Thursday, September 25, 2008

Week One: Calculate our Carbon Footprint: 6.1 tonnes CO2 per year

When Katie and I joined Carbon Busters, we figured this was going to be a breeze. How big could our carbon footprint be?
We spend our days picking up other people’s recycling on our bikes. We live in a 600 square foot apartment and are vegetarians. We don’t take long, expensive flights around the globe (we have the desire to, just currently not the means). And we don’t have a brood of heirs spending our savings on iPods and other forms of luxury, biding their time on our dime before taking over our empire. Our footprint should be tiny.
By our estimations, we figured we’d actually be cooling the climate just by waking up in the morning.
To butcher a line from Tina Fey, it turns out our confidence was disproportionate to our looks, abilities and grip on reality.
While our passion for recycling makes the job worthwhile, we likely won’t be able to retire until we’re well into our 90s, so Katie has a second job in Victoria. It’s recently increased from two days a week to four, which means a weekly commute of 500 kilometres.
It’s true we own an older VW Rabbit that runs of 100 percent ethical Bio-diesel made from waste vegetable oil right here in the Cowichan Valley. But it’s also true Katie drives a gas-powered Jetta because frankly, it has more comfortable seats and can make it up the Malahat without being passed by cyclists and pedestrians. And at 4 a.m. in the morning when she’s generally commuting, speed and reliability are fairly important attributes.
So while her commute means we can put food on the table, it also accounts for 60 per cent of our carbon footprint.
The other 40 percent is generated through an inefficient gas-heated central boiler that keeps our strata’s four residential and five commercial units heated and with a steady stream of hot water, and through our dairy eating habits.
None of these issues contributing to our carbon footprint seems insurmountable.
For Katie’s commute, we plan to sell both cars and buy a diesel Jetta and run it off bio-diesel and straight waste veggie oil.
Finding a solution to our heat and hot water needs may take some research, but the technology exists to reduce those costs substantially.
And we’ve already started buying more local, organic dairy then we did in the past, which incidentally turns cheese from a good food to a great food and makes a person feel guiltless about eating ice cream.
Working toward carbon neutral will be a challenge, but not impossible.

To calculate your carbon footprint visit and navigate to the personal carbon calculator.

PS. I have to admit, I have a bit of a soft spot in my liver for imported beer, imported wine and tequila. And while this fondness for fermentation from afar has a positive affect on my dancing abilities, it has a negative affect on my carbon footprint.
So, in an effort to be more environmentally friendly, I pledge to look for local wines and spend more time at the local brewpub. Consider this my gift to the planet and to your children’s future. Cheers.

Cowichan Carbon Busters

On Wednesday, September 17, Katie and I and nine other households in the Cowichan Valley began meeting as the Cowichan Carbon Busters. Our mission — to reduce our household carbon footprint.

During the next 10 weeks we will follow the steps laid out by environmentalist Guy Dauncey to reduce our carbon footprints.

By the end of the course, we should all have in place a fairly extensive plan to reduce our carbon footprint during the next few years.

It will be easier for some of us than others, but for all it will be a learning experience.

Hopefully you can follow along and find some of the tips we learn useful in reducing your own footprint.