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CARBON FOOTPRINTS - GREAT AND SMALL

by Patricia Howell

A few months ago six members of SusKes decided to calculate their carbon footprint for the year 2011 using a fairly simple calulator available on the web at www.carbonindependent.org to see how they varied. We each entered our household data in terms of electricity and gas used, the approximate number of miles travelled by car, train, bus and air during the period; and finally we had to answer some personal lifestyle questions, relating to diet, recycling, composting, consumption of ‘stuff’etc.

The computer then calculated the carbon emissions for which each person was responsible during the year – a reasonable, if not a precise, measure of their relative contribution to global warming. The results were startling but, on reflection, not surprising: as you can see from the summary below there was more than a three-fold variation in the size of the carbon footprints within the group. Note that the table only shows some selected elements from the calculation.

Household

Gas and electricity (kWh)

Flying time (hours)

Carbon emissions (tonnes CO2 per person)

A

2 adults, 3 bedrooms, 1 car

5300

0

6.2

B

2 adults, 2 bedrooms, no car

17,400

0

7.3

C

2 adults, 4 bedrooms, 1 car

25,500

0

8.9

D

2 adults, 4 bedrooms, 2 cars

8,120

8

12.7

E

1 adult, 4 bedrooms, 1 car

25,000

8

16.5

F

2 adults, 4 bedrooms, 2 cars

18,700

50

20.8

 

Note: The Average Carbon Footprint for the UK is around 13.4 tonnes, for the US around 20, and, to put the world into perspective, for Tanzania 0.1 and India 1.2.

You can see from the table that a person from household F had a large footprint largely due to too many flights to foreign places! Households A & D have ground source heat pumps, indicating the significantly lower gas + electricity usage with this form of heating.

Here’s a challenge - can anyone get a lower score than household A? If you need help with the calculations on line, or don’t have access to the web, get in touch and we may be able to assist. Find out whether you are an elephant or a mouse.....And with winter fast approaching is there any more insulating and draught proofing you can tackle? Or more car sharing?

November 2012

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