What’s your carbon footprint?

The September issue of Marie Claire has an article comparing three women’s carbon footprints. (A carbon footprint is the measure a person or entity’s effect on the environment in terms of greenhouse gases.) I’m glad articles like this are finding their way into mainstream magazines. The more people read about this and think about this in terms of their personal responsibility, the better. What I don’t like about the article is that it doesn’t give very many tangible tips on how to reduce one’s carbon footprint. But perhaps the first step is admitting you have a problem.

To wit, here are a few websites I found where you can calculate your carbon footprint:

So take a look at your own impact and see if there are changes you can make. And just because I don’t want to be a hypocrite, I decided to take a couple of the quizzes myself.

According to the Climate Crisis calculator my carbon footprint is 13 (the average American’s is 7.5). Interestingly, my footprint was only a 5 until I put in my electricity bill. And the fact that So. Nevada is not served with any renewable energy in its general electric consumption really hurts the score. The drawback of this calculator is that it doesn’t take into account much more than the car you drive and your energy usage (including oil, propane, natural gas, etc.). But the info is very clearly presented.

According to the Earth Day Network calculator my footprint is a 19 biologically productive acres. (They say the US average is 24 acres and that in reality there exists only 4.5 acres per person on earth.) This calculator is much more comprehensive with questions about carpooling, public transportation, food and such. Also, the end result gives you rankings by categories. And they give you a fancy graphic telling you how many earths it would take to sustain you if everyone lived like you. (It would take 4.2 earths for me.)

Alas, what this really does is make me think about how ecologically irresponsible it is to live in the desert as we do right now. I feel like I do the things that I can but of course there is always more. I set my programmable thermostat to 80 degrees in the summer, which is pretty warm compared to most people but still a good 30 degrees cooler than it is outside today. It makes me angry that solar panels are so expensive and heavily restricted by homeowners associations (it should be illegal for HOAs to limit ecologically sound choices!). And why don’t more apartment and commercial buildings have solar? Why doesn’t Nevada Power act more responsibly and meet their renewable energy portfolio? (They have standards that have never been met!) Why don’t more people recycle? Why do people resist public transportation and why can’t ours be better? (For instance, the bus doesn’t even come to where I live.) And don’t even get me started on grass.

Let’s face it, we live in an incredibly wasteful city. I don’t believe it has to be that way. And I don’t believe it has to turn into a hippie commune to do better. Thoughts?

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