Day 11: Calculate my carbon footprint

September 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

Credit goes to Liz Caravati for this idea. However, it was inspired by a specific event that Stephanie witnessed the other day.

Stephanie was working on a project in Northwestern’s Ford Engineering Design Center late last Thursday evening. She was having a conversation with some classmates when the janitorial staff began to enter the shop and pick up the trash and recycling. Northwestern has a number of recycling bins in accessible places throughout campus as part of their “green initiative.” As she was talking, Stephanie saw out of the corner of her eye – now this is the point at which those of you from Oregon may want to stop reading, as the story takes a horrible turn – the janitor picked up the recycling and dumped it into the garbage. Wide-eyed, she turned to her classmates and related what she had just seen. They blinked at her for a moment, shrugged, then one turned to the other and gave him the following explanation, “She’s from Portland.”

After hearing this story, I felt so environmentally unclean that I decided it was time to track what kind of impact I have had on the environment for the past month. I used the website It required me to enter things like my electricity bill, natural gas bill, gas mileage, and approximate number of miles I had driven the past month. At the end of August we drove 2,438 miles from Portland to Evanston, and that made driving my most significant contributor of carbon emissions at .74 metric tons.

My overall footprint was 1.05 metric tons of CO2, which is significantly below the national average of 1.7 tons per month. This may be attributed to the fact that I limit my consumption of red meat, or that our apartments have been too small to use any significant amount of electricity. However, I am sure that if I were to calculate this during the upcoming Chicago winter, when we will surely have our heater on 24/7, the numbers might be a bit different. I encourage you to calculate your carbon footprint with the attached link – it only takes a few minutes. Post your metric tons per month as a comment on this post and see if you can beat my 1.05!

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