My, What Big Carbon Footprints You Have!
Six hours of Fergie at Wembly Stadium weren't enough for you last Sunday? Well, lucky you, she's screeching the same songs today for 22 straight hours in order to combat global warming!
OK, so while watching Madonna, Al Gore, Robert Redford, and (of course) Snoop Dog save the planet, I finally decided to try and figure out my carbon footprint. Have you tried to do this? Frankly, I was scared to do it, which is why it took me so long. I know I'm probably more eco-friendly than your average American but I know I can do a lot better.
Anyway, I tried about a dozen different carbon calculators online and they are pretty disappointing. They don't go into much detail and the results vary widely. I produce somewhere between four and ten tons of carbon a year and am somewhere between "below average" and "average" for an American. That's not very helpful. Actually, most of the sites said I was below average so that's good. One said I produce nine tons while the average American produces 18! I know, right? I've been holding back on my carbon emissions but I guess I can go crazy now!
So, like I said, I'm not very impressed by the accuracy of these calculators. But I did learn two interesting things. First, I took two flights in the past year and that could be responsible for as much as forty percent of my carbon emissions! Two flights are almost equal to a year's worth of driving and air-conditioning! I knew airplanes created a lot of pollution but I still found that surprising.
The second interesting thing I learned is that you can buy off the environment. Cheap. That's right, just like indulgences in the Catholic church, you can send money to environmental groups to make up for your carbon sins. One organization told me that I would be carbon neutral if I just send them $29 a year! Cool; that's much easier than conserving energy!
I was really hoping the calculators would go into more detail about my eco-friendliness. Instead, I'll write about what a horrible/saintly person I am here.
Flying: Like I said, I had no idea my holidays were quite so terrible for the environment. It's not like I'm flying on a private jet. But I don't make lots of short flights and I don't fly for business so think I'm pretty good compared to many people.
Driving: My annual mileage is pretty low: around 8,000 miles. My commute to work is only about 12 miles. Unfortunately it takes me about an hour to drive that 12 miles. I know everyone complains about their commute but I'm proud to say that I actually get to drive on officially the worst freeway interchange in the United States: the intersection of the 405 and the 101. I'm not exaggerating; it's the worst in the country! God, that transition sucks! What was I talking about? Oh, yeah; the point is I don't get great gas mileage because most of my driving is in that awful traffic. But I do have my new Honda Civic. It's not a hybrid but I get about 28 miles to the gallon (it's supposed to get 40 highway) and that's almost twice the mpg of my last car.
I feel pretty good about the improvement in gas mileage over my last car. Of course, I could do much better by carpooling or taking the bus but I just don't do it. I've tried carpooling and it's just such a pain in the ass. I tend to stay at work longer than many people want to because I use the gym there. I also like to be a little flexible in my hours; I don't want to worry about running a little late in the morning or leaving late one night to make up for leaving early another night. I know I'm just being selfish. Also, I tried carpooling with a girl from France who drove like a maniac. I assumed it was because she was European but it turned out she had just gotten her driver's license. And the day after we stopped carpooling her car went spinning out of control on Sunset Blvd. (don't worry, she was fine). I lost my taste for carpooling after that. And don't get me started about the bus; I'll just start sobbing uncontrollably.
Power: I don't think we are too bad here. In my last little studio apartment I didn't have air conditioning so I hardly used any electricity. Eric and I use a lot more electricity because we have central air and we have to use it much of the year. We both have trouble sleeping and need it quite cold. We do turn the temperature up during the day. And we almost never have to use the heating in the winter because, our apartment being on the top floor and getting lots of sun, gets really hot in the summer but stays pretty warm in the winter.
We finally went out and bought those funny curly light bulbs that use something like 80 percent less energy. You're welcome! Unfortunately, we can't use them in all our light fixtures because they only seem to come in one size and some of our lights use smaller bulbs. I'm sure they'll start making smaller ones soon.
Recycling: I don't recycle very much. I feel terrible about it! This apartment is the first place I've lived in Los Angeles that doesn't have recycling bins. I think we live in one of the few places in the city that doesn't have a program. I don't have the energy to drive all over town trying to recycle old magazines! When I first moved to Los Angeles I used to take my recycling to the grocery store and then I recycled at home when the city started supplying bins. But because most of the city has bins now you can no longer recycle at the grocery store. This is very annoying but I just keep telling myself the city will start a program soon. In my defense, I don't actually produce that much trash. I don't take the newspaper and I drink filtered tap water (so I don't have lots of bottles to throw away). And supposedly my trash at work is recycled.
[Update: a neighbor told me I can take my recycling to Whole Foods so I'll start doing that. Eric also says we should be able to get bins for our apartment soon]
Water: This isn't included in the carbon calculators but obviously it takes a lot of power to clean and transport water to our homes. I'm sure I waste a lot of water; I could take shorter showers, for instance. But at least I don't have a lawn and I share a swimming pool with a couple of dozen people so I don't feel too bad.
Work: I have no idea how much energy I consume at work; and I don't think the carbon calculators take this into account. I work for a nonprofit and I think the organization tries to be environmentally conscious but I have no idea how it translates to my personal responsibility. Apparently the organization recycles and tries to use some low-water landscaping. The library where I work is kept freezing, however. We are told this is to preserve the books. We try to explain that humans have to exist in the environment as well but they don't seem to listen. It also doesn't explain why it seems to be over-heated in the winter. I don't know how green the buildings are. I do know the air conditioning involves some sort of evaporative water system. It's pretty amazing; I saw it once. It's like this series of waterfalls in an underground cavern! It's so beautiful that it's a shame it has to be hidden under ground! Anyway, I don't know if that kind of system uses less energy.
Well, that's it. Am I forgetting anything? Let me know if you have better luck calculating your carbon footprint. All I determined is that I'm better than average. But I already knew that.