Thursday, July 23, 2009

Carbon Footprint Projection from being Carfree

I'm revisiting this topic that I have been meaning to get to at some point Now is a good time since I can't get to discussing my thoughts on transit and urban design in SLC since I'm having computer issues that prevent me from processing the photos I took.

Photo Credit: Sjabbar

As I've stated before, changing transportation behaviors is one of the fastest and most effective ways of reducing a person's carbon emissions and general impact on the environment. Not only does choosing alternative forms of transportation reduce a person's environmental footprint, but it also addresses issues of national security, consumption, health, and community. Of course if every American stopped consuming copious amounts of oil than our investment in our military would be all for nothing and our economy would crash since all the money we send over seas buying oil gets recycled into the US financial system, but thats a different post for a different blog.

Our transportation system is heavily dependent on oil to function - understatement on the year - and according to Matthew Yeoman in his concise and well written book Oil 97% of our transportation needs are powered by oil and half of all oil consumed daily goes towards keeping our cars on the road. Every day Americans consume approximately 19.5 million barrels of oil, thats 8.19 billion gallons of oil and half of that - 9.75 million barrels per day - is used just for transportation. For anyone interested at looking into this more, a good resource is the EIA and, funny as it sounds, the World Fact Book produced by the CIA.

Now, with that little digression finished, back to my original intent with this post. There are a lot of different websites out there offering various carbon emissions and ecological footprint calculators. The non profit I am working for, The National Forest Foundation, even has a calculator that lets you know the amount of carbon offsets you would need to purchase to make up for your emissions.

After testing out several sites, I choose to use My Footprint created by Redefining Progress. No, I wasn't just lazy and go for the one that topped Google search, but it must be up there for a reason, namely that this is probably the most robust and detailed questionnaire regarding eco-footprints on the web. You start out by answering a few simple demographic questions followed by sections that are meant to measure your carbon footprint, the impacts from the food you eat and the house you live in, and finally the consumption of goods that you partake in regularly.

Mainly through giving up my car and trying to live a carfree existence, my carbon emissions have been cut in half, from requiring 60 acres to sustain down to 32, and that is in comparison to the average American, whom requires 91 acres. In terms of non-transportation related activities, the house I live in requires only about 20% of the resources an average American home requires over its lifetime, including construction and lifetime energy use. However, I don't do so well in the food department, coming in just a sliver bellow the average American. Even with those improvements, it would still require 3.3 Earth's to supply everyone in the world with my lifestyle and I'm a relatively low-income college student, I would like to see the results of someone making a few hundred grand with several house. While the carbon emissions calculated at this site are not exclusive to transportation, I can assure you that the majority of the reduction comes from not driving.

For a more focused transportation look into footprints there are several good ones to choose from including Travel Matters and a good one from Berkeley, that bastion of radical liberalism.


Daniel said...

I might have missed it, but it doesn't seem that MyFootprint calculates air travel miles.

I got caught up on traveling for my own footprint. On a regular week, I really only get in a car maybe once, but I do visit parents or inlaws every few months which eats up a lot of miles. This is one part of my footprint I'm not sure what to do with. Maybe a real train system will make things a little better in this category.

CarFree Stupidity said...

Daniel... I'm pretty sure air travel is in there somewhere, becuase I distinctly remember trying to remember the last time I had been on a plane the first time through this quiz.

jhaygood said...

i'm more in the latter, non-college student category. family, three kids, etc., but at least we leave our car home most of the time. i'll try the calculator and see how far we have to go!

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