About week ago my lab instructor handed the class a packet and told us lab was cancelled and we would be using the time to calculate our carbon foot print and coming up with ways to reduce it. He sent us out the door with the warning “don’t procrastinate on this” and away we went. A few days before the lab was due I pulled it out and started reading, I was asked to go to the EPA website and use their carbon calculator to figure out my or my family’s weight in carbon. I live in the dorms so I figured I’d ring home, get my numbers and do the assignment. I have always considered myself “green”, I took the bus to and from school almost every day in high school, I’ve been using green shopping bags since before they we’re in and I’ve been avidly recycling and pushing others to do so since I was 12. So I’m sure you can imagine my shock and disbelief when my weight in carbon was 26,730 POUNDS. The weight for the average American is 20,750 pounds. Not only was my carbon foot print big, it was obese. I felt shocked and hypocritical so I’ve come up with some ways that I am committing to shrinking that MASSIVE number.
To begin, I feel it is important to point out that the EPA survey only asked about household things like cars and commuting, heating the home and recycling so this bulky number is a number that doesn’t take into account the clothes I wear, the food I eat and the stuff I buy, all things that if looked at critically would make my foot print even bigger. So to start I can work these personal things down. As far as my diet goes, committing to not eating meat is a huge step that I could take to shrinking this big foot sized carbon print. Since this is a tough first step and since I already don’t eat red meat I can commit to ONLY eating local, organic meat that doesn’t travel cross country to end up on my plate. I can also swear to shop organically, locally and with my own personal reusable bag (courtesy of the FLC Environmental Center).
These steps are easy to do on my own but the big steps come from the data I got from the EPA, aka my morbidly obese carbon foot print. The data I used was all data from my house, parents and little brother which means they also have obese carbon foot prints despite recycling and flicking the switch off when the leave a room. The true way to reduce my carbon foot print to a manageable size is going to come from working with my family.
To being we have got to use less heat and electricity, switching out light bulbs and turning things off when we leave the house, even if it’s just a quick walk around the park with the dogs. This could save us a ton in electricity and heating costs as well as reduce our foot prints. Another thing we as a family can do is drive less. My younger brother takes the bus to school, but this is because he can’t legally drive yet. He is looking forward to the convince of a car. I take the bus whenever I’m home but to be honest it’s because I wrecked my car a couple months back, the universe telling me to get on public transportation no doubt. Keeping my brother on the bus is a good step, but getting my parents on a bus is a tougher one. My home town has a crappy bus system where residents feel the only way to do anything in a timely fashion is to drive there. Showing the city we need a better bus system is a huge project to take on that would reduce the whole town’s carbon output. A simpler way to encourage the use of public transportation is to promote biking and walking to work and carpooling when necessary. If my parents start doing this they can inspire their colleagues, and they can inspire their families, so on and so forth. In theory a pay it forward system starts and everyone is feeling greener.
Aside from heating and cooling, busing, walking and biking something we can do is use less plastic. Less plastic pop bottles, plastic wrap, plastic silverware and plastic containers. Plastic is pure evil and results in the use of a lot of carbon to produce. If we minimize this in our lives we will no doubt shrink some of our footprint. Another thing we can do is look into green energy. My idealist dad has wanted to strap solar panels to our roof for as long as I can remember and now would be the time to jump on that. For the longest time I thought he was a crazy dreamer but green energy was at the top of the suggestion list from the EPA.
There are a lot of things we can do to reduce our foot prints and become “below the average American.” I’m going to start with the things I can from campus and one of these things that’s easiest to do is educate my friends and family. I heard a speaker say once, “we all have one small thing that we can do, what’s yours going to be?” so I’m declaring my “one small thing” educate those around me and take on all the tasks mentioned above; eating, shopping and busing locally as well as supporting my dad in his solar energy crusade. I know that by this time next year I can shrink my foot print as well as my families, all it takes is a little energy.
By: Morgan Boaman