I just calculated the carbon footprint for our household and came up with 54 tons of CO2 equivalent per year. For a 2-person household the national average is 53 and the world average is 11 so we aren’t doing all that great! Most of our problems come from our house and then our cars. Our house is by far the worst and consumes over 76% of our total carbon footprint. We have an old farm house built in the 1920’s. It has thick walls but not all of our windows are updated yet (a few are still single pane) and there are icicles hanging outside our front porch so we know there is some obvious heat loss. We also haven’t added any extra insulation to the house and while it stays warm in the winter, it could probably be more efficient although for us it is very cheap to heat because we use natural gas. Our water heater is also older and we don’t have any water heater blanket on it or anything which marked us down a bit too.
For our cars … my car isn’t terrible on gas but it isn’t amazing either and it gets driven about 10 miles a day and goes on at least a couple of long trips per year. Joe’s car is better on gas but he only drives maybe 6 miles a day and he also takes it on a couple of long trips each year. Maybe our next car (which will be Joe’s new car!) could be a hybrid, we’ll see how he feels when it’s time to buy one 🙂 Our cars take up about 11% of our total foot print which is lower than I would have expected.
The remaining carbon footprint for us comes from waste/recycling and our eating habits. We recycle very little, only scrap metal and aluminum cans, so we were marked down for that. I thought I would try to recycle but it is a hassle to get to the recycling place so I never did and now I don’t recycle at all and things like paper, glass and tin cans go into the trash. We do use a lot of our junk mail paper and sometimes paper boxes in the rabbit cages as a liner so we do save some there but there was no option for that in the survey 🙂 We did do good on “composting” organic matter because all of our food waste goes to the chickens or a few things will go to the dogs/rabbits or into my bags in the freezer (like onion peels) for making stock. Very, very little food is thrown away around here. I guess I could be better about composting things like coffee grinds though which I do not do. In fact, we don’t even have a compost pile. I always think I should make one, but can never decide where to keep it, so I never do. How dumb right?
Our eating habits were right in the middle and they probably won’t change. We do eat some organic foods sometimes and we now get our CSA share in the summer and raise chickens for eggs (and technically we should use them for meat too but we don’t really), and get our raw milk locally, but we also eat meat regularly… not at every meal but usually every day in some form which marked us down and not all of our food is organic either. I like the idea of ‘better’ foods… being raised and grown locally without major pesticides and by people that you know. If I could buy everything local at reasonable prices I would totally do it… but that just doesn’t work well. I know people have done it, and people can do it, but it takes a lot of work and searching and resourcefulness. And when it comes to ‘organic’ there is a broad spectrum of what people mean when they use the word. Not to mention that some/most organic produce that we can find here in the U.P. in the winter comes from Mexico or California. And which is better environmentally and health-wise? Organic produce that was trucked and shipped over 2,000 miles to get to my store, or non-organic produce that is grown closer and is only trucked maybe 500 miles or 1000 miles? Take your pick, I’m sure there are studies and opinions on this all over the internet, but it seems to me that organic produce that is shipped so far is hardly better than non-organic. So, I don’t feel too badly when only some of our food is organic. I would rather have local food be our priority.
Despite our house and cars and our non-recycling we do do some decent small (maybe tiny) things around here. I make a point to buy recycled products when I can and we use very few cleaning products. Vinegar is the main one although we do use dish/dishwasher soap, toilet cleaner and shower cleaner and wood floor oil soap. For awhile I was using soap nuts for laundry but ended up switching to Tide Sport because it works the best on workout clothes…after awhile soap nuts just don’t get them clean so Tide Sport it is. We use energy efficient light bulbs in almost all of our lamps and then like I mentioned before we do use a lot of our excess paper for the rabbits (and a friend saves us her newspapers to use too so we are also reusing some of her waste), we waste almost no food scraps, get some of our foods locally and even reuse egg cartons (saves us money and the environment from trash!). The kitchen sponges are made from 23% recycled materials and plant based fibers and the trash bags are made from 65% recycled materials. I am trusting both companies that their advertising is reasonable and that their manufacturing practices in using the recycled materials aren’t making it even worse for the environment than making regular versions of the items. I definitely don’t buy these trash bags for their sturdiness, the handles/ties break constantly and it is very annoying (Hefty if you ever read this your handles…they are crap!) but I keep buying them and forgiving them the annoying ties because I hope that their recycling practices are helping the environment…even slightly is better than nothing.
So while we have a ways to go in becoming a more environmentally friendly house we do do at least a few things and small things are better than no things! I linked to the calculator up at the top of my post… it was pretty interesting to answer and find out and it made me think about all the things we do, or don’t do, to help the environment. Maybe there will be a water heater blanket in our future and I’ll try to take some more steps to do better and then revisit the calculator. At least being under the national average would be nice 🙂