Measure for measure
One reason I’m excited to have this blog is that I think its really going to help to keep me conscious of my choices. I’m hoping the urge to buy some cheap t-shirt or disposable chair will be tempered by the knowledge that it is hypocritical to write about fair trade chocolate on monday and eat the stuff that isn’t the same afternoon. On the other hand Noerah and I do not profess to be model citizens by any means, we are just trying our best to be thoughtful and careful consumers and sharing our experiences with you so you can try a little harder too. So we wondered, how do we measure where we stand and how do we track whether we are getting better or worse…
Here are two websites where you can measure your carbon footprint: they are based on a short quiz which measures your deviation from the average numbers and is therefore far from accurate. But they do give you a good sense of where you have the most room to improve and change your lifestyle.
What I like about MyFootprint is the simple graphics which powerfully drive home the problems caused by the way I live. As you can see my current lifestyle, if it became the human average, would require 2.25 earths to sustain. I’m obviously part of the problem here. On the other hand you can see that my numbers are well below those of the country overall, so I guess I can feel good that I’ve made a start however small. This site covers a lot of ground in terms of reviewing your buying patterns, eating habits, accomodation, transport, etc and I like that you can read up some background information on many of the categories covered.
The calculator at Wattzon makes an effort to be exhaustive in some departments, allowing you to input each object that you own, the anticipated ‘life expectancy’ of the object and the energy embodied in it so you can tell exactly what your energy use is. To be honest I just put in some of the larger items I own and continued along so I know that the ‘stuff’ component of my profile isn’t accurate. But honestly, it would take me forever to work out the real carbon footprint of every book, bag, piece of furniture, etc, etc. I guess that tells you right there that I have too much stuff, which is a lesson unto itself! As an architect I was frustrated that the calculator doesn’t seem to take into account the type of home you live in: in the ‘housing’ section the only questions pertain to the energy used in running the building, but what about the embodied energy in the house? If you just put up a brand new 16,000 sf house you have a much bigger carbon footprint than I do in my 650sf shared apartment in a 120year old brownstone. The best part about this site is that you can compare your footprint to other users and there is a sense of community which, hopefully, will allow some sharing of ideas about how to reduce your energy use.
Where does all this measuring leave me? There are some ‘big ticket’ items that I’m just not ready to give up on — like the heavily carbon intensive overseas trips to see my family. On the other hand there are some things I’m definitely going to try: ways to better insulate our house for next winter, and to reduce my water use. There are other things I’m doing that I can incrementally improve like continuing to refine my eating habits and making better consumer choices. I guess next January I can try some of these calculators again and see if there has been any improvement.