Friday, June 6, 2008

My Carbon Footprint

I've been hearing about "carbon footprints." It's a measure of our personal greenhouse gas emissions, based on our response to a few questions. Today, after attending a Green Building seminar, I checked on my footprint at the Environmental Protection Agency's site.

For a country dweller, the test is a little difficult. Question #1, for example, asks how I heat my house. There are three choices: gas, oil, electric. No category for "other." We heat with wood, so where does that fit?

I left the button pushed on "gas." Well, we will hook up to the free natural gas from our gas well this year, so I'm projecting future use. But wouldn't a wood stove produce some greenhouse gas?

Then I'm asked my monthly gas bill. Hmmm. I don't have one, and won't even when we hook up. But what about the gas and oil for tractor, truck and chain saw? How does that factor in?

So I found this quick test to be a bit of a puzzle. Based on what I decided might be good answers, my score for our household of 2, even with the extensive amount of driving we do, is 31,742. Average for a two-person household is 41,500.

There are other parts of my life that were not included--like, we raise a major portion of our food. That should reduce our footprint because of the costs of transporting food. I buy used--almost all my clothing, furniture, housewares, tools, etc. Shouldn't that be as valuable as, say, recycling paper? I pack my lunch most days, carry my coffee in a reusable cup, recycle food scraps and egg shells to the animals, use wood ash in my gardens, save cottage cheese and yogurt and those plastic "clamshell" containers to re-use in the greenhouse. These activities should have some impact on my footprint, but apparently there is no way to measure all the many "other" categories in my life.

The goal is to have a rating of "0". Maybe one day, when I am finally not driving over 100 miles a day, I can get closer to that goal. Re-calculating to reflect 100 miles a week instead of 100 miles a day, my footprint drops to 11,691.

One day it will happen. It's a goal, not a dream.

Have you checked your footprint lately?

For information on green buildings, go to the EPA's site, or to the US Green Building Council site.

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