What is Your Carbon Footprint?

by Roger Alford

If you ever wondered what your carbon footprint number was, you can calculate it here.

What is most remarkable is that if this calculator is correct, it is not what you drive but how often you fly that really impacts your carbon footprint. (7.5 tons per year is the average). Thus, you can drive a Toyota Prius and take five bi-coastal roundtrip flights between New York and Los Angeles and your footprint is “average.” Or you can drive a Toyota Tundra pickup truck and take one bi-coastal roundtrip flight and your footprint is still “average.”

My carbon footprint was much larger than average, primarily because I attend too many international law conferences on the East Coast and in Europe. Basically every LA-NY roundtrip flight I took added one point to my score.

So I guess if you really cared about global warming you should avoid taking any unnecessary flights. Unless of course you are willing to spend an extra $30 per trip to buy a carbon offset.


5 Responses

  1. As an aside, it strikes me that one of the easiest ways to incorporate carbon offsets into our daily life would be for the major travel websites to offer a carbon offset among the other purchases you could make when you bought your airline ticket. Does anyone know if any online travel sites like Orbitz, Expedia and Travelocity have ever considered offering carbon offsets for purchase to their customers?

  2. Roger, Expedia does – something called a TerraPass.

  3. First, let me say that without calculating my “carbon footprint” I’m sure it’s pretty low (i.e., well below average) if only because I’ve never flown in a plane and rarely drive more than a mile or two several days a week (and then in either one of two vehicles over 30 years old, as I ride my bike to school, weather permitting). And we recycle as many products as possible (our city has an excellent recycling program that makes this quite easy), are vegetarians, and are not enamored by every new technological device or gadget. I well realize not everyone can or wants to do this. And yet I think our consumptive habits, in the end, make little difference in the great scheme of things. Why? Consider the following from Robert E. Goodin in his provocative book, Green Political Theory (1992):

    “Collective action can make a real difference to the state of the world, in a way individual action cannot. Carrying the green cause to electoral triumph might affect the fate of the earth; deciding to live a thoroughly green lifestyle oneself most definitely will not. As Kirkpatrick Sale writes [in 1990!], ‘What I find truly pernicious about such [lifestyle] solutions is that they get people thinking they are actually making a difference and doing their part to halt the destruction of the earth: “There, I’ve taken all the bottles to the recycling center and used my string bag at the grocery store; I guess that will take care of global warming.” It is the kind of thing that diverts people from the hard truths and hard choices and hard actions, from the recognition that they have to take on the larger forces of society–corporate and governmental–where true power, and true destructiveness lie.’

    The difference between those who would emphasize personal over political actions and those who would adopt the opposite emphasis can therefore be recast in the following terms. Those emphasizing personal actions are inclined to accord substantial weight to the demonstrated willingness of a person to bear sacrifices, even probably gratuitous ones, for the sake of the cause. Those emphasizing political actions are inclined to accord substantial weight to the outcomes that the action will produce and to encourage sacrifice only if the sacrifice has some hope of making a material difference to the outcome.

    Some greens emphasize the ecological equivalent of ‘clean hands’ (personal actions, appropriate lifestyles and suchlike) at the expense of political action that might carry far greater ecological consequences. Those who do, though, are in effect giving considerations of [green] agency priority over considerations of [green] value and consequences. That, I think, is an error.” [notes ommitted]

    So, if you really care about global warming….

  4. I liked that caluculator.

  5. There is an online charity – didn’t bother to search out of laziness to give link in this post – that allows you to purchase with a charitable tax deduction carbon credit.

    You plug in you daily routine and the amount of carbon per year that you produce is revealed. You sign up to reduce you production and keep a log on the amount of carbon you are producing. If you go over you promised allotment you’ll then buy carbon credits.

    The money goes towards public education on reducing their own carbon production and environmental charities.

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