27 February 2009

Footprints In The Earth

I love taking online quizzes when work is slow. I did one on my Ecological Footprint. If everyone in the world lived as I did, we would need 4.73 Earths to sustain all of humanity--which is about 1.5 Earths less than the average in the U.S. (if everyone on the planet lived like an average American, we would need 6.35 worlds, according to the data on this quiz).

My weak points are the fact that I fly a lot and that I am an omnivorous consumer. In terms of housing, my footprint is about half as small as the average, but my travel footprint skyrocketed because of the air travel (I said 10,000 miles, and that's a conservative estimate). Since I occasionally eat meat (once or twice a week, I guess, now, but I used to much more frequently), I checked off "omnivore," which raised my food score to about two-thirds the national average.

But the Goods & Services category, I'm above the national average! I buy toxic cleaning supplies, things not made from hemp (or other renewable resources), and sometimes I buy things just to buy them, not because I need them or my old one isn't working (some of us just really need three alarm clocks, trust me!).

Now, I went back to change some of my answers. So, say I didn't fly, but I used buses more to compensate (add an extra 4,700 miles to my 1,300 regular bus travel to work per year for trips on the East coast), and I went completely vegetarian with the occasional dairy item. I also pretend-bought compact fluorescent bulbs and started turning my laptop off while I was at work. I was more conscious about shopping only at the farmers' market instead of at the organic-foods store, and I cut down to one big meal and a ton of light snacks a day instead of two big meals and the occasional snack. I cut back on my showers (I really enjoy long ones) and started purchasing soaps and cleaning products from that "green" store on U Street. I started saving money, partially by only replacing things that I can find no further use of.

And voila, 2.74 Earths! These are all things that shouldn't be too hard for me (well, maybe the not flying). There are certain things I can't help (I live in an old, non-energy-efficient apartment building, so I can't really select carbon offsets or renewable power, or even replace the faucets), but those choices cut my Goods & Services footprint in half; my food footprint is almost neglegible by buying direct from farmers and eating mostly vegetables; but my housing and carbon footprint didn't go down as much as the rest (although they did go down). I will not give up visiting friends, so my carbon footprint from transportation will be pretty high (although, since I don't drive, it will still be below the national average). Until alternative energy sources are more readily available and accepted, that's just going to be high. Maybe I could rent some Smart Car or something. But they scare me--I like a lot of metal around me!

3 comments:

Hm, I seem to have made progress. The first time I took myfootprint.org's test I needed more than two earths to sustain myself. Now I'm down to 1.24. And I'm far below the swedish average, jay! :)

You haven't considered going by train? You need to plan your journey in a different way, but the travel is comfortable. (I spent a month interrailing around the US some years ago.)

Wow! 1.24! That is something to aspire to!

Oh my GODS the Swedish average is 2.28 Earths! I wonder why so? Alternative energy, legislation that promotes sustainability? I know the US is all about "use use use"... I miss Europe!

Well, I am going to see if I can cut my Earths in half by the end of the summer. It'll be a start!

Interesting exercise. Thanks for the link.
1.29, so we are still living above our alloted space. Can't really see where we could go down any further.
jo

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