Friday, October 27, 2006

One Set of Ecological Footprints in the Sand

For my Sustainable Development class I calculated my "Ecological Footprint" according to a questionnaire on a website maintained by the organization Redefining Progress. The questionnaire covered my eating habits, the size of my home, and modes of transportation, among other topics.

The results are returned in the number of acres of biologically productive land that it takes to maintain my bad self. Overall, I require 22 such acres. The average for the U.S. is 24 acres. Worldwide, there exist only 4.5 such acres per person.

Here's the breakdown by type of resource used:

Food: 5.9 acres
Mobility: 1.7
Shelter: 6.7
Goods / Services: 7.7
TOTAL: 22 acres

One of the questions was about how many hours per year I spend flying. There were five possible answers: 100 hours, 25 hours, 10 hours, 3 hours, and 0 hours. I answered 25 hours. I had a vague idea that air travel is incredibly resource-intensive, so I redid the quiz, and this time reduced my air travel to 10 hours to see how much of a difference it would make.


Food: 5.9 acres
Mobility: 0.7
Shelter: 6.7
Goods / Services: 6.7
TOTAL: 20 acres

By spending just 15 fewer hours in the air, I would reduce my mobility acreage and my goods and services acreage by one acre each.

I also did a Carbon Footprint calculator at another website sponsored by a British organization. This calculator measures how much carbon dioxide I spew into the atmosphere with a questionnaire based on home energy use and modes of transportation.

The results: I personally belch 19,801 kg of CO2 into the sky each year.

On the one hand, I live in a city and drive less than 25 miles a week on average. On the other hand, our apartment is in a draughty old house that could use some good weatherstripping. And, once again, there's the air travel.

By far the largest contributor to my carbon footprint was air travel, which added 9,000 kg of CO2, or 45% of my total carbon footprint. Right now I don’t have to travel for business, but even the three to five vacation trips I take per year emit a huge amount of CO2.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ugh, believe me I am not going to take either of those quizzes with the amount of flying I do.

Unless perhaps I can compare it to my previous job in which case it may look like I am doing more than everyone else on the planet to improve my CO2 output and acreage utilization.


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