Sunday, February 22, 2009

Call Me Bigfoot

Good news: The Emissions Calculator from yesterday's post appears to work just fine. (How fine? Picture a REALLY precise mirror magnifying every conceivable flaw in every pore of your face). Still, as promised yesterday, here are my results.

But first, how's it work...?

Provided you have easy access to your annual kWh of electricity usage, therms of natural gas, gallons of propane and fuel oil (my info was available online at each of the utility's "My Accounts" links); and provided you can estimate your annual air-travel and driving miles each year along with your average gas mileage, you should have no trouble getting a total. You simply move the graph-line sliders on the calculator to the amounts most accurately reflecting your annual usage and the numbers are calculated and totaled for you, automatically.

At the end, your total production (in pounds) of CO2 appears above a results line that ranks you from 1 (the worst, most profligate, wasteful user of non-renewable fossil fuels and abuser of our natural resources...e.g. "me") to 10...e.g. "Bambi."

The news for us was disappointing, surprising and frank: in terms of carbon footprint size, we're apparently closely related to Bigfoot. To look at the carbon footprint size of my little family, you'd think we devour three brontosauruses, a T-Rex and a herd of mastodons worth of fossil fuel and exhale tons and tons of noxious gas vapors all by ourselves every week.

The total carbon-emissions output our home/family was responsible for producing last year was over 100,000 lbs! That's more than 50 tons of greenhouse gasses per year just from us (two big people), our kids (two little people) and Lucy the Labradoodle (frankly, I blame the dog). And that number didn't even take into consideration or include my wife's extensive international air travel for business (use the emissions calculator to check out the heavy load of greenhouse gasses those jumbo jets churn out per passenger, per mile. You'll be shocked.)

That's not all. If you think the calculator overstates YOUR carbon emission production, consider this: nowhere does it ask about - or factor into the total mix - the energy cost in food and other grocery-store-item transport - from producer, to distributor, to the local Safeway - nor was it apparent how it figured in (if indeed it did) the air, rail & truck delivery energy demand for shipping items purchased online or from catalogs... or, in the back-and-forth return-transport energy when those online purchases fail to please.

In all seriousness: It's time for us - my family and me - to make a very detailed and deliberate accounting of our home life habits. Like addicts, living in the fantasy that fossil fuels will burn on forever without consequence - and under the illusion that we can continue to use them indefinitely - we must now take a fearless inventory of those habits that deplete resources, trash the environment, heat up the globe and diminish the likelihood of ever achieving the end goal of long-term sustainability.

It's a big but surely worthwhile challenge. And it's an educational opportunity for us all. Especially, it's a great chance to get the kids involved in the meaningful, lifelong process of living responsibly and pursuing sustainability. On purpose. It's time for us to make some progressive decisions and some abiding new commitments.


Who knows, it could make a difference.

And you?


  1. Wow. that is an amazing statistic. It would be interesting to see a percentage break down of the total.i.e. how much was from your home energy use and how much was from your transportation, etc.

  2. Amazing, indeed, Seamus. And by the calm light of day really quite surprising. Surprising to the point that something doesn't seem right. According to the calculator, which maxes kWh per year at 30,000, we're off the charts by more than double, e.g. 63,000 kWh last year.

    Our home is large but not unduly energy inefficient, nor are we seriously all that profligate in our usage. Except of course in the summer in Arizona when the heat soars and the virtually perpetual demand for good A/C skyrockets. That figure more than triples our total transport output which the calculator tells me is roughly 20K lbs per year. Still, way too much.

    A real eye opener. Time to call the electric company and embark on my next home improvement project: adding some sort of a solar/PV electricity-generating system to the property.

    I'll provide updates on this blog as I find out what (and how much $$) that will entail.

    And again, thanks for your participation here.