Wednesday, January 07, 2009

My Incredible Shrinking Carbon Footprint

In India and China there is pressure and expectation for folks to consume like westerners. Mother Earth is letting us know that westerners need to take a page from the Chinese and Indians, who have one of the lowest carbon footprints on the planet.

It’s 2009, a year that promises to be absolutely lousy for a lot of people thanks to the ministers of financial deregulation and kingpins of the subprime mortgage. Despite the mayhem and confusion over root causes (like runaway credit and crazed-consumption – maybe?), I have something to celebrate. I dramatically reduced my carbon footprint in 2008.

Last year at this time I reviewed my footprint through Zerofootprint’s Carbon Calculator. Boy oh boy did I get a nasty shock. In 2007 I unleashed into the atmosphere 11.6 tonnes of carbon. Five domestic roundtrip flights really add up. They contributed to more than half my carbon emissions during that year.

I vowed to cut my footprint by 40 percent in one year, an ambitious goal to be sure. I am pleased to say that while I did not reach a 40 percent target, I did lower my emissions by 33 percent. Not bad, eh? In 2008, I was responsible for 7.8 tonnes of carbon emissions, below the Canadian and American averages of 9.8 and 12.6, respectively. However, I am well above the national averages of the following:

Average in Mexico – 3.4
Average in UK – 6.5
Average in Denmark – 5.9
Average in China – 1.8
Average in India – 1.4

Note the average for India. By 2050, possibly sooner, every human being must average 1.4 tonnes of carbon per year to stave off runaway global warming and ensure sustainable societies. Runaway global warming is a scenario we must avoid. It will lead to the breakdown of ecosystems on which our species depend.

Sobering, yes? Insurmountable, no.

Reducing our footprints to sustainable levels will not entail a meager existence. By focusing on renewable energy, nutritious local food, preventative health-care, quality education and local service-based economies, we will say goodbye to the rat race and welcome a more quality-of-life existence.

If you have not already, calculate your carbon footprint and make a plan to reduce it, even modestly, by this time next near. A carbon calculator is a great tool to help you plan and reduce your carbon footprint. There are many online calculators. I like Zerofootprint’s because it’s quite detailed. If you like a particular calculator, please recommend it on the comment section of this blog.

As for my footprint, the biggest carbon culprits continue to be air travel, now at 3.99 tonnes, and home heating (natural gas) at 3.91. I have one flight scheduled this year for work. I want to keep it at that. Home heating….that falls into energy conservation. Jane and I are seriously considering scheduling an energy audit sooner rather than later. More on that next week.

In the News

London’s creative schemes to green the city:

Boris Johnson launches plan to retrain jobless Londoners as energy advisers
News on the climate crisis is low priority what with the recession. At least one politician is linking help for the environment with help for the unemployed. Van Jones will be pleased.

Mini-turbines to harness energy from pressure in UK's gas pipelines

1 comment:

GEE said...

Congratulations Cheryl!
Your 1/3 reduction is inspiring!
And you lay it out in a way that is achievable and pragmatic.

You have already had a huge impact on my own habits. Thank you for being a light in the darkness!!!!