Steps to Cleaner Energy

The winning title for my artwork with a blue whale is Blue Echoes. It was submitted by Pat who will receive an advance set of hand-dyed Seven Seas Prayer Flags . Thanks for all your ideas.

Have you ever wondered about a heat pump? We just got one and I’m delighted. I’d like to say I was motivated by my fondness for whales and helping the environment, but the truth is I was pretty tired of waking up with a cold nose and negotiating temperature settings with my roommate husband. The new machine is more efficient if you just set it and forget it, so heat has receded into a lovely comfortable background. I really like choices that make my life run better. And reduce greenhouse gasses in the bargain.

 Your Carbon Footprint

Knowing your carbon footprint highlights choices that might make your life work better and help the whales. I leave for another time the complexities of how CO2 getting in our oceans is not to the whales’ benefit.

Your “carbon” footprint is based on burning fossil fuels, either directly or in making the products that support our lifestyles. There are many calculators online, which, in fact, measure not carbon but the resulting greenhouse gas CO2.

Some sites include ways to compare your household to others which can result in your feeling nicely superior (or inferior). You can google for ones that let you compare your rates over time which are more likely to result in actions rather than feelings. Others are available for special groups like your campus, your congregation or your device.

One Little Piggy at a Time

There’s pretty general agreement about the main sources of CO2 for individual households. In the footprint above, the biggest contributor is Travel (1): gas in our cars and trips (airplane and train fuel). Housing (2) is next in size and here’s where our heat pump came in. Food (3), and the delivery of it, comes next, while Goods (4) are the stuff we acquire and then handle as waste. The last is Services (5) like how the UPS truck gets involved when I order a book from Amazon.

 Carbon Foot Calculators

I recommend 3 online calculators; 5 to 20 minutes can bring you a quick snapshot of how you’re doing.

http://www.nature.org/greenliving/carboncalculator/ (5 minutes, no login required) 
http://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx (20 minutes, includes details of fuels used) http://coolclimate.berkeley.edu/carboncalculator (10 minutes, includes details of money spent and food categories)

Balancing the Footprint

Notice in the footprint drawing, the heel is for thinking of the hidden CO2 costs in how your food is produced. Even if you’re a vegetarian there’s less CO2 produced from your home-grown spinach than from commercially grown. And, finally, the ball of the footprint refers to how your electricity is produced, a detail not often considered in online calculators.

Here’s where I do get to feel a bit superior, not because of my personal heat pump, but because 40% of my electric company’s* power is currently hydroelectric. Like getting the heat pump, I chose where to live to make my life work better and am only now learning that it turned out to be a vote for cleaner energy as well.

*Puget Sound Energy, WA
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