Why Measure Your Carbon Footprint?
It is often said that you cannot change what you don’t measure. It’s tough for someone like myself to say “I’m going to reduce my green house gas (GHG) emissions to zero by 20-something” if I don’t have any idea what they are today. How would I measure progress? How would I spot opportunities? I wouldn’t…. Unless I measure it.
This is the same for the state of Massachusetts too. They have done a great job in measuring their GHG emissions. This data allows them to set goals to reduce them over time. It also allows people to hold them accountable for missing targets.
My Personal Carbon Footprint
Like the state of Massachusetts, my personal greenhouse gas emissions were caused from various different sources. Some of these are direct (like my car’s emissions), while some were more indirect, like my electricity consumption.
Vehicle Emissions: My car’s vehicle emissions were measured based off of the gallons of gas I used. One of the key trends noticed in the graph above is my emissions decreasing from trading in my Jeep Liberty for a Hybrid Electric Ford Fusion during the summer.
Building Emissions: The next largest category was my emissions from home (i.e. heating and electricity). These totaled to roughly a quarter of my total emissions and were calculated from utility bills. The electric emissions are calculated at the grid’s power plant while my natural gas emissions are based off of the total Therms used.
Diet Emissions: These types of emissions result from my diet and waste consumption. For 2016, I was almost entirely vegetarian with the occasional fish. I resorted to using a calculator online to determine what my daily emissions were based off of my diet.
Waste Emissions: For waste, I used several conversions and roughly measured how much recyclables and trash I created each month. I’m currently looking to quantify this better in the coming months. Stay tuned!
Workplace Emissions: The next category of emissions I am measuring are my workplace emissions. These emissions are a bit more controversial because of my lack of direct control. However, my workplace related emissions are allowing me to work by supplying electricity, fresh air and hot water. So how do I account for these? I used a simple approach by taking the total emissions of the office and dividing them equally by the amount of employees in the office.
Flight Emissions: The final category of emissions was from my two flights in 2016. My first flight was to Las Vegas for a conference and my second was to Ireland for Thanksgiving. These were one of the most challenging emissions to measure with certainty. I analyzed eight different calculators online and took the average of all of them to determine the total emissions. I realize it’s not perfect but it does help provide a starting point. When the time comes that I find a better way calculate these, I will still have the data and will re-measure accordingly.
Below is a pie chart depicting a breakdown of my emissions in 2016 along with how I compare to the typical American and European. While I do produce much more emissions than the rest of the planet, I expect to decrease this to a little over 1 metric ton by 2030.
While this may seem challenging, It is still important to realize that there are many opportunities to be achieved. I can envision a day in which my entire home and vehicle are powered by clean and renewable energy. I also already know the means to decrease my waste emissions too and once all electric flights are commercialized then these emissions would be decreased as well. Time to get to work!