18 April 2012

Environmental Footprint Calculator

With Earth Day right around the corner, Steve sent me a link to this environmental footprint calculator, so I gave it a try.

It asks questions about how much meat you eat, where your food comes from (local food has a smaller carbon footprint), what kind of home you live in how much electricity you use, and how much you drive, and then it tells you about your environmental footprint. And because tons of carbon dioxide are fairly abstract, they put it in terms of how much land is needed to support your lifestyle and how many earths would be needed if everyone lived just like you do.

As I went through the quiz, a picture filled to reflect my answers. I try to eat lots of fresh (unprocessed) foods, so there's a big fruit/vegetable stand. When I selected "green house," a house with solar panels landed in the field (other options included "single-family home without running water").


I thought I'd get pretty good results, but the calculator still said we would need 4.4 earths for everyone on the planet to live like I do. (Was it the running water?) It also said that it takes 19.7 acres of the world to support my lifestyle.


Eek. I guess I'm not as green as I thought.

So what did I do? Well, first I went back through the program again, making much less green selections (you know, to make myself feel better about my wasteful ways).


My very un-green alter ego drives a SUV and eats A LOT of meat and processed food (luckily she lives so close to the meat-and-processed-food shop), and she generates a lot more garbage. Oh, and she flies a lot more than I do (hence the TWO planes in the sky). Consequently, her lifestyle takes 60.5 acres to support her lifestyle, and it would take 13.6 earths for everyone to be able to live like she does.


Interestingly, a huge difference between the two scenarios is that mobility is a very small part of my actual life, whereas it constitutes half of the second ecological footprint (between driving/ flying more and requiring more transportation to get food and products).

The main area I saw for improvement of my actual results -- as evidenced by my not-so-green answer to the question -- was with regard to buying household goods. (All of the questions are in terms of how much you do/buy/eat relative to other people, and although I think we're pretty frugal, I certainly can't say we never buy household items.) But as long as we're reusing/refurbishing old or used things, I think they should count for extra credit, don't you think?

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