The Role of Our Buildings in CO2 Emissions

The Role of Our Buildings in CO2 Emissions

Climate change is a global phenomenon that is affecting our planet in numerous ways. One of the primary contributors to climate change is greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gasses trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere, leading to rising global temperatures and other climatic changes. While many sectors contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, residential and commercial buildings are responsible for 13% of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. We will explore the different sources of greenhouse gas emissions from residential and commercial buildings.

GHG Emitters and What They Do 

We will talk about carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O). Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a colorless gas that is released during the combustion of fossil fuels like natural gas and petroleum products. Methane (CH4) is a potent greenhouse gas that is much more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a powerful greenhouse gas that is released during the use of fertilizers and contributes to global warming.

Natural Gas Consumption

The combustion of fossil fuels like natural gas and petroleum products for heating or cooking releases carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2020, the direct release of CO2 emissions from natural gas consumption accounted for 79% of the total fossil fuel emissions from the residential and commercial sectors.

Management of Waste And Waste Water

Organic waste, such as food scraps and yard trimmings, that is sent to landfills undergoes anaerobic decomposition, which produces methane (CH4) emissions. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in the United States, food waste is estimated at between 30-40 percent of the food supply. To fight with the food waste, composting is a key factor where we explain all the details in The ABCs Of Composting: A Step-By-Step Guide To Starting Your Own Compost.

Anaerobic digestion is a process that breaks down organic materials in the absence of oxygen and produces biogas, which is mostly composed of methane. Biogas facilities use this process to generate electricity or heat, but the process can also emit methane into the atmosphere.

Wastewater treatment plants treat and process human and industrial wastewater. During this process, they emit both methane and nitrous oxide emissions, which are released from the treatment tanks and lagoons. Wastewater treatment plants are the second-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the US.

Leaks From Refrigerants

Fluorinated gasses, such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), are commonly used in air conditioning and refrigeration systems. These gasses can be released during servicing or from leaking equipment, which can contribute to global warming. 

In addition to the direct contributors that we mentioned, there are several indirect contributors to residential and commercial buildings. Indirect emissions result from the generation of electricity at power plants by burning fossil fuels. The electricity is then utilized in various residential and commercial activities, such as lighting and operating appliances.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from residential and commercial buildings is crucial for mitigating climate change. By adopting sustainable practices such as we shared in Creating A Sustainable Home: 5 Steps For Reducing Your Carbon Footprint and Improving Your Living Environment you can minimize our impact on the environment and help create a more sustainable future.

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