In US, Cutting Carbon and Noise Pollution Go Hand In Hand

plug ears sign photo

Photo by srboisvert via Flickr Creative Commons

A new report from the National Academy of Engineering states that the US is tops at being too darn loud, and that all the noise is hazardous to our health. It's not terribly surprising news. In fact, naturally quiet places are an endangered species in the US. But the suggestions made by NAE for trimming noise would also help us cut out carbon emissions. As the report states, exposure to noise can damage hearing, sleep patterns, concentration and boost our stress levels. They recommend that the US government play a stronger role in regulating noise, treating it the same as other types of pollution and without delay. Indeed, the report notes that the European Union has done a much better job at quieting down countries, from disclosing product noise to consumers before purchase to promoting a market for quieter products from manufacturers.

"As the population of the United States and, indeed, the world increases and developing countries become more industrialized," the report states, "problems of noise are likely to become more pervasive and lower the quality of life for everyone. Efforts to manage noise exposures, to design quieter buildings, products, equipment, and transportation vehicles, and to provide a regulatory environment that facilitates adequate, cost-effective, sustainable noise controls require our immediate attention."

The most common source of noise, as pointed out by Smart Planet, are "all forms of transportation, including planes, trains, cars and trucks; lawnmowers, snow blowers, leaf blowers and other loud household products; and manufacturing machines."

Knowing this, it seems to go without saying that lowering noise pollution and lowering greenhouse gas emissions go hand in hand -- if taking a cue from the NAE, the government could essentially kill two birds with one stone, or at least break their wings (pardon the gruesome metaphor).

From driving less, to using motor-less tools in the yard, to simply buying less manufactured stuff, we can contribute to not only trimming GHGs, but all the racket too. It's kind of a "duh" statement, but one we don't necessarily think of all that often. For instance, if cars are a source of noise pollution -- which they obviously are -- and they're responsible for about 20% of the US's GHG emissions, then it goes without saying that we could boost our levels of health on a both highly localized and global level by taking the bus (arguably louder but unarguably fewer of them on the streets) rather than owning a car. The same goes with household gadgets, which produce low enough noise levels that we don't necessarily notice them, until they're turned off and the real level of quiet is suddenly apparent. Turning off everything that makes a humming, whirring or beeping sound indeed quiets a household, and cuts energy consumption.

The NAE argues that the US government should take a more active role in requiring lower noise levels from our machines, but we also argue that simply using fewer machines in the first place is equally as helpful on more levels that just decibels.

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