Sunday, September 12, 2010

Measuring Your Footprint

James Wimberley notices some seemingly good-faith measures being taken by big business to reduce negative environmental impact.  But he reminds us that we all need to do our part.  He suggests better analytical measures.

I’ve been thinking recently about sitting down and trying to get a good idea of what my carbon footprint actually is. “Green” has become such a buzzword that you begin to feel like you’re never doing as much as you could, which then leads to a sort of hypocritical pessimism. And one thing I get hung up on is the relative footprint of each aspect of daily life. Some things are easy – but are they really that important? For instance, we bring cloth bags to the grocer, saving maybe 5-6 bags in the process. But what is the carbon/environmental footprint of one bag? How many minutes does that equal in power consumption, or miles driven for consumables, or driving instead of biking, etc.?

I’m reminded of the period I spend in my twenties trying to eat vegan. I would check labels to make sure they didn’t contain the slightest bit of dairy products, such as casein. Yet I then realized that every time I broke down and succumbed to my overwhelming desire for a cheeseburger, fried chicken or bacon, that I was essentially ingesting the equivalent of a lifetime supply of casein-tainted products.

At which point, chastened by the realization of my own hypocrisy, I gave up completely – no less concerned by animal welfare, however. I do think though, that having better information could at least allow one to make more serious commitments, comfortable in knowing less hypocrisy is involved, and that sacrifices being made are the right ones. 

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