Winter emissions

Carbon dioxide emissions, like these from a Fairbanks coal-burning plant, have accelerated worldwide in the recent past. 

The Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition (FCAC), in partnership with Interior Weatherization, recently launched a Carbon Reduction Fund and is asking Fairbanksans for help. The program seeks to winterize homes in Interior Alaska, which by making building more energy efficient, will reduce carbon emissions.

Kenzley Defler, energy justice organizer with FCAC, said the Fairbanks fund takes a unique, two-pronged approach. The program is different from others, Defler said, because “it’s not an offset program where an individual donates some money, feels like they made a huge difference and forget about carbon reduction.” Instead, the program focuses on educational aspects and how people can reduce their own carbon footprint, as well as making it possible for households that cannot afford the upfront cost to do the same.

Martha “Tako” Raynolds added that the fund is “a place where Fairbanks residents can take a personal look at their own carbon footprint and address that in a way that leads directly back into the community.” When burned, the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere and contributes to global warming. According to the fund website, the burning of fossil fuels for transportation, heating and electricity is the primary source of carbon emissions.

The Carbon Reduction Fund is crucial because climate change can often feel like a large, overwhelming problem that a single individual can do nothing about, Raynolds said. “Trying to find something that people could actually do in addressing this really big carbon issue, it can get really big and frustrating,” she said. “People often tune it out because they believe there is nothing they can do to improve the problem. But weatherization is a step that any individual can do.”

The first step is to determine one’s own carbon footprint, where it comes from, and what can be done to reduce it. “That’s one of the things we really wanted people to do, because before you give money, it’s important to look at your own carbon footprint and see if you can reduce that,” Raynolds said.

The Carbon Reduction Fund website includes links to calculators, which allow people to determine where their biggest impacts are and how to improve upon them.

The fund is based it off similar models in Sitka and Juneau, but it was modified to meet Fairbanks’s situation. For example, Juneau and Sitka use funds to replace existing heating with electric heat exchangers, which are run by hydropower. In Fairbanks, heat exchangers are part of the long-term solution but they do not as directly reduce Fairbanksans carbon output.

There are several ways Fairbanksans can help to reduce carbon emissions. The first method, according to the FCAC website, is to complete home weatherization projects. A critical component of reducing carbon emissions is greater energy efficiency. These include improving installation, upgrading windows and heating sources and closing leaks. This is particularly crucial in cold climates such as Interior Alaska’s

“Since we have such an extreme climate here, any changes you make in weatherization can make a huge reduction in the amount of oil you burn,” Raynolds said. When homes need less fuel to stay warm, less carbon is released into the atmosphere. Any gallon of fuel that isn’t burned because the building is more efficient is “the low hanging fruit,” Raynolds added.

Another way is to give money to the Carbon Reduction Fund weatherization program. Donations to the fund go to Interior Weatherization, a nonprofit that weatherizes low income housing.

Some forms of winterization are not an option for people with extremely tight budgets, which is where the fund comes in, Raynolds explained. By donating “you’re allowing other people to reduce their carbon footprints.” People can apply to Interior Weatherization for work on their house. Interior Weatherization conducts an audit on the home and determines the best way to reduce emissions. These improvements, in turn, directly reduce carbon emissions in the Fairbanks area.

The Fairbanks Carbon Reduction Fund recommends that people base their donations off of their carbon footprint, with a suggestion of $10 per ton of carbon or to donate a percentage of your travel budget.

Eligible individuals who are interested in having their homes weatherized can contact Interior Weatherization and fill out an application.

More information about the program, as well as links to carbon footprint calculators, is available on their website, atfbxcarbonreduction.wixsite.com/website.

Contact reporter Maisie Thomas at 907-459-7544 or mthomas@newsminer.com.

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