Global Warming and the Carbon Footprint

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Global warming continues to be one of the greatest challenges that individuals face collectively. It has been stated that global warming threatens our mere existence. Everything from our health to our future is at stake. Humanity itself is on the brink of a global occurrence of dangerous proportions if an effort is not put forth to undertake a difference in how we operate on a daily basis. While there are multiple misnomers in the discussion about global warming that does not negate that Earth is on a pathway to unsustainability as long as humans continue to perpetrate horrors of a sedentary lifestyles that alarmingly hurt the planet and will undoubtedly have a tremendous impact if left unchecked.

Like many, understanding what to do to reduce the problems of global warming is the most significant challenge. With all of the information and suggestion within the sphere of science, it is no wonder that so many Americans have trouble in how to combat the problem of global warming. The problem essentially speaking is too much carbon. When gasoline is burned in our cars, we release a gas known as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Based on a number of research data, scientists have determined that carbon dioxide levels are extremely high and causing detriment to the planet (Shulman 27-29). The consensus is that carbon dioxide gas that is being emitted into the atmosphere is leaving a carbon footprint and affecting much of the climate change within the Earth. Everything from what we eat to the amount of water that we utilize affects the amount of carbon that is emitted into the Earth's atmosphere. The onus is on those who have an understanding of global warming to educate the mass populace on the growing epidemic before it is too late. The argument here is that carbon emissions have to be offset.

The idea of carbon offsetting is a well established concept. While it is good to offset one's own carbon emissions, the importance in addition to that is educating others on why carbon offset is more or less a necessity rather than an option. Carbon offsetting puts us in the driver seat of impacting what happens to society in the future with regard to the issue of global warming. With individual offsetting, it allows an individual to look at the choices they make and explore ways in which smaller consumption selections can have a larger impact on reducing the carbon footprint (Shulman 176-177) currently trending within America and the world at large.

Current Individual Choices & Carbon Footprint

When assessing my own carbon footprint, there were many factors that went into the calculations to determine how much carbon emission that was being contributed to the Earth's atmosphere. Every habit that emanated from my life had to be analyzed: from what was consumed, to the amount of yearly miles driven to how much electricity cost on a monthly basis.

Currently, my routine consists of driving 4,000 miles a year in my Infiniti G37. My place of residence is in Los Angeles, CA and in a one bedroom apartment totaling 800 square feet. My electricity bill is $60 every 2 months. My diet consists of mostly meat and minimal dairy. Consumption of fruits and vegetables is above what would be considered the general average as is bread. My current shopping routine consists of spending anywhere between $55-60 a month as shopping is a favorite pastime of mine. Junk food is not consumed much but in the grand totality of comparison with other individuals, it is average. My recycling routine is minimal and in addition to utilizing my car to drive 4,000 miles annually, a plane trip is taken yearly to visit my family in South Korea. 

When inputting the information in the Nature Conservancy Calculator, the Cool Climate Calculator and the EPA calculator, the results were interesting as to how much carbon emissions that my choices are contributing to the overall planet.  The Nature Conservancy calculator yielded 17 tons of CO2 per year based on my daily consumption habits. The average per person living within the United States is 27 tons of CO2, while the world average is 5.5. With the Cool Climate calculator, the total yielded on that calculator was 22.3 tons of CO2 yearly, which the calculator noted as being 20.8% better than the average household in the United States. With the EPA calculator, my total emissions were 13,683 pounds of CO2 on a yearly basis. In examining the data, it became obvious that certain changes to my routine could be made because of the alarming amount of carbon emissions that I was putting out, especially with my diet and so a plan was derived to try and obtain a 75% reduction in the amount of carbon footprint that was being put out. 

Reduction Plan

In order to obtain a 75% reduction, the plan would be executed for a week. The main components of my carbon footprint were my food consumption and the transportation dynamics when looking at the data. In looking at the information from the Nature Conservancy Calculator, my food and diet were higher than the U.S. average, indicating that my meat intake would have to be minimized and dairy would need to be included in my every day diet.  In the realm of transportation, my immediate assumption was to rather than use my car to go to work and school, travelling could be offset with either bus or walking or finding a friend to ride with. While there is enjoyment in the aspect of driving your own car, reducing my footprint in relation to transportation was more important. In relation to my electric bill, that was actually better than the U.S. household average. My assessment here that it was probably because the apartment is a one bedroom and there is only one individual living there so the electricity isn't used as much. Despite this, all of the calculators recommended unplugging computers and other appliances when they are not being used, which is possible for me to do as well as turning up the thermostat in the summer and turning down the thermostat in the winter. In addition to this, instead of drying my laundry, the calculators recommended to line dry my clothes, which my mind considered was a possibility. Another aspect was to recycle. While recycling is not something that I do frequently, as a part of the plan, I pledged to incorporate recycling into my daily routine. 

Performing these functions for a week was hard. The most challenging was not eating meat as much and remembering to unplug the appliances. One would assume that remembering to unplug appliances once done would not be an issue, but how quickly we often forget. I decided to incorporate dairy into my diet also to bring equilibrium to my food consumption carbon emissions. The transportation aspect was easier than I believed it would be giving me hope that if I could do it, other individuals could as well. I pledged to reduce my speed on the highway and in the city as well as take the bus a few times a week to school and work rather than drive. It allowed me to save on gas money also. I also pledged to replace two of the light bulbs with more eco friendly ones known as Energy Star light bulbs. Recycling was not easy. In looking at the results of the calculators, I asked myself why that was. The good thing about the plan was that I was able to continue shopping and can still take the yearly trip to South Korea to visit my family. 

When all of these changes were put into the three calculators, I noticed that by incorporating these not necessarily simple, but rather effective techniques that achieving a 75% reduction was indeed possible. With the Nature Conservancy Calculator, changing everything noted in the plan brought my total emissions down to an 11. That was not exactly a 75% reduction but around 65% or so. For the Cool Climate Calculator, my total reductions savings wise ended up being $529/yr with around 12.8 tons of CO2 being emitted, which the calculator stated was 54.5% better than the United States average. With the EPA calculator, my total pounds dropped from 13,683 to 11,019 pounds which was close to a 75% reduction. 

It is true that these were changes for a week to see if I could adapt to them or not. Certain aspects were more challenging than others. This theorizes that other individuals in society would find certain aspects challenging as I did, but not that a reduction in carbon emissions plan could not be a viable way to shifting the ways in which humanity lives. A change in the daily lives would alter our behavior and culture as a society. While there would be challenges at the onset in terms of making the changes, over time these changes would become permanent and long lasting thus creating a more sustainable future.

(Tables and calculators omitted for preview. Available via download) 

Works Cited

Shulman, Seth, et al. Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living. Washington, DC: Island Press, 2012. Print.