Category Archives: Low Carbon Diet

Low Carbon Diet I

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So what does a Low Carbon Diet look like? I’ve been thinking about this and researching the idea for a couple of months now, as I get ready to begin, and a few things have become clear to me:

1) Everything we touch and do in modern life is coated with a veneer of petroleum; even organic strawberries from the farmer’s market get there by truck, to say nothing of an Ikea bookshelf. That said, it is clear that some things “cost” much more than others and therefore one can get much more bang for the buck in specific areas.

2) Airline flights are the worst of the worst. Not only does one 2-hour flight equate to a month of driving in terms of emissions, because the emissions are happening at high altitude, it’s like super-injecting the atmosphere with carbon dioxide. The carbon calculators say to multiply miles flown by 1.9 to compensate for this effect. Yikes. So air travel is the best place to start reducing one’s footprint.

3) Cars are the next worst. A gallon of gas emits 20 pounds of CO2, taking up the air space of 20 of those giant yoga exercise balls. Ditching my 20 mph SUV last year for a 40 mph Golf diesel was a move from gulping to drinking. But regardless, every tank is 300 pounds of carbon. Yikes again. Time to think harder about those trips to the store/mall/city, given that every trip I take from my town to anywhere else is a round trip of 40-80 miles….

4) The best place to start is with knowledge. The best carbon footprint calculator I found was http://www.coolcalifornia.org. The calculation is more detailed but only takes about 15 minutes, and the pledges you can make are very specific, which makes them useful. But you can’t save your results — which is totally lame. Another pretty good calculator has been developed for church congregations and members: http://www.coolcongregations.org/calculator. It has adequate detail and you can save your personal profile and update it later. The main drawback is that the pledge list is flawed — you can’t subtract things from the list and you can’t double up on pledges (for instance, pledging to reduce more than one long-haul flight per year)

We’re taking our family’s baseline footprint this week. Then we’ll see where we’re at and what comes next.

The Tides They Are a’ Chaaaan-gin’

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Check out this map of my town. My house lies in the middle of it, just above that dark blue band indicates where the new tideline will be once seas have risen 55 inches, as they are expected to this century. Within the light blue area — the hundred-year flood line — is our local sewage treatment plant, at least 100 homes, and the entire community of Princeton, along the top edge of the map.

Over the years climate change talk has often seemed abstract and distant to me. Even as I do my bit to recycle and use less Stuff, somehow these choices still felt optional, as if I were doing a good deed for the future. But being Good can be tiresome, and what difference did it really make if I bought these pretty shoes or not, in the grand scheme of things?

The truth is it doesn’t make much difference, hardly any at all. The machine of global capitalism is vast and overwhelming, and my individual choices don’t matter more than a whisper in a storm.

But they matter to me. As I have begun researching sea level rise and learning about its causes — of course most are a result of human-caused global warming — this has all become much more personal. This will affect my home, my children, me.

And so it is time to get real about my personal carbon footprint and what impact my choices actually have.

My family is going on a Low Carbon Diet, starting now. Stay tuned for details!