Monday, February 19, 2007

No Matter How Hard I Try

….I leave a carbon footprint.

If I eat vegetables, I remove a carbon-scrubbing organism from the ecosystem.

If I eat meat, I encourage the production of livestock, which not only consume plants but also produce methane, a “more potent” greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Livestock contribute more to global warming than all the cars in the world.

My breathing adds 1 ton of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year. [Here’s the calculation (please make allowances, dear reader, for my rusty high school chemistry). Assume that an average human being produces CO2 at the rate of 1 liter per minute (weight and physical activity can cause the estimate to vary widely.) CO2 weighs about 2 grams per liter (weight of 44 grams per mole divided by 22 gas liters per mole).

2 g / min x 525,600 min/yr = 1,032,429 g / yr = 2,271 pounds /yr.]

To get a more complete picture, I decided to fill out one of the web’s carbon calculators. First I had to enter estimates of our annual driving and air travel miles, as well as the miles per gallon that we get on our cars.

Next I had to compile our family’s usage of natural gas and electricity. Below is a graph of our consumption for the twelve months ending last November.

Our final score showed that we’re leaving a smaller carbon footprint than the average American family. That’s a relief; I wouldn’t want guilt to push us toward the premature purchase of $30,000+ solar energy panels. Besides, I'm saving for a widescreen HDTV and a 5-speaker surround sound system. © 2007 Stephen Yuen

The little halo shows that we're better than average. Mom would be proud.

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