Where to start?
I think I’m pretty environmentally friendly, I teach yoga and meditation, I jog, I ride my bike (unless it’s raining). I only watch the TV when Liverpool are playing (or that programme when wannabees fall into mud or bounce off big red balls) and I don’t use the dryer bit of my washine machine, even though it means that the house is constantly draped with wet clothes.
But how can I know for sure?
Then I remembered a couple of years ago, while I was a volunteer on a project to replant the ancient woodlands in Glen Affric, and we all calculated our carbon footprints. A quick google later and I found www.carbonfootprint.com and started their on-line questionnaire.
Where do you live – UK – so far so simple.
Then choose a calculation period – September 1st 2008 to August 31st 2009.
Next the carbon footprint of the household is calculated.
There are three people and a mad labrador in my household. The electricity bill is about £40 per month and gas a further £60. I do have a coal fire but I don’t burn coal. Instead I do something that has come to be referred to in our house as “wombling” ~ I collect dead sticks and branches from the local woods and burn those. I am told that the right to collect dead wood is enshrined in the Magna Carta so I feel pretty sure that this is an ancient and environmentally acceptable practice. Nonetheless the carbon footprint of the household is calculated as 2.07 tonnes CO2
The next set of questions was easy.
How many flights did you take in the period chosen?
I was able to type a triumphant 0. In fact I haven’t flown for over two years. I could leave it at that and leave the inference that I have made a choice to holiday in the UK for green reasons. Truth be told I hate flying, from being herded round soulless terminals through to hurtling 35,000 above the earth in a metal tube. But the questionnaire is unconcerned with my reasons and simply records a 0 carbon footprint.
Next, the car. I don’t have a car…very green…maybe not…I drive a campervan. The questionnaire doesn’t really account for people like me so the best I could do was select “van up to 1.305 tonnes” with an annual mileage of around 8,000. Both the type of vehicle, hippy-mobile, and the low mileage led me to expect a small carbon footprint so I was horrified to see a carbon footprint of 5.77 tonnes CO2 – more than twice the household footprint! I take only a very few bus trips but do travel from Scotland to Congleton every few weeks to see my parents – resulting in a footprint of 0.12 tonnes CO2.
The final section looks at lifestyle choices:
~ I am vegetarian ~ Some of the food I buy is organic ~ I try to buy or grow seasonal food. I downsized from a big house in the country a couple of years ago so growing my own these days is limited to tomatoes and cucumbers in growbags ~ I prefer to buy goods local to home; Scottish eggs are second to none!
I buy new clothes only when I need them. I hate shopping so, truth be told, I only buy new clothes when I absolutely have to – or even later than that if my friends are to be believed!
I try and buy things with very little packaging. Not so easy but I do carry reusable bags with me to save supermarket plastic carrier bags.
I only buy essential equipment and use it until it runs out.
This is very true – have you seen my mobile phone? – and the things I can do with superglue and sellotape beggar belief!
Most of my waste is recycled
Even though this means sneaking empty wine bottles into the bottle bank in the dead of night!
I occasionally go out to places like the cinema and restaurants.
I felt a bit miffed here as there was no way to differentiate between me, who went to see Star Trek months ago and my pal who eats out the whole time.
I only own one car (..well, campervan)
I use the standard range of financial services
Don’t get me started on banks!!
So, my personal carbon footprint came to 3.59 tonnes CO2
The total, if you haven’t been keeping a tally as we’ve gone along, is 8.18 tonnes CO2
This still meant nothing to me but the site told me that:
The UK average is 9.8 tonnes
The average for industrialised nations is 11 tonnes
The global average is 4 tonnes
The target to combat global climate change is 2 tonnes.
I have to say I was stunned. Both that I was so close to the national average when I had happily thought I was a paragon of green virtue and at the target figure! But as I said in my last rant, having the information is one thing, what to do with the information is quite another.
Clearly the biggest saving would be not having, or using, the campervan but since it is my escape vehicle when I have to get to the seaside or lose my sanity completely, it has to stay….but I will try and use it even less often for short runs.
Taking the time to fill in the questionnaire has at least MADE ME THINK! I will be more fastidious in turning off lights and more assertive in ensuring that my son and his pals do likewise. I will think more carefully about the choices I make and try harder to shop locally and seasonally. I will turn off this laptop!
Why not have a go yourself?
You can take the same questionnaire as I did at www.carbonfootprint.com and I am sure that there are many sites offering the same type of calculation.