Saturday, August 30, 2014

Calculating your Carbon Footprint

The whole reason I started this blog is because I believe I’m pretty environmentally conscious, and sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who thinks through the repercussions of certain actions. That said, I feel like my carbon footprint has greatly increased upon moving to the city. I’ve justified it mostly by telling myself that the work I do connecting students to nature and getting them thinking about water conservation and electricity use is worth the energy expended, but it’s time to put some science to that thought.
I just read a delightfully fun book by local author Laura f. Sanchez, called Freaking Green. We are thinking about having this be our kick-off book to start off our state-wide book club for environmental educators, or environmentally minded people. The premise of the book is that a teenage girl’s life is turned upside down when her great aunt dies and requires that the family cut their carbon footprint by 80% if they are to inherit her estate. Although there were plenty of tacky-teenage bits, I feel that a lot of people could relate to this book, just like I did. What I really hope is that if teachers require this reading for students, they follow up with a project to see how much of their carbon footprint they could decrease. Inspired by the book, I decided to estimate my own carbon footprint since I moved to Albuquerque 6 months ago.
I did a google search for Carbon Footprint Calculators, and found the following two most helpful:
 This quick and easy test gives you a basic idea of how many tons of carbon your actions produce every year, while giving you the option to donate to the Nature Conservancy (my favorite place to donate!) to "offset" your carbon footprint. My number was 18 tons, which is less than the us average of 27 tons, but far greater than the world average of 5.5 tons. WOW. This is why I love numbers.
The Ecological Footprint Quiz has some fun background music and a cute little interactive scene. I like that it asked more specific questions, but still left a few things out (they asked how much I drive, but not what kind of vehicle).
Here's a nice little graphic of my results.
I'm curious how the results differ from this time last year, when Amil and I were living in a 5th wheel trailer in the San Bernardino mountains, right after having traveled across the country and back to visit family for a month.  But I don't remember enough details to take the full test.
What really inspired this entry was not the book I read, which led me into some fascinating research, but a comment that an old friend made, asking if me living in Albuquerque was “sustainable” since I preach eco-friendly living, but am living in a desert. I retorted that I live along the river and the water we use to flood the pecan trees and water the grass comes from the acequias. I do my part to conserve water around the house, too, taking seldom showers, and washing dishes with one bucket-full of water that we then broadcast onto the trees outside (we use a biodegradable soap called Miracle 2, that Amil could write more about).

One thing I love about this city is how environmentally friendly it seems. The recycling bin is as big as the trash bin (although it doesn’t get picked up as frequently), which I can’t say about our service in Texas. The city as a whole is incredibly water conscious, with a noticeably large amount of xeriscaped lawns and lots of reclaimed water sprinkler systems. I've read through lists of 'the most sustainable or eco-friendly cities in the US', but just like with the Footprint calculators, they leave a lot of things out. I'm going to continue to search for how sustainable Albuquerque is, but in the meantime, I'm still casting my dishwater on my plants.  


  1. Karen got a SodaStream for her birthday. What do you think about that product for reducing the carbon footprint? Each CO2 refill equals 33 beverage cans.

  2. Questions like these are what inspired me to launch my website, (Web-design in progress) . I think there are so many ways you can make a difference by changing habits, or being more conscious, but there are a lot of factors to consider.
    I would imagine that a SodaStream keeps a lot of aluminum out of the recycling/waste stream. I wonder what the economical and practical impacts are.
    I've heard of making your own soda by dropping dry ice into juice. I've even experimented with it a little bit, but it doesn't quite hit that craving.
    Also, I wanna come over and try it. :) Have you experimented with different flavors?