Tech + Lifestyle

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My Carbon Footprint: Part One

Over the past year, I’ve tried to become more aware of my impact on the environment. I’m by no means the stereotypical treehugger, but I do believe that American culture, as a whole, is highly irresponsible when it comes to the ways and means by which we live. Reducing my carbon footprint by a few tons might not make a huge difference, but millions of people doing the same will add up.

I already create a lower-than-average amount of carbon, due largely to the fact that I’m a college student. Many of the measures I take are as much to save money as they are to save the planet – I take short showers, keep lights and AC off whenever possible, etc. There are still further measures I can take:

  • Plastic Bags: I am still guilty of accepting plastic bags whenever I go grocery shopping. Buying cloth shopping bags will be a big improvement. Here are some links to companies that provide reusable shopping bags (many brick and mortar stores sell their own reusable bags as well). Ecobags; Baggu; Envirosax.
  • Light Bulbs: I’ll admit it – I haven’t switch to CFLs yet. All the light bulbs in my house are incandescent. That being said, unless it’s dark outside, I don’t use them. My house was designed with large windows, and natural light is sufficient for my activities. Eventually, however, I will be making the switch. Whenever an incandescent bulb dies (or if CFLs are significantly reduced in price), I’ll replace it with a shiny, new CFL bulb. Tip: Check the color temperature of the bulbs you’re looking at to avoid a light that is too bright/harsh. Less than 3000K will appear as a soft/warm white, greater than 3500K is a regular/bright white, 4000K is a cool white, and 5000K or greater is equivalent to daylight.
  • Water usage: My water usage is decent, but not great. The area I live in (Norman, Oklahoma, just south of Oklahoma City) gets a decent amount of rainfall, so I don’t water the lawn. My two roommates and myself are all in Air Force ROTC, and by habit we all take short showers (resultant of “austere” training environments). One thing that’s been driving me crazy since I moved in on August 21st is how much water my toilet uses each time it is flushed. I’ve heard of some simple DIY tricks to lower the amount of water used, and I think I’ll test one. More on the results of that later this week. My washer/dryer combo are older and probably inefficient, but I don’t have the funds available to replace them, so I just try to make sure I adjust the water level of each load to match the amount of clothing in there. Finally, my dishwasher is decent, but washing by hand uses less. My roommate Travis is a bit of a neat freak, so I’m trying to wash dishes by hand after every meal – save some water, and save him some twitchy behavior.
  • Transportation: I live fairly close to campus (about 4.7 miles according to Google Maps). Additionally, this semester I only have class four days each week. There is other driving that I do, obviously, but that’s the most frequent commute I make. My roommates and I carpool whenever possible, and that helps. My car is older, but pretty fuel-efficient (41 mpg highway, maybe 30-32 city). I’m looking into Norman’s public transportation system – it might even get me to school faster, because once I get to my parking lot (free parking at the basketball stadium) I then stand around for a few minutes, waiting for a shuttle up to the academic part of campus. Another possibility is to use a bicycle. Not sure if I trust the driving skills of the good people of Oklahoma enough to take that step just yet; we’ll see. It would significantly reduce my gasoline usage, though, and give me some extra exercise each day.

More posts regarding my struggle to become a better, greener person will follow. In the mean time, here are some links to various carbon footprint calculators. Many of them also have tips on what you can do to reduce your impact on our lovely little planet.

EPA Personal Emissions Calculator (good to see our government finally jumping on the bandwagon)

Be Green Carbon Calculator

Safe Climate Calculator (some info only available for European countries)

Be Green calculated my carbon footprint at 15.1 tons. Part of the reason it’s so high is I’m doing a study abroad to China in the spring, and flying to Beijing is something like 2.5 tons alone. Also, the carbon from my home’s electricity and natural gas was put on me alone; in reality it is split three ways. Not all carbon calculators are accurate (another pegged me at 6.8 tons), but they do give you an indication of what creates the majority of your carbon output so that you can find ways to reduce it.


September 1, 2008 - Posted by | Eco Conscious, Personal | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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