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Oh my, what big feet you have…

Published 23rd September 2009 - 16 comments - 3069 views -

Having returned from the Th!nk2 launch in Copenhagen last night, and with Climate Change at the forefront of my mind, I decided to check my carbon footprint. A simple means (I thought) to confirm my part in the valiant effort to safeguard the survival of humankind. To my horror, it turns out my feet are rather larger than I'd expected. No strike that, they are veritably enormous. I am the Godzilla of carbon. Just how big are we talking here folks... well it seems I've clocked up a whopping 10.98 tonnes in the last year (give or take a few kilograms). And that is just for household energy, appliances and travel. Nothing to do with food consumption, purchases or any number of other things.

While this admission may provoke a few gasps of horror out there in cyberspace, more than likely most of you are thinking "so what?".

A little perspective perhaps.

According to ACT ON CO2, which is where I calculated said footprint, the national average for this calculation is 4.46 tonnes. So essentially I'm living a double life - and not a sexy, 007 type thing either. While it's not a revelation that would keep most people awake at night -  I'm telling you, it's put a cold sweat on my brow. Why? Well the problem is (cue acute blushing) I consider myself er... herm to be rather sound on the green credentials. I did afterall volunteer on an emissions reduction project at my previous company, I am examining carbon emissions as part of my PhD, I do wax lyrical on the necessity of doing something about climate change, and I have just signed up to a blogging competition on this very same topic. Yes, the problem is, the very, very big problem is, I'm a hypocrite.

The shocking revelation of my carbon gluttony has definitely pulled me up short. As my friend Jo put it, nothing is more irritating than someone standing on a soapbox while simultaneously flouting the same ideals they're espousing. I'd have to agree. So where does that leave me? Well it's clear that some changes are needed - some rather drastic ones. And so here it is, with 75 days left to COP15 I've decided to dedicate the next three months to investigating, examining, reforming and refining my nasty habits in a bid to cut my carbon footprint to below the national average. The reality is, if someone who actually believes that climate change is a serious threat can't make the necessary changes to their lifestyle, who can?

The question is, how far will I be prepared to go? Am I willing to go without my usual appliances? Is getting stuff off freecycle an option I'd consider? Can I stomach the thought of eating raw and local? Will it seem worth it when I'm walking to the station in the pouring rain? And more crucially am I prepared to (gulp) give up my beloved traveling? The goal here is not simply personal redemption, I want to genuinely understand what changes an average individual can make to their carbon footprint without drastically altering the way they live. No moving into a wigwam in the middle of the Devon, no giving up of trips into the big city and certainly no growing of vegetables in the front yard.

I'll keep you posted...

Category: Greenhouse Gases, UN Climate Change Conference 2009, | Tags: climate change, environment, carbon footprint, emissions,



Comments

Frank Schnittger on 23rd September 2009:

Great diary.  I’m dreading calculating my own footprint.  Gave up on my first attempt some time ago (it was getting very complicated).

On the plus side, all that travelling has obviously broadened your mind, and there is a life-cycle to that sort of thing.  When your student days are over, no doubt you will end up rooted to the same spot rather more than you would wish…

There is nothing wrong with doing some travelling provided you do so in as responsible way as possible.  Green living will never catch on if we project an image of being total killjoys.  So stay on that soapbox - have have as much fun as you can while you’re at it!

Ruth Spencer on 24th September 2009:

The buy local argument is so contentious - If we take it seriously, living locally has the potential to seriously change many facets of our lives. For example, I just found this on Reuters: - http://www.reuters.com/article/mnGreenAutos/idUS363317536420090923

Jodi Bush on 24th September 2009:

Thanks Ruth! I read something similar recently about fruit being grown in countries where it takes substantially more energy to do so - i.e. using hothouses. Shipping oranges from Spain for instance is more carbon friendly than trying to grow them in Yorkshire. I think that is part of the quagmire that individuals face when trying to address their own carbon footprint. There don’t appear to be straight forward solutions. Environmentalists promote using second hand goods - but what if that is a secondhand fridge, or 20year old car? In the words of Kermit - it’s not easy being green…

Nanne Zwagerman on 24th September 2009:

It’s definitely not easy to live green, especially not if you live in a society that isn’t. It might be easier if you think of it in terms of freedom.

Your travels account for a lot, so I guess you took a few intercontinental flights. There’s not much you can do about that but travel less, and sometimes that’s not an option. PhD students have their conferences to attend. However, holidays are a good occassion for travelling slower and shorter distances.

In your day to day travel, though, you might have more fun riding a bike, having a free exercise on the way, and if you have decent public transport as well you might find yourself without the need for a car. Which is one less thing to worry about, and pay for.

You also have a decent amount of appliances, and you can ask whether all of these are really working out for you or some are just clogging your space and your life.

Jodi Bush on 25th September 2009:

Yes, in some senses it is easy for me to make a drastic cut to my carbon emissions - stop travelling abroad. Of course that would be like cutting out a piece of my soul! Still I feel like I could be more aware of the travel I’m doing - and perhaps buy carbon offsets when I do fly internationally. In terms of my lifestyle I’m relatively average, so making some general changes (like using less, reusing more) would make a difference… From my experience just being concious of your footprint naturally makes you more aware of the choices you’re making in your lifestyle.

Paul Montariol on 11th November 2009:

Perhaps can you use more new energies. If you produce much you will be able to consume much!

Whinlatter on 19th May 2010:

I’m just going to keep riding my bike around <a >Whinlatter</a>.

Greg on 25th May 2010:

There is nothing wrong with doing some travelling provided you do so in as responsible way as possible.  Green living will never catch on if we project an image of being total killjoys.  So stay on that soapbox - have have as much fun as you can while you’re at it!
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Jeff on 28th May 2010:

It’s definitely not easy to live green, especially not if you live in a society that isn’t. It might be easier if you think of it in terms of freedom.
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garry on 08th June 2010:

Traveling yields a lot of positive possibility and thus good to our business. Personal Injury Lawyer

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