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Posts Tagged ‘carbon calculator’

Back from another one of my triumphant bike rides to downtown, this time to pick up pizzas at Il Fornaio, our favorite Italian. So glad I was. The three pizza boxes fit neatly into my side basket, not in the recommended horizontal position. The thought quickly brushed my mind, that maybe the toppings might slide, in protest. Oh, well, the risk was well worth taking. Off, I rushed back home. Again, sheer pleasure of being just me, with Pervenche, and the warm breeze. And plenty of times to savor the comings and goings inside my mind.  

Ah ah, just I was going over the bridge, it hit me. What had gotten me on my bike was not carbon calculators, not injunctions from Green Guru,  not my green conscience, not the sinister prospect of global warming. No, what had moved me to pick up Pervenche, was the memory of how fun the last ride had been, and the knowledge that it would take me about as much time to bike, as to drive. Physical satisfaction plus convenience, all at no cost. The personal benefit was obvious. 

Forget the “we” campaign. What’s going to get people from ‘business as usual’, to leaving their cars in the garage, and not shopping as much, is the realization that such moves are not only good for the whole world but for them personally, also, in a very direct, immediate way. The recent gas crisis is another validation

Hence the value of looking at personal motivators. Here is my list:

  • immediate gratification
  • convenience
  • cost savings
  • personal health

These are the big four on my list. Can you think of others?

PS – Do not transport pizza with the box on its edge in your side basket. The outcome ain’t pretty. Bare dough, with all the toppings squished against one side. We had a good laugh. 

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Wilting agenda: Britain loses its appetite for green initiatives‘ made the front page of the Financial Times yesterday. We have a lot to learn, however, from the Brits as they struggle through hard economic times and demonstrate to us what can happen then. Some facts, first:

  • With the economy rising to the top of Brits’ concerns, environmental concerns are no longer top of mind. In January 2007, 19% cited the environment as their top concern. A year later, it is down to 8%. 
  • Echoing its citizens’ change of heart, Gordon Brown and its government are backpedaling on green policies, from landfill, to transport, to renewable targets. 

Most interesting, is the public narrative from some of the powers in charge, dismissing the green agenda as if it was either some despicable idea, as in, “People hate this green stuff” – senior member of shadow cabinet -, or some de facto dicy proposition,  “Politicians will need nerves of steel to continue with this (the green stuff, he means). If the economy is doing well and we are prosperous, we can afford the luxury of dealing with climate change – or that is how it is seen. But when times are difficult for the economy and we are caught in the vice of inflation, from a politician’s point of view it becomes much more difficult to press ahead with policies that will increase prices.” – John Roberts, from Bank of Canada and United Utilities

That’s one camp. 

Then there is Together.com, a group of British businesses that are choosing a much different approach: “People can save hundreds of pounds a year by making greener everyday choices. The green penny is definitely dropping for British shoppers feeling the pinch from rising living costs.” Joined by no less than Phil Woolas, the environment minister, with some surprisingly good news: “The green pound really can go further – people can cut their carbon footprint and save money into the bargain. The signs are encouraging. We know that people want to cut their impact on the planet – recycling rates are at a record high, emissions from people’s homes are dropping, and since last June we’ve had nearly a million visitors to our online carbon calculator.” 

Two paths. The latter one, the smart one, is led by the business sector. Last weekend, I caught a talk from Amory Lovins, from the Rocky Mountain Institute, and was struck by his insistence that business be the path to our salvation. Not the citizenry, not our government. One of the advantages of businesses, and even more so American businesses, is their emphasis on getting things done and on the bottom line. If business can smell money with green, as more and more do, we will have won a big part of the battle. 

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Day 11 of Daily Footprint Project. The main thrust of the project has been to examine my personal contribution in terms of ecological footprint. Seems simple enough.

Is it really? That’s when the roasted chicken from Whole Foods comes in.

The Green Psychology of Families

I decided to buy the creature this morning, in anticipation of Catherine’s needs for a nutritious late afternoon snack. I know, I should not contribute further to pollution with yet another non recyclable plastic container. But I did. I was going to be busy all day. No time to cook. She was to have dinner with her Dad late, and I figured she could munch on the chicken when she got back from her school with her friends.

The chicken got me thinking.

As the nurturer in our home, I am responsible for purchasing the chicken. What happens to the chicken after that, is up to the consumers, my teenage children. How much of it gets actually eaten? How much of it goes to waste? I have little control over that part.

I am a member of the family system, and whether I want it or not, my ecological footprint gets muddled in the course of my interactions with other family members. I already alluded to the emotional component of green parenting, in regards to my need to nurture with more food than necessary – Day 1 of Daily Footprint Project -, and my difficulty setting limits, as in the laundry example – The Complicated Landscape of Green Parenting -. With Prad, issues of control, power, and authority, make it difficult for both he and I to take charge of our own green-ness, or lack thereof. When Prad insists on taking repeated far away trips, am I to stay home, or go along with him, but compromise my views on limiting air traveling. When I disagree with him on his stance on food portion control, and I generously buy and cook food as if there were a few more people in the house, how does that affect his own intentions?

All of the above highlights the importance of the ecological impact of not just each individual member in the family, but also the role of the family as a system, with a complex set of relationships, and emotions. The boundaries between I and the rest of the family are not so clear when it comes to our ecological impact, and it is simply impossible to separate my individual footprint from the whole.

Staying with a family systems framework, it is worth noting also, that as a member of the family I have the power to influence other family members through the positive environmental changes I choose to make on a personal level:

‘The connectedness and reactivity make the functioning of family members interdependent. A change in one person’s functioning is predictably followed by reciprocal changes in the functioning of others. Families differ somewhat in the degree of interdependence, but it is always present to some degree’. Quote from Bowen Center website.

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #11

Water

personal:
flush toilet 3
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 4
two showers at the gym
mom:
rinse dishes
communal:

Electricity/gas

personal:
electric toothbrush 2
microwave tea 4’
microwave oatmeal 4’
laptop on half day
mom:
heat chocolate milk
heat muffing
cook cream of wheat
communal:
lights

Food

personal:
oatmeal with organic milk
organic orange
tea
organic milk
organic chicken soup
organic bread
mom:
organic blueberry muffin
organic hot chocolate
cream of wheat with organic milk
roasted chicken
pomagranate
communal:

Waste

personal:
toilet paper
orange peel
chicken bones
mom:
uneaten baked potato
communal:
3 newspaper plastic wrappers

Recycling

personal:
mom: paper bag for muffin
cream of wheat paper box
communal:
2 papers
roll from paper towel

Transportation

personal:
drive to gym 6 miles
drive to business presentation 5miles
mom:
communal:
drive to grocery store 4 miles

Non food shopping

personal:
mom:
communal:

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On the fifth day of the Daily Footprint Project, I relied on my magic key, a bit more than usual.

dsc00049.jpg

Three meetings back to back in the morning, a trip to the gym, another trip to Whole Foods, and last an outing to the restaurant with Prad. I calculated. That’s 27 miles, all in the Prius. Each trip an average of five miles, not counting our night out. This is pretty typical for me. I conduct most of my business locally.

Then, comes the question. Why not bike? The answer is, I am considering the idea. Emphasis on ‘considering’. The truth is, I looooove my car. What is there not to like? The immediacy, the convenience, the privacy, the spaciousness, the experience of moving around in my little cocoon. I can get on the phone while I drive, listen to NPR, spread my stuff on the passenger seat. I don’t have to worry about the other cars so much, I am not as invisible as on a bike. I can cram a lot more activities in the day. I am free to go wherever, freeway if I please, don’t have to plan. No need for a disgraceful helmet. I can wear a dress without having to worry about it flying off. I had never thought about all the advantages, until now. Ask my sixteen year old daughter, car = freedom. Not what the green people want to hear, but the truth nevertheless.

Compare with biking. It has been a while since I have used a bike. I lost my bike in our move two years ago, and even before that, I hardly ever used it. I have to go back years to remember what it is like to bike in the outdoors. What is so good about biking, that would make me want to switch, aside from the obvious environmental benefits? Biking is also about freedom, just like cars. Only, it is a different kind of freedom. No need to refill with gas. No more being stuck in traffic. A bike is small and light, it can fit anywhere. Parking becomes a non issue. Biking can be another way to exercise. It is a way of getting in touch with the environment, the city, nature, neighborhoods. Biking is zen, as in simplicity.

Driving, biking. Two very different kinds of experiences. Driving has the advantage of already being a part of my life. I need a little nudge to make room for biking. That’s where city based initiatives like Velib‘ in Paris are so important. They help jump start the process. I have forgotten how good it feels to be on a bike. The other aspect I want to bring up, is the need for cities to create a safe environment for bikers. In my town, there are only a few routes I could take, where I would not have to worry about sharing the road with cars and trucks.

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #5

Water

personal:
flush toilet 2
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 4
two showers at the gym
mom:
communal:
rinse dishes 2

Electricity/gas

personal:
electric toothbrush 4'
microwave tea 2’
microwave oatmeal 4’
laptop on all day
mom:
toast catherine
communal:
lights

Food

personal:
oatmeal with organic milk
organic apple
organic persimmons
tea
cup of coffee at coffee shop
organic orange
left over noodles
dinner at restaurant
mom:
egg
toast
communal:

Waste

personal:
toilet paper
paper cup at coffee shop (almost forgot to include)
mom:
toast
communal:
three newspaper wrappers
molded cream cheese in fridge
plastics (we take to recycling center now)

Transportation

personal:
drive to 1st appointment 3miles
drive from 1st to 2nd appointment 5 miles
drive from 2nd to last appointment 4 miles
drive from last appointment to home ½ mile
drive to gym round trip 6 miles
mom:
communal:
drive to Whole Foods 4 miles
drive to restaurant 4 miles

Non food shopping

personal:
mom:
communal:

 

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I spent this week thinking about what would make sense for the daily footprint project. Here is what I decided:

  • to make things as simple as possible
  • yet be as detailed and accurate as possible
  • to make it easy for anyone else to replicate the experiment
  • to document with photos whenever applicable

The 6 main categories of impact I will document are:

  • water
  • electricity/gas
  • food
  • garbage (take photos)
  • transportation (in miles)
  • non food shopping (take photos)

Each category will be divided between activities/consumptions that are:

  1. strictly personal
  2. parenting related
  3. tied to overall functioning of household

That should cover everything. I will also document whatever thoughts, feelings, ideas, come up in the process. That part of the experiment is probably the most important. I will continue the experiment until I feel I have learned as much as I can from it. A second phase will involve quantifying the various types of activities in terms of water use and carbon impact.

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‘Mom, can we heat the hot tub? My friends are coming over.‘ I said yes at once. And then, almost in the same breath, this whole monologue in my head. ‘Not exactly green. Big time indulgence. Didn’t I go through all those carbon calculators this morning? But then I want to please her, there is no way I am going to say no. I am tired of setting limits. Tonight, I want to be Nice Mommy. The hell with global warming. Plus a couple hours of hot tub are not going to make a difference.’ I can hear Green Guru’s admonitions, ‘You are being a hypocrite. You are all talk. You say you want to be green, but look at you, you can’t say no to her.’ I hear, I know, and there is no way I am not going to be sweet. I bask in the moment. The sound of four girls laughing, talking, in the hot tub.

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Just received in my Inbox, from Virgin Atlantic: ‘Picture this: London from $256.’ Don’t get me wrong. I am a big admirer of Richard Branson’s entrepreneurial genius. This is not an effort to single out Virgin Atlantic. Rather, I am pointing at the pervasive nature of our modern consumerist culture.

I was curious, and wanted to find out how much CO2 damage a flight like the Virgin Atlantic one would cause. I tried to google ‘air travel, carbon footprint’, and went nowhere. There was no carbon calculator, that could give me the exact CO2 equivalent for a specific trip, let say, San Francisco – London round trip. If any of you know of one, please pass on the information!

Carbon offsets have a role to play in instances where one absolutely has to travel. But going to London on a whim, just for the fun of it? I think that time has passed.

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