Carbon Feet

Recently the concept of the ‘carbon footprint’ has been getting a whole pile of press in the UK, and even a little bit over here. The concept is simple, your carbon footprint is the equivalent weight of carbon you use living your life and using fuel sources that impact the environment. So I had a go at calculating my Carbon Footprint for last year – this came in at around 19,000kg!

My figure of 19,000kg bizarrely is the average figure for people in the US. The UK average is 11,500kg. Compare these to 11,000kg average for all industrial nations, and a world wide average of only 4,000kg. The US isn’t doing so well in there, and neither am I. So how can I do better?

Well for me, as a public transport using New Yorker, my biggest impact is flights. I’ve been flying a lot back and forth to Montreal this last year and also quite a few times back to the UK. These account for 11,000kg of my total! Otherwise I’d be well below the US and UK averages. So as a Brit living away from his family, what am I to do? Well the simple answer, other than stop flying so much, is carbon off-setting, which is where you pay to have trees planted that use up the carbon and produce oxygen. Given that an average tree consumes 730kg of carbon in its life, and the goal is to have only 4,000kg of emissions a year, that means I should be planting 21 trees this year alone to offset my costs. Phew! I can spend some money and feel better about things, that’s good. Does it actually work? Who knows, but more trees can’t be a bad thing.

The other interesting question for me is – how can I make my trips between New York & Montreal more carbon efficient? I mean there’s no way I can get back to the UK without flying, so that’s a given, but I can either fly or drive up to Montreal. Strangely enough, even though a flight to Montreal only takes an hour, with customs and check in it almost takes the same time door to door to drive as to fly. The downside of this is I don’t have a car here, so I have to hire one. Now I just need to find an accurate calculator that can tell me the difference between a 700 mile round trip in an economy hire car, and a 55 minute flight in a small jet plane.

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