You hear the words “carbon footprint” tossed around often these days, but what exactly is it and why does it matter? To put it simply, using coal, natural gas or oil for electricity, heat or transportation releases carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. These daily carbon dioxide emissions make up your carbon footprint.
Too much CO2 from our daily activities hurts the planet’s climate according to many sources, including the Sopris Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Aspen that focuses on preserving ranch land, keeping community intact in the face of changing land-use patterns, and working with Western leaders to develop a region-wide blueprint for livability.
This organization has taken the time to calculate the amount of CO2 used in three basic areas of daily living: (1) Home Energy; (2) Travel and Recreation; and (3) Food, Drink and Work. Comparing the numbers in each of the green, yellow and orange areas illustrates the power of the choices you make every day.
Home Energy Use
For instance, look at the difference in numbers between using natural light (0 lb. CO2)versus a standard light bulb (6.5 lbs. CO2/day) to light a room for 12 hours. Or the difference between washing in cold water and air drying (.4 lbs CO2/day) and washing in hot water and using a dryer (8 lbs. CO2/day).
Travel and Recreation
Clearly, exercising outdoors (negligible CO2) is better than using a gym (21 lbs. CO2/visit), and taking the bus (.2 lbs. CO2/mile) beats driving a 23 mpg vehicle (.9 lbs. CO2/mile).
Food, Drink and Work
When it comes to food, tap water (negligible CO2) trumps bottled water (1 lb. CO2/liter), and eating fruits and vegetables (1.6 lbs. CO2/lb.) reigns over beef (22 lbs. CO2/lb.)
Would you have imagined heli-skiing emits 419 lbs. CO2/day? It’s still a dream of mine that I won’t refuse when the opportunity finally arises, but I’m just as happy hiking it uphill(negligible) or using lift-serviced terrain (45 lbs. CO2/day). Unfortunately, it’s clear that lift-served skiing isn’t ideal for the environment, but it does beat snowmobiling (87 lbs. CO2/hour). Thankfully, many ski resorts, including Vail, are powering their lifts with alternative energy, definitely a move in the right direction.
A Shocking Comparison
Consider this, according to Sopris Foundation, the average European emits 47 lbs. of CO2 per capita per day. The average American? 144. The choices we each make every day really add up, friends. Surely we can all do better. Let’s start today!
What numbers were most shocking to you?
What choices are you already making that are in the green?
Where could you do better?