Tuesday, July 25, 2006

“If everyone lived like you, we would need 6.6 planets.”

Wow. Lay on the heavy guilt as I drink my coffee this morning. Recently I have been thinking more about the planet, due in part to the recent media attention to the subject (Al Gore movie/book, Discovery Channel Tom Brokaw special) and was prompted to go find some calculators to determine my carbon footprint (www.bp.com). I also found a calculator for my ecological footprint (www.ecofoot.org).

Very depressing. I knew before I started that I would be on the high end globally of energy and resource use. I’m American. It’s our lifestyle. I live in the suburbs and commute to work in my very own car. Okay, I carpool with my toddler as far as her daycare, but I don’t think that counts. I live in a house that is not large by suburban standards (2600 ft/3 BR), but is gargantuan by urban or worldwide standards. We have a nice green lawn (water, fertilizers). We eat meat almost every night. I buy my food at the megamart, where fruit and vegetables of all kinds is available every day, regardless of season, shipped to us from around the world.

But I thought we were doing better. Although we live in the suburbs, we actually work very nearby our house. My husband’s company is only 3 miles away, and he does bicycle sometimes (weather permitting), and my drive is only 7 miles. I feel smug compared to my neighbor who drives 45 minutes each way on the highway. We’re frugal with the A/C and heat (76-78 deg. in summer, 66-68 deg. in winter), warmer/colder when we’re at work. I have been making a greater effort to buy locally grown produce at the farmer’s market during the summer.

Clearly I have a long way to go. Some changes we can make immediately, like replacing our incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents, installing an energy-efficient shower head and water aerators at the faucets, replacing the aging weatherstripping on the doors and windows. I really should make a vegetarian meal a couple times a week (good for our hearts and arteries too). Some changes we will phase in as practical, like buying more efficient appliances whenever an existing one dies, and the next car will have better mileage than the current one. It’s unlikely we will downscale the house though (probably the biggest contributor to global consumption), and there are long sections of the year when nothing edible is growing here.

Food for thought. For comparison: my eco footprint was 29 acres (national average of 24); my carbon footprint was 15 tons/year (national average is 18.6). How about you? How do you feel about it? Do you plan to do anything different?


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