Monday, March 29, 2010

The Footprint Experiment; Part I

I AM a lover of the earth, but am I REALLY? Do I live in a way that would sustain our planet and it's population? Lately I've been really interested in learning what my impact is this planet and how I can contribute to the overall health of our world. The first step in the process is to become aware of how much damage I personally am doing.

After doing some digging, I found a few carbon footprint calculator's that I liked, and yes, I tried MANY . . .

The Global Footprint Network has a fun little cartoon that creates a virtual story as you answer the questions. They also emphasize the importance of buying local and sustainable foods, which has a huge impact on one's carbon footprinting, and an aspect which not many calculators go into detail over. In the end, when they show you your results, they don't just give you a number, they put it in perspective. You can imagine my surprise when I read that "if everyone lived like you (me), we'd need 3.8 Planet Earths to provide enough resources"! To support my current lifestyle it would take 16.7 global acres of the Earth's land, . . .what's scary is that we thought that we were pretty good about being sustainable! We have a lot of work to do! We aren't major meat eating jet-setters, but there are things around our house that are huge energy eaters and things that we can re-evaluate.

Has a neat little calculator as well, this one breaks down your footprint very clearly into transportation, housing, and shopping. It also compares your results with the average of others in the same economical status, an interesting little comparison. However my results were still alarmingly high, with a carbon footprint of 60 metric tons of CO2/year, equal to others in my income bracket, and much higher than the world average which they calculate as 10! Holy cow!

Last, the Nature Conservatory, has a simple calculator that also compares your results to a national average and a world average. The quiz is more detailed than others and even asks questions about steps that you taken to conserve which I liked because I felt that it took some of the considerations we've already made towards a greener living into count. As you answer the questions, you can actually see the calculator subtracting C02 figures. With this calculator our results ended up being 41 tons of C02 against a national average of 80 and a world average of 17. Slightly better, but still alarmingly high.

This little experiment has really opened my eyes. Gary and I are conscious about our impact, but apparently not enough. We both want to do what we can to contribute to a sustainable future for us, our daughter, her children and so on and so forth. For now, we have decided to try and make the following changes and see how this will change our carbon footprint, . . .

1. Get our hot tub better insulated. A biggy! Twehe reason we got solar panels is because our hot tub uses tons of electricity, however, our bills are still higher than we want them. We got the solar panels hoping we would balance it at 0 and we are a far cry from that.

2. Change ALL of our light bulbs--we've changed many, but now we will change them all.

3. By locally--period! This will be the hard one. We've given ourselves each one luxery item, for Gary, it'll have to be Marmite, his staple from home, for me, I'm not quite sure yet. We by most produce from local farmers, but now we want to extend that to all corners of our pantry.

So that's what we are starting with. Admittedly, the task of eating only local goods is a bit daunting to me. I was at the grocery store today and when I went to reach for the bag of bagels I thought to myself, "well shit! I don't know where the flour comes from or anything else in that bagel for that matter!" Next I looked at the organic chicken I usually buy and found out it had been shipped from Colorado! So I guess this is where the research begins! Let's see what happens!

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