A1 — My Carbon Footprint

Step 1:

In looking at my carbon footprint, I would like to know most how my housing habits and my diet play into the size of my waste. I am fairly confident that travel will play the largest role but this is a category that is harder to amend. In terms of housing and diet, these are things that I definitely can alter without too many consequences and I believe could play a significant part in my overall footprint. Therefore, if I see that there is enough effect by these categories, it will give me a clear plan in how to reduce my carbon waste.

Step 2:

One thing I found interesting was the calculation of indirect greenhouse gas emissions. I find that in everyday life when electricity manifests itself as a light switch, we often don’t think of our impact other than what’s apparent to us. This concept will let me be more accurate in factoring in every action in my routine that contributes to my carbon footprint.

Another thing I had found out when reading about the scope when calculating my carbon fotprint is that my energy provider in New York actually sources some energy from solar and wind plants. This process of additional research allows me to better gauge and assess how much emissions I actually produce when compared to more general calculators.

Also, when looking at the scope of my carbon footprint, it became apparent that it is incredibly hard to track your emissions from goods and services. Because the production methods are so numerous and varied, each dollar would come out to a different waste factor. This makes me skeptical how well each calculator averages the amount of waste produced per dollar, and pushes me to a more conservative estimate for this area.

Step 3:

Global Footprint Network Calculator: https://www.footprintcalculator.org/

These were the final results for the first calculator I used. This calculator gave very well presented results, giving not only my carbon footprint but my overall ecological footprint as well. This was also probably the most thorough of the three and really breaks down each aspect of your carbon emissions.

Yes Magazine Calculator: https://www.yesmagazine.org/environment/2016/03/14/real-life-hacks-to-cut-your-carbon-footprint-plus-a-personal-emissions-calculator/\

This calculator seemed the most generalized out of the three. For example, it only included planes and cars as transport and it had only three options for diet. It did get specific for the amount of gas and electricity used but failed attribute for green electricity or different types of heating. Lastly, the money spent on material goods was very vague, and I essentially had to guess for that category.

Carbon Footprint Calculator: https://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx

This calculator gave a very good overall depiction of my carbon footprint. It went into house specific details like the first calculator and car specs as well. However, it did not go into great detail about flights and did not include diet or resource disposal.

Analysis:

  1. I found specifically through the second calculator, how large of a part flying really took in my carbon footprint. I was most surprised that my heating for the house, although an expansive estimate, also took up around a third of my carbon emissions. This made me realize that our heating bill was quite high and could be contributed to poor insulation as I don’t find my roommates and I excessively using heat. Therefore for me, a very practical thing to reduce my carbon footprint would be to rent a better-insulated house.
  2. It seems that most calculators highlight three categories, which are travel, diet, and house amenities. I thought the second calculator did a great job of highlight how each category affected the overall carbon footprint. The others, however, really hit the minutia, especially the first calculator. They asked about which meats I was eating, how much I recycled, and the type of house I am in. I feel like this calculator’s ability to highlight individual aspects would provide a more accurate result.
  3. The first calculator does a very good overall and detailed calculation of my carbon footprint. However, they miss specific details on energy and gas consumption and therefore chuck it up more to estimation. The second calculator does a great job on specifics with travel and housing but the diet section is very vague and has only three settings. They don't ask about recycling or how much meat you eat. Also, the material good spending is very vague and doesn't delve into the types of products bought. The third skips over diet except for one question and doesn’t hone into specifics for flying, especially if someone has flown first class.
  4. The first calculator seems like it would be the most accurate in terms of how detailed they were on each section. However, in terms of housing, I think that the second calculator is the best as it asks for specific usage data. Overall the results of the first and third were quite close with 11 tonnes and 12.69 tons. However, the second which finished with 16 tonnes might have been skewed slightly with 3 tonnes being attributed to diet and 500 for vague material goods.

Step 4:

Recalculating My Carbon Footprint:

In analyzing the three calculators, I have concluded that the two most accurate calculators are my first and second. This is because the second was very specific on hosing cost and airplane travel however, lacked in the dietary and lifestyle categories. The first was very detailed in the dietary and lifestyle but after looking at my above-average housing emissions, I believe that category was inaccurate. Therefore, I believe if I average out the two answers this will give a pretty good estimate of my carbon footprint. While I would like to merge the best categories of each, the first calculator does not break down the sections by carbon emissions to the extent where I could accurately separate them. Through averaging, my carbon footprint would come out to 13.5 metric tonnes of carbon.

Step 5:

Synthesis:

Overall the two biggest areas in my carbon footprint were housing and travel. Flying from Pittsburgh to New York and visiting family in Thailand caused my miles to be quite high for last year. Additionally, housing wasted a lot of carbon because our house is very inefficient. We had very high gas and electric bills for winter when trying to keep the house warm and we also generate quite a large amount of trash. I would like to focus specifically on housing in order to reduce my footprint as it is close to the largest area and is very controllable. I can also make small changes in things like my diet in order to have small decreases in my carbon footprint as well.

Looking towards the future for my carbon footprint, I think finding less harmful forms of travel would be great. One thing is that I will be getting a car soon to drive to and from Pittsburgh and New York. Although still harmful for the enviroenment, it is not nearly as bad as flying, and its a good compromise between convenience and eco-friendliness. For heating, localized heat would most likely be the best solution for me. Instead of heating the whole house to a comfortable temperature when its not entirelly being used and letting a large amount of heat escape, I could heat only the rooms that I am using long term. This would save heat escape immensely and lower my carbon footprint a lot. Lastly, for diet and lifestyle, commiting to low waste methods as much as possible would a start. Things like local produce to cut out emissions from trasnport and recyclable items would reduce my overall waste and carbon footprint from indirect sources.

Step 6:

Value Analysis:

  • Behavior: For heating, the behaviors I identified were not layering when indoors so I feel colder and being unconscious to the temperature of the house on a day-to-day basis so it goes unnoticed. For diet, it is the fact that I am an athlete and workout often so I try to increase my protein intake through meats. I also go to the closest grocery store because I am walking which does not emphasize locally grown or low waste foods. For flying, it's the fact that it is a long two-way drive for my parents, and navigating trains would be tough because of the many train changes needed.
  • Systems: For heating, my inefficient and outdated house contributes to the access use of heat to keep the house at a reasonable temperature. Also, because I am living with roommates who are also keen on keeping warm, we collectively decide the temperature together. Lastly, because the landlord does not have to pay utilities, he is not incentivized to renovate the house to be more efficient. For diet, it is the large hill and long walk that separates me from going to a more eco-friendly grocery store. For flying, it's the cheapness of flights and the lack of efficient bus or train routes the incentivizes flying.
  • Values: For heating, the American living standard and the comfort level of average citizens make me normalize the excess use of heat and make it so I don’t normally think of the waste. Additionally, there is a collective capitalist approach that incentivizes systems emphasis on profits rather than waste, making people only see their expenses rather than their environmental impact. For diet, the consumerist and capitalistic nature of America pushes for mass production of food in order to drive down costs. However, this often results in less eco-friendly approaches to food production. For flying, because there is a commonality with flying, it becomes ingrained in our lives to go from place to place. However, because of its ease of access, there is no emphasis on its dramatic environmental effects, and therefore does not cross the minds of travelers.
  • Myths and Metaphors: I think that a big overarching saying that contributes to these views is the “American Dream”. This saying encompasses the ideas of capitalism, mass production, and consumerism. It is based on the fact that you should have whatever you need or want it. For heating, diet, and travel, they are at your convenience, and that your need is the only thing that matters. Also, for travel, “Time is money” really pushes for convenience and efficiency in travel at the expense of environmental impact.

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