We Have Bigger Fish to Fry

After yesterday’s post on the amount of energy the US uses I was curious how my move affected my carbon footprint. The average American uses on average 20.40 metric tons of carbon. So where do I fit?

Living in the Studio apartment I had gotten my footprint down to 4.2 metric tons of carbon. My goal at that time was to reduce my footprint to no higher than 3.0 metric tons. Sadly, I never reached that goal but I was happy enough.

Then I moved. The goal was to have my own land which would give me more control over producing as much of my food as possible.  Living in an apartment setting where everyone had access to your gardens you had to trust people not to pick what you were counting on consuming yourself. Usually it was just my strawberries new tenants, and their children, would gravitate to but there was also a large deer population to share with as well.

The first thing I did, after cleaning, upon moving in was to caulk and insulate the doors and windows. The first floor consists of a small bathroom, living room, kitchen and bedroom. The upstairs is closed off during the colder months to keep from heating that space. I still have more work to do such as adding insulation in the walls.

If you have a solidly built home it might be more energy efficient than a smaller home that is poorly constructed. One example would be heating bills.  My son is renting a very old mobile home that has zero insulation. His winter heating bills averaged $360 per month whereas my highest bill was for February at $115.

I ran the calculations on my footprint again today. I knew there had to be an increase from what I used in the studio but held my breath as I clicked to receive the results.

My total carbon use for the last twelve months was…..6.24 metric tons! I can live with that for now as I know I’ll reduce that number in the next year or two as I continue to make changes here.

The thing is there are bigger fish to fry when it comes to reducing carbon in our atmosphere than household consumption. If you are reading this I know you aren’t living high on the hog and enjoying life in a McMansion. Compare the average American household CO2 level of 20.40 metric tons to just one coal fired power plant.

In 2005 the average coal-fired power plant in the US emitted 4,643,734 metric tons of CO2 (epa.gov). That’s right, those are all commas. 4.6 million metric tons of CO2

What  I want to stress to you today, and to myself, is that while it’s important to make conscious decisions on how we choose to live we as individuals can’t heal the planet on our own. We need the system to change.

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8 thoughts on “We Have Bigger Fish to Fry

  1. Ha! My energy company has started sending out a monthly report that allows you to compare your energy use to your neighbors. I always chuckle because mine generally is WAY below even that of my “efficient neighbors.” So I totally think that individual changes can make a difference, but you are totally right – if we are ever gonna tackle this problem in a meaningful way, we simply must look beyond “individual contributions” and we must also change the conversation to make it much less guilt based and moralistic. Not that I don’t think this is a moral issue, because I do, it’s just that I don’t think it’s a very effective strategy for change on the scale that we need.

    Basically, we need to redesign our communities and our society to make them less carbon intensive. But I really don’t think that has to mean sacrifice. I think that in many, many ways, the huge amounts of energy that we consume in this country is really just the way we, as a society, are trying to cope with the needless stress that our culture places on us. People don’t “want” to have crazy 2 hour commutes, that’s a reaction to our poorly designed cities, and an economic model that requires most people to work themselves to death just to keep up.

    Anyhow, I feel another novel coming on here and it’s way past my bedtime so I’ll refrain. But in general I think that the only way we’ll ever begin to solve these sorts of problems is to make an energy efficient lifestyle easier, cheaper, and more desirable than a wasteful one.

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    1. Love your concise way of pulling together my thoughts. 🙂 Yes, it’s a moral issue of our time. How can it not be if we put off our problems to the next generations? But while you and I can cut our usage, and that makes a difference, we are also setting the example for anyone who wants to see another way of doing things and that’s key to changing the conversation. I followed the Paris conference and don’t think we will keep our end of the agreement, especially if the Republicans take over any time soon. I always say change will come from the bottom up, and it will but it will be the people forcing government and businesses to make those changes that will have the biggest impact.

      Btw, who can handle a 2 hour commute? I hated the commute in LA which was only 40 minutes most days. I wasn’t used to a big commute as Erie, where I grew up is a whole seven miles from one side of the city to the other.

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  2. I get your point. My son is contributing by not going to work.:) No gas costs. Daughter takes the bus and drives once a week to see me. Uses almost no heat or ac in her place. We tough out the cold and the heat the best we can and cook in bulk. You know. But what else can I do when so many don’t even bother?

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    1. I like your son’s solution but hope he’s doing okay financially while he boycotts work. 🙂 It’s the ones who do nothing or don’t even care to educate themselves on the problems that bother me.

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      1. He has several computers going at once, editing photos on photoshop, setting up websites to sell things, studying programing language etc, etc, etc. He studies all day long. Always has. He sells phones on the internet when e-bay and pay pal don’t fail to notify him of the sale. So far he’s holding his own from the sale of his home and is working furiously to get some momentum going. He’s honest to a fault. He’s working, just doesn’t have a job. :/ I can’t help him financially so he’s on his own. He helps me with many things so it all comes out in the wash.

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        1. I do hope his long hours trying to create self-employment pays off for your son. I think he has the right idea. At least he will have more job security than if he took a job working for someone else. I’m watching my son live with insecurity day by day wondering if he will be laid off, it’s a stressful situation.

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