Editors' Blog

Green Living editors dish on the latest trends and happenings in sustainability.

Today I was scanning the Internet and I came across an easy-to-use personal carbon calculator. I decided to give it a whirl and the results surprised me a ton (actually, a few too many tons. More on that in a minute).

I like to think of myself as a fairly environmentally conscious and socially responsible person, but when I filled out the Zero Footprint survey, I was surprised at how some of my daily habits contribute to environmental degradation- more than I knew!

The survey asked about my transportation habits, as well as my diet, the packaging on the things that I buy and how much I travel. As I inputted numbers about the distance to my work, how often I fly to see family, and whether I have a newspaper delivered to my house, I watched my ‘carbon footprint’ get bigger and bigger!
From this site, and Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s book ‘Home; A Hymn to the Planet and Humanity’, I have compiled a list of some habits that emit a lot of carbon, some which you might not expect.

•Driving 20km to work = 5kg of GHG’s (greenhouse gases)

•Watching TV for 1 hour per day 99g (By watching the 3 hour ‘Dancing with the Stars’ season finale, I used 297g of carbon!)

•Microwaving my lunch for 5 minutes = 43g of GHG’s

•By being a ‘moderate meat eater’ I contribute 2 tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere every year!

When I finished the carbon calculation, I was feeling extremely guilty and quickly clicked to the next page to find out what I could do to reduce my impact.  The solution provided on the website was to set goals for yourself- ways that you can make your carbon footprint smaller. Their main suggestion was to purchase carbon offsets.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think that if you are able, purchasing carbon offsets is a great thing to do. But I am not completely convinced that it is the best solution, and for some it is simply not feasible. I am a recent graduate, who is very passionate about conserving resources and helping the planet, but I also have a lot of student debt. Purchasing carbon offsets is not the most realistic option for me, unfortunately.

I began to think about what other kinds of thing I could do to help reduce my impact. I started thinking about changing some of my day-to-day habits, and when I tweaked them a bit and retried the carbon calculator, my efforts made a big difference!

•Instead of riding the streetcar to work, I can ride my bike during the summer and fall months. Not only will it reduce my carbon footprint, but I will stay in good shape and even save some money!

•I can eat less meat. (Ideally, I would go completely vegetarian and I am making that a goal of mine, but I will admit that I am not quite there yet).

•I can bring a lunch to work that doesn’t require reheating.

•Instead of having a newspaper delivered to my house, I can read the news online. (Apologies in advance to my friends in journalism who work at print newspapers!)

•I can be more conscious of the packaging that comes with the food I buy. Instead of buying mushrooms in Styrofoam and plastic wrap, I will brown bag them!

These suggestions are just a starting point to becoming more mindful of our impacts on the planet, but it is amazing how simple it is to change our daily habits and make a big difference for the planet.

-Katie Edmonds, Editorial Intern