Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How Big Is Your Footprint?

I give up blogger. You win. You can make this section all caps if you want, just leave the rest of my post alone. Okay? Thanks. Bye.

In my semi-mindless twitter reading tonight I checked out a link that Anna over at And Then She Saved posted. The website calculated your approximate environmental footprint based on aspects of your lifestyle such as climate, housing size, purchasing preferences, diet, spending habits, etc... 

I'm quite interested in that sort of thing, so I bit, and I ran my figures:

If everyone on the planet lived my lifestyle, we would need:


= 4.51 Earths


I knew I needed to make some changes, but 4.51 Earths? Yikes. 

That hurts.

I'm sorry Earth.

I tried running it again based on making some fairly substantial changes while still living in my house. ie: no car, giving up meat, adding solar panels to the house, buying all organic, etc...

If everyone on the planet lived my lifestyle, we would need:


= 1.03 Earths

Better. Not good, but better. 

That 0.03 of an Earth means that I am still living the high life. Their housing selections change in 500 sqft increments, and my place is at the low end of my category. Maybe that would make up the 0.03? I can hope.

Then I got thinking again (I really gotta stop doing that)

What do my former colleague's footprints look like? I know some guys who live pretty high on the hog, and couldn't care less about the environment. I plugged in some values to approximate their living arrangements, just to see:

If everyone on the planet lived my lifestyle, we would need:


= 15.24 Earths



*cough cough*

I don't even know what to say about that.

Anyway, while I doubt I'll be able to convince a bunch of construction and oil field workers to give up their trucks, move into shoebox sized apartments and take on a vegan lifestyle, what I can do is focus on my own consumption habits and lead by example. I can be more mindful of what I use, what I purchase, and making what I have last longer.

It's like frugality all wrapped up in a nice little save the environment bow.


I can start by going to sleep on time. Less time awake at night means less time the lights are on. That and I can put my computer to sleep and unplug it rather than just closing the lid. 

Little steps add up the same way big ones do. One at a time.

How many Earths do you use?


thewanderingbudget said...

5.43 earths- yeeeowch! I knew it would be high because I do too much international travel :( Back and forth between Australia twice in the past 18 months takes its toll on the planet.

Thanks for this reminder; I really need to plant some trees!

Rubee said...

Yikes! I got 4.02 earths. We have been meaning to make a few changes to our lifestyle and this is a good nudge in the right direction!

Money Rabbit said...

I was at 3.31 earths, YUCK!!! And I live in a tiny, tiny apartment so there is really no excuse why it's not more!!!

This is a selfish thing, but I don't actually like CFL bulbs because they tend to be very bright and don't give off that soft, yellow glow of an incandescent. They make every room look and feel like a hospital. BUT I'd love to learn how to incorporate other green practices into my life. It'd be awesome to get the number below one planet.

Cassie said...

I live in the urban sprawl, and I used to work downtown. Those kms add up fast!

Money Rabbit, I'm pretty sure they have CFL bulbs on the market now that are specifically designed to give off a softer yellow cast like incandescents do. Maybe those would work :)

Moonwaves said...

Those calculators, while interesting, are also fairly flawed. Just for laughs, I thought I'd try the one you have linked to.

On the first page I see two issues - first, there are lots of homes smaller than 50 sq metres but that's the smallest size they allow you to choose. And second, for these purposes, the amount of money I earn has really nothing to do with carbon footprint. Yes, it's true that with a higher disposable income there is a higher chance that I engage in more environmentally damaging behaviour but it's not a given. Considering that a huge chunk of my income goes to paying off debt, there's really not that much left over to do damage to the planet with.

On the second page, I have to choose 'what best describes the vehicle you most often drive or ride in' but the only options given are various types of cars - tram, which would apply for me, isn't there at all. I don't own or use a car.

The whole issue of meat being bad for the planet is also something that is far more complex than most people realise. Yes, animals raised in CAFOs and being fed mostly or all grain will fit into the idea that it's silly to grow 7x kg of grain to 'grow' 1x kg of meat, why not just eat the grain. But animals are supposed to eat stuff humans can't (like grass). There are lots of places where it's just not vialbe to grow grains but grass grows very well so it's not a straight swap because even if that field wasn't growing grass in order to 'grow' cattle, for example, it still wouldn't be growing grain (or at least not without the addition of massive amount of chemicals).

And soy plantations and palm plantations have been the cause of massive amounts of environmental destruction, too.

Moonwaves said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Moonwaves said...

Mine was 1.44 earths by the way but since I answered any of the questions that just didn't apply to me by choosing the obvious best answer, that's probably not all that accurate.

I just had a quick look through my archives and in 2006 a similar calculator gave me a 3.07 score. Looks like living in an innercity apartment rather than a house on the outskirts of a town makes a big difference.

Cassie said...

I understand the calculators are flawed and tend to use broad sweeping strokes over areas that can have a lot of variation. For example, how you drive a vehicle can have more of an environmental impact than how far you drive. 10km of aggressive urban driving has a different impact than 10km of leisurely rural driving, but that isn't accounted for here. Likewise, while solar panels are touted on the website, they don't account for the fact that current technology still requires massive amounts of energy just to produce them in the first place.

I agree with you on the meat aspect. A freezer full of wild game has a different footprint than a freezer full of conventionally raised meat.

The calculator is more of a general snapshot than an exact science. While it may not be 100% accurate, it's still good for getting a bearing on your daily activities and the impacts you may not have otherwise considered.

Its too bad you deleted your calculation off here, it was interesting.

Moonwaves said...

I only deleted it because I wanted to add in that I had found the one from a few years ago but couldn't edit it. Thought I'd save clogging up the entire post with my comments (by posting one new one with both bits of info). That didn't quite work out then. :)