Clif and I are proud to admit that we are a couple of green-bean weirdos who love to talk about things like our carbon footprint, global warming, resource depletion, and overpopulation. While these topics might be a tad grim, we generally maintain an optimistic attitude as we work to align our lives with our environmental values.
Clif loves to figure out what our carbon foot print is, and this is the time of year for him to do so. As a sideline, he is a computer consultant, and the tax information we need for his business overlaps with what he needs to calculate our carbon footprint. Therefore, as is his wont, after finishing our taxes this year, Clif then moved on to figure out our carbon footprint. I must admit we were pretty pleased with the results. Last year, our CO2 emissions were 6.7 metric tons per capita. (A 13.4 total for our household divided by the number of people who live here, which in our case is two.)
To put this in perspective, in the average United States CO2 emissions (metric tons per capita) are 17. 56. This means our emissions are half that of the average American. In Australia, they are 16.93; the United Kingdom—7.86. But to keep Clif and I from feeling too puffed up, we have Sweden (5.6) and France (5.6) to show us that it is possible to live in a modern society and go even lower than the 6.7 Clif and I are each responsible for.
How do we keep our carbon footprint relatively small? Here’s a short list.
- We only have one car—something we can do because I stay at home. Our car is a Honda Fit, which is very fuel efficient.
- We severely limit our travel. For the most part, we stay close to home and bike whenever we can. When we travel to visit Dee, we go by train or bus. We always combine errands. I never fly, and Clif flies only very occasionally, for his work.
- We heat with wood and electricity. Our wood is local and sustainably harvested. In Maine, electricity production is fairly clean, with more generated by wind and falling water than the national average. We also have signed up for a carbon offset.
- When we heat with electricity, we keep the house at a cool 60 degrees if we are not using a room and between 66 and 68 if we are.
- We eat a lot of local food—by a rough estimate at least 50 percent.
- We eat mostly vegetarian, which means some chicken but no beef, pork, or lamb.
- We don’t produce much trash. We reuse and recycle. We don’t buy a lot of new things.
Here is what we could do to lower our carbon footprint even more, and in the upcoming years, we plan to do as many of these things as we can.
- Install more insulation in our house.
- Replace all the windows.
- Further reduce our trash.
- Replace the Honda Fit with an electric car.
- Bike more.
- Use LED lights.
- Buy even more local food—flour, dried beans, corn meal. Unfortunately, right now these items are just too pricey for our modest budget.
Many years ago, it dawned on Clif and me that we could no longer pretend that it was perfectly all right for us to consume heedlessly and drive or fly wherever we wanted. As the climate changed and resources were ever more depleted, we knew that we were part of the problem and that our little actions mattered.
Therefore, we strive to live as lightly as we can while still living a good life. It is not easy. It requires effort and mindfulness and restraint. But never for one moment have we doubted that we are on the right path.
(If you want to figure out your carbon footprint, then there are a number of online options. Clif has used this spreadsheet, originally from the University of Maine at Orono, for a number of years. 2014 carbon calculator annual.)