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#1 2008-09-10 13:04:18

MichaelBluejay
Webmaster
From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,191
Website

Carbon cost of driving, flying, and eating compared

When we think about how much carbon pollution we're responsible for, most of us think only about driving.  Possibly we also think about flying.  It's unlikely that we think the energy we use in our homes is a big factor.  And the idea that eating meat is a significant factor is all but alien to us.

But even for those of us who think about these things, we typically have no idea how they stack up against each other.  For example, which prevents more pollution:  ditching your car in favor of a bicycle, or reducing your home energy use by 85%?  (Don't laugh the latter off as impossible; my own home energy use is 15% of a typical American's).

The answer for that one is that they're actually pretty similar:  5.5 tons a year for reducing your home energy, vs. 6.0 tons for ditching your car.

Surprisingly, a person's home accounts for more energy pollution than their car.  However, the savings potential is greater with the car, because it's easier to get rid of 100% of your car than 100% of your electricity and natural gas.

Going from meat-eater to vegan saves 3 tons a year -- the equivalent of driving an average car 6000 miles.

So where did I get these figures?  Well, I just finished my special Carbon Footprint Calculator.  I wanted answers to questions like the above, and I found the other online calculators lacking.  This one has all the questions and answers on a single page (and without scrolling), and it includes the important category of food choices which most other calcs lack.  It also shows you how you stack up against the typical American individual or family.  So give it a whirl and see what you think.

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#2 2008-09-10 15:48:02

dimson
Member
Registered: 2008-09-10
Posts: 7

Re: Carbon cost of driving, flying, and eating compared

Do you live without AC?
I did that for six years, do not want to do it again.
Morally how far are we supposed to reduce our carbon footprint so that others may over populate their progeny?
When the carbon footprint police come can we claim a larger share of carbon is we have not had more than two children? Will family size be considered as part of the carbon rations that we are allowed?
If the global population reaches ten to twelve billion and there is not even a subsistence living available for most of us is it ok to take more than our alloted share to survive? In fact can we take it just for convenience?
Is comfort at the cost of others morally wrong?
Can the planet not take care of itself with or without human civilization?
Are we trying to be ethical and save the planet / species diversity or are we trying to save human civilization from itself?
These questions used to keep me up at night when I was drinking. I am glad I quit drinking.

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#3 2009-02-19 00:12:10

MichaelBluejay
Webmaster
From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,191
Website

Re: Carbon cost of driving, flying, and eating compared

Many of you know about my controversial article Bicycling Wastes Gas, which shows that biking isn't a pollution-free endeavor, since a lot of fuel is required to produce the extra calories a person uses by cycling, and importantly, a huge chunk of that energy comes just from the meat portion of our diets, since raising meat is incredibly energy-intensive.

Unfortunately the article has been misinterpreted as suggesting "driving isn't so bad after all", which is absolutely not the point.  The point is, what we eat is just as much a part of our energy footprint as how we get around, and we could greatly lower our energy footprint by cutting back or eliminating our meat consumption.

The reason I post about this now is that I just overhauled the article, and one thing I did was to add a calculator which compares the energy and carbon generated by a walker, bicyclist, and car for a given distance given various variables you can select.  Check it out and see what you think.

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