Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Another Interesting Tool From the City

I don't often click on ads in sidebars of websites unless they look super interesting or cute, but i do like to click on banners that seem to have something to do with environmentalism or sustainability - especially if it involves some useful tool for me or my readers. I was perusing some local website this past weekend when i found a badge about figuring your carbon footprint. I've always wondered what my footprint might be like, so i gave it a shot.

The website for Austin residents is Austin.ZeroFootprint.Net. You can enter your utility account and it automatically takes into account your utility bills for electric and water use, and you can go through a series of questions that will help the calculator figure out if you're hard or easy on the ole' environment. I've always found it difficult to formulate estimations of my travel or energy uses, especially how many servings of food i eat in a week. I dunno - a lot of veggies, not a lot of meat - how many servings is that? I did the best i could and my carbon footprint was logged as 6.1

According to the website the local Austin average is 11.4 and the national average is 12.6, so i think i'm doing pretty darned well. I'll be doing better when my family doesn't live on the other side of the nation requiring plane trips to visit them, not that i've done that in over 4 years not counting my whirlwind trip of a wedding. I'll also be doing better when i raise even more of my own food, though i may increase my miles driven if i get a proper job. The website also has lots of helpful hint on how to reduce your footprint if you find it higher than your liking. Lots of really basic tips that i mention often on this blog, and some other locally applicable tips like cashing in on some of Austin's great rebates for energy efficient appliances, etc.

Answering the questions took me maybe 10 minutes, but you can also do a quick version that takes a minute or less. Some people may balk by how high their footprint is raised just by mentioning eating some meat - but remember that it's our responsibility to use this planet to the best of its ability, and it's finite. Sometimes it's better to eat corn instead of feed it to methane emitting moo cows - but sometimes it's good to shoot and eat a wild axis deer that would otherwise be munching on someone's veggie garden: eat meat wisely, and take all computer generated models with a grain of salt.
Calculators like this aren't written in stone - but they can sure give you a good idea of your footprint, and help you maybe change some of your decisions. Walk to the corner shop to get a soda made out of easily recyclable aluminum instead of drive to pick up a six pack of soda in plastic bottles made of petroleum. Eat an actual serving of meat on a plate covered in locally or homegrown veggies instead of a giant steak with a side of peas shipped from China. Put on a sweater, or two, or three, before turning up the heat.

There are a million tiny things you can do or change to make your footprint smaller, and some larger things that will help even more. Sustainability should be a way of life, not a fad or a hardship. It's easy. It feels good. It's smart. It's necessary.

Leave me a comment with your number if you run a carbon footprint calculator for yourself - I'd love to see how you're doing.

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