RECs are the way that clean power is tracked and traded in North America and are used by thousands of organizations—including the EPA—to offset the carbon emissions associated with the consumption of electricity.
The primary benefit of RECs is the power of these offsets to affect climate change. However, the use of RECs to improve air quality and human health is another significant reason to choose to purchase these important commodities.
The Pollution Problem
Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that air pollution is implicated in more than 1 million premature deaths in China, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that worldwide, nearly 2.5 million deaths per year can be attributed to poor air quality as a result of pollution. The air pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels is a risk factor in many major health problems including respiratory infection, asthma, heart disease, and lung cancer. Sadly, children less than five years of age in developing countries are the population at greatest risk from exposure to pollution.
However, people in the U.S. are also at a surprising risk. A whopping 41% of Americans live in counties that have unhealthy levels of either ozone or air particulate. The WHO reports that studies have suggested that upwards of 500,000 Americans die every year from complications related to inhaled air particulate. Californians are at the greatest risk; it is estimated that more than 3800 people die prematurely each year in the San Joaquin valley as a result of pollution, and the most recent State of the Air project from the American Lung Association ranks five of the top 10 most polluted American cities in California.
Reducing pollution and conserving energy go hand-in-hand. By lowering our consumption of fossil fuels, we can have a direct and positive impact on climate change and human health; the two are inextricably linked. Most solutions are also less expensive as they simultaneously reduce utility and fuel costs.
Our Top Five Clean Energy Tips for Individuals and Businesses
- Conserve electricity - Turn off lights, turn off appliances, adjust your thermostat, purchase energy efficient (Energy Star) products, and replace your light bulbs with LEDs. Get an energy audit for your home or business to learn where you have inefficiencies and how you can cut your heating and cooling waste. Upgrade or retrofit your buildings to improve their energy efficiency.
- Reduce, reuse, recycle - Creating new products is more energy—and pollution--intensive than reusing or recycling. New products require virgin materials and manufacturing processes that consume more energy and produce more waste. Instead, recycling, shopping at second-hand stores, living more frugally, and using reusable grocery bags are simple steps you can take to reduce energy emissions.
- Park your vehicle(s) - Vehicle emissions are notorious for their effect on air quality. Whenever possible, choose alternatives to single passenger vehicles. Use public transportation or a carpool. Ride your bike to work. Avoid the drive-thru. Turn off your engine whenever you are parked for more than 10 seconds. Fill your tank in the evening to avoid evaporation. Telework.
- Plant trees - Tomorrow (April 26th) is Arbor Day—what better time to remember that trees are our natural allies in the battle against global warming and air pollution? The UN reports that slowing deforestation is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to combat climate change. Not practical to plant a tree where you live? Eat less meat and shop locally; the expansion of agriculture due to global demand is the primary threat to forests, and local food equals fewer emissions.
- Purchase RECs and carbon offsets - It’s nearly impossible for us to avoid electricity entirely, no matter how much we may want to live off-grid. In order to help neutralize our emissions, we can choose to purchase clean power and carbon offsets from a provider like Renewable Choice. RECs and offsets are an easy, affordable alternative to on-site generated clean power and are available to individuals and businesses of all sizes.
Americans are beginning to experience the real impact of climate change. Many of us stand to realize an immediate benefit in our air quality by changing the way in which we consume energy. Even if you’re not convinced that climate change will impact you, what about considering how pollution might?
Amy Haddon is Vice President of Communications for Renewable Choice. Follow Amy on Twitter @RenewableAmy.