The GreenerU Carbon & Energy Translation Kit

a greeneru guide
The GreenerU Carbon & Energy
Translation Kit
kWh?! CO2?! BTUs?! Whaa?
• Table of Units
• Picturing One Ton of CO2
• What One Ton of
Carbon Means
• Translation, Please!
• Golden Nuggets &
Elevator Pitches
Carbon and energy terms are frequently used to describe sustain-
ability achievements but even the “climate educated” among us can
get lost in the jargon. Are you seeking a better understanding of
greenhouse gases, tons of carbon dioxide, or kilowatt hours? Do you
want to be able to calculate your campus’ carbon and energy impacts,
and express them in a way that people will actually understand?
This Translation Kit offers some tools and tips to help you translate
energy, environmental, or economic abstractions into more concrete
and relatable images and concepts. It will enable you to better
understand the environmental impact of your campus operations and
communicate about those impacts with students, faculty, and staff.
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When people talk about energy, environment, and climate change, inevitably a lot of units pop up in the dialogue.
Units of energy, mass and volume are all part of the jargon. The most important and commonly used units are arranged
below in a chart that will help you understand what they mean and how they relate to each other.
Important for understanding greenhouse gas emissions
Carbon dioxide
Short ton
Metric ton
Emissions from various
greenhouse gases based
upon their global warming
potential (GWP)
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the base of the global warming potential (GWP)
system and has a GWP of 1. All other greenhouse gases’ ability to
increase global warming is expressed in terms of CO2. The CO2e for a
gas is derived by multiplying the tons of the gas by that gas’s GWP.
Commonly expressed as "million metric tons of carbon dioxide
equivalents” (MMTCO2e).
1 pound = 0.0005 short tons
1 pound = 0.00045359237 metric tons
Emissions, in the US
A short ton is equal to 2,000 lbs, 0.907 metric tons,
and 907.18474 kg.
Emissions, internationally
A metric ton is equal to 2205 lbs, 1.1 short tons, and 1000 kg.
1 kilogram = 0.001 metric tons
1 kilogram = 0.00110231131 short tons
Important for understanding energy
Kilowatt hour
Thermal Unit
Electricity consumption
One kWh is equivalent to 1000 watts running for 1 hour.
If you left a 100 watt light bulb on for one hour, you would use
(100 watts) x (1 kW/1000 watts) x (1 hour) = 0.10 kWh.
Rate of energy conversion
A typical household incandescent light bulb has a power rating of
25 to 100 watts; fluorescent lamps typically consume 5 to 30 watts to
produce a similar amount of light, while comparable LED lamps use
about 0.5 to 6 watts.
A Megawatt (MW) is 1 million watts. A typical coal powered power station
produces around 600-700 MW.
Traditional unit of energy
One BTU is approximately 0.293071 W·h (watt hours). 1 watt is
approximately 3.41214 BTU/h. 1000 BTU/h is approximately 293.071 W.
Commonly expressed as MMBtu, which is one million BTU.
Emissions per MMBtu = 0.058 tons of CO2
Important for understanding transportation
A gallon of gasoline produces 19.4 pounds
(or 8.8 kilograms) of CO2.I
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What One Ton of Carbon Means
An easy way to picture a ton of carbon dioxide is to picture a
football field. Imagine a balloon that has a diameter of 10 yards
on that field, with one side on the goal line and the other on the
10 yard line. If you filled that balloon with carbon dioxide, it
would weigh about 1 ton; it would be a 1-ton CO2 balloon.II
The average American emits a ton of CO2e
The average American’s carbon footprint in 2010 is somewhere
around 20-28 tons.III So if your carbon footprint is 20 tons of
CO2 annually (a conservative estimate), you release two football
fields worth of 1-ton CO2 balloons into the Earth’s atmosphere
every year.
About half of those CO2 balloons will be absorbed into the
ocean or trees within a year or two. However, one hundred years
from now, almost a fourth of those CO2 balloons will still be
overheating the planet. And that’s just your CO2 from one year.
Multiply that times all the years of your life (living the way we
do now in the U.S.) and then multiply that by the 350+ million
people in this country. That’s a lot of football fields of balloons!
every two weeks.IV
A ton (2,000 pounds) of CO2 is enough to fill:
• 1,575,900 soda cansV
• A 2,200 square-foot house
A ton of CO2 is emitted by:
• Driving the average car from Atlanta to Las Vegas
(about 2,000 miles)
• Powering the average American home for one month
• 350 filled garbage bags rotting in a landfill
• The average coal power plant over the course of only 9 seconds
Emission of one ton of CO2 is avoided by:
• Preventing sixty cars from driving for one day
• Replacing 3 incandescent light bulbs with CFLs
• Growing 40 tropical trees for one year
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Examples using the EPA GHG Calculator:
If You Already Know the Quantity of Emissions
3 CFL bulbs are estimated to save about one ton of CO2 over the
life of the bulbs compared to traditional incandescent bulbs.
Using 3 CFL bulbs → 1 ton of CO2 saved.
If you have gallons of gasoline, kilowatt hours, or number of
passenger vehicles, and want to convert those into any of the
greenhouse gas units (metric tons, short tons, pounds, or
kilograms) or if you already know the quantity of emissions,
you can convert that into…
• How much an average home emits
Plug that into the EPA Calculator and you find out
that one ton of CO2 is equivalent to the greenhouse
gas emissions from:
→ 102 gallons of gasoline (enough to do a road trip from
Maine to Seattle in a Honda Civic)
→ 37.8 propane cylinders used for home BBQs
→ 2 barrels of oil
→ Carbon sequestered by 23 tree seedlings grown for 10 years
• How much average cars emit
• Gallons of gasoline
• Barrels of oil
• Propane tanks used for home BBQs
• How much tree seedlings would absorb in ten years
• Acres of forest preserved from deforestation
• Coal fired power plants
• How much avoided from recycling
• Any of the other GHG units
…using the EPA Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator.
If You Don’t Have Emissions Data
You can also use the calculator if you know gallons of gasoline,
kilowatt hours, therms of natural gas, or number of passenger
vehicles. Say you know the wattage of an appliance and want to
find out how much carbon is emitted based on average use.
The average plasma TV is 300 watts, meaning it takes 300
watts to power the TV for one hour. Operating a 300 watt
plasma TV for one hour consumes 0.3 kilowatt hours of
electricity. So if your TV is on for 5 hours each day (the
national average)VI, here is the annual carbon emissions
from your TV:
.3 kWh x 5 hrs x 7 days x 52 weeks x .0008 tons of CO2 =
.4368 tons of CO2
Plug that into the EPA Calculator and you find out that
.4368 tons of CO2 is equivalent to the greenhouse gas
emissions from:
→ Nearly an entire barrel of oil, 0.922
→ 44.6 gallons of gasoline
→ 0.133 tons of waste recycled instead of
sending to landfill, which is 266 pounds,
the size of a baby elephant.
u guide
Here are some excellent tidbits of information that you can use to calculate the emissions of energy activities that emit greenhouse
gases and translate that information into digestible snippets for use in conversations and communications materials on your campus.
• In the U.S., on average, 1.37 pounds CO2 is emitted per kWh
consumed, according to the EPA.VII
• An Energy Star qualified compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL)
will save about $30 over its lifetime and pay for itself in about
6 months. It uses 75% less energy and lasts about 10 times
longer than an incandescent bulb.
• If the thermostats in every house in America were lowered
1 degree Fahrenheit during the winter, the nation would save
230 million barrels of crude oil—enough to fill an oil tanker
400 times (almost equal to the amount of crude oil that the
U.S. imports every month).VIII
• Heating a house produces about four tons of carbon dioxide
per year on a national average. Electricity use in the average
house produces eight tons.
• If every American household turned off the lights for one hour
they would prevent more than 16,610 tons of carbon dioxide
from being released­—enough to fill every hot-air balloon at
the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta seven
• The average household emits 5 tons of CO2 per year,
and the international electricity consumption rate is 1.5 lbs
of CO2 per kWh.
I Environmental Protection Agency.
ii Bill Chameides in “Basic Science of Global Warming”, Environmental Defense Fund Blog.
iii Conservation International says it is 27 tons. Carbon Fund says it is 25 tons. Brighter Planet claims it is 28 tons. U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works carbon calculator claims it is
20 tons.
iv Brighter Planet.
v Based on 12 fluid ounces in a soda can and volume of 1 tons of CO2 from International Carbon Bank and Exchange.
vi Nielsen Three Screen Report Q1 2010.
vii Environmental Protection Agency.
viii Energy Information Administration and Delta Sky Magazine March 2008 issue.
ix Delta Sky Magazine March 2008 issue.
x Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition.
xi EPA WaterSense Program
xii Brighter Planet.
• If every household in American replaced one light bulb with a
60-watt equivalent CFL, the energy saved would be: X
- enough to power a city of 1.5 million people, or
- enough to power all the homes in Delaware and Rhode Island, or
- equivalent to taking 1.3 million cars off the roads, or
- enough electricity saved to turn off two entire power plants—or skip building the next two
• A household could save 300 kilowatt hours of electricity
annually by installing efficient showerheads. This is enough
to power its television for about a year.XI
• You can reduce your dishwasher’s energy use by about 7%
by skipping the heated dry cycle. The dishes don’t need it
—they’ll dry fine if you just crack the door open after the
dishwasher finishes. Every time you do this, you will reduce
emissions by an estimated 0.7 lbs. CO2e.XII
© 2010 GreenerU, Inc.
About GreenerU
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programs to behavioral change initiatives,
GreenerU partners with colleges and their
students to solve the campus sustainability
and energy management challenges of today
and tomorrow.
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