Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Our big carbon footprints

It's quite the in-thing to work out the size of your carbon footprint. Apparently it's a great conversation starter at eco-dinner parties. I imagine it would be a complete conversation killer with many people I know. Anyway, there's a few places on the web you can get yourself measured up, like the nattily named carbonfootprint, or if that sounds a bit tame you could limber up for a carbon workout at the carbon gym (compliments of the Centre for Alternative Technology). Even big oil companies like BP are in on the act, following in the (carbon) footsteps of the green brigade, enlighteningly encouraging us to consume less of what they are selling.

Now I'm not particularly interested in eco-dinner parties and haven't got any invites anyway, but it's obvious that if we're going to make month on month and year on year reductions in our carbon emissions we need to know both where we're starting from and where we're aiming for. We need to get a handle on our household carbon footprint, establish some sort of baseline and some targets. So, to the carbon calculators.

At first it seems straightforward, but by the time you've estimated your miles of rail, bus, air and car travel, factored in your gas, electricity, oil and other fuel consumption, declared whether your suppliers are green or not, worked out whether you can share any of your emissions with other people and confessed to any carbon offsets you've purchased to ease your conscience, it's pretty apparent that you can probably get any answer you want from your friendly footprint calculator. And since each calculator seems to estimate things in slightly different ways, you get a range of answers anyway.

After an hour of punching figures into the web, all I've managed to conclude is that our household footprint is somewhere between 7,011 and 10,283 kg CO2 based upon our car and household energy consumption. On top of that there are emissions from any rail, air and public transport we use which we need to account for, all of which will probably push the carbonometer up into the red. I'm sure with a little massaging I could adjust the readings, share the emissions with the kids and come up with a more respectable figure to disclose with pride over aperitifs, but that's not the point. I want to take a long hard and realistic look at our household emissions not play games with a carbon calculator.

I'm told the average UK footprint is about 10,500kg per year including travel. So I guess what all this means is we've got pretty big feet. Looks like we've got our work cut out to become more like Mr and Mrs Average. Now there's an aspiration.

No comments: