Sunday, December 20, 2009

Janet Swim and Her Carbon-Free Days Once a Week: A Noble Experiment in Modern Living In the Face of Future Climate Change.....................................................................

For Dr Janet Swim, a professor of psychology at Pennsylvania State University who was recently interviewed by AP reporter Malcolm Ritter for an international wire story about climate change headlined "Global warming is a tough sell for the human psyche" -- December 19, 2009) and who last August chaired a task force report on psychology and climate change for the
American Psychological Association (APA, it takes careful analysis of lots of data from lots of places to tease out the signal of global warming, she told the Associated Press.

Dr Swim also told the AP that she sets aside one day every week when she makes a special effort to minimize her carbon emissions from driving a car -- by doing such things as biking or just staying home.

"Most people don't know I have a carbon-free day," she told the AP reporter. "I should tell more people about that."

Yes, she should! It's a very good idea and one worth sharing with the world. So this blog asked Dr Swim to tell us more about her carbon-free day once a week, and this is what she said in a recent email:

"Here is how the idea got started for me:

The university where I work, Penn State University, is trying to encourage students to
cut back on their energy consumption and use. So PSU started what it calls a MY20 program based
upon the idea of personalizing university efforts to cut back 20 percent of their
CO2 emissions.

I thought about taking this literally and wondered, how can I cut back my
emissions and how would I know if it was 20 percent? Our household has changed
some of our behaviors. For instance, we turned down our heat to 66 degrees F. during
the day and 56 degrees F. at night. But it was hard to know how much savings this
was amounting to.

I also started to bike to work. However, because of my class schedule and the distance from campus from my home meant that I was not able to go to work every day using my bicycle -- as some of my colleagues do.

Then, one day as I was biking to campus, it occurred
to me that if I at least did not drive to work one day a week it was close
to not driving 1/5 of the time and that would be about 20 percent. So, I set this
as my goal.

I expanded my idea to taking public transportation to work and biking only one
direction or not biking at all because I live quite a distance from work.
Then I expanded things to arranging my schedule so that I could work at home one day
a week. There have been good side effects. More exercise, for example. Feeling less
frazzled everyday with the need to drive hither and yon.

While writing this and considering how it gives me a break, it occurred to
me that my carbon-free day once a week is a bit similar to the concept of the Jewish Sabbath, where observant Jews use the Sabbath once a week to get off the daily treadmill of everyday life and commune with God for a 24 hour period. Perhaps my carbon-free day can be useful for other people around the world. I probably should tell more people about this. There! I just did, on your blog!"


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