Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Jurassic Wardrobe vs. Smoking Reburns

Every now and then I’ve found myself boasting about how the homeless and the poor have low carbon footprints because of low consumption and lots of re-use. However, until now that’s been an empty — if plausible — boast, because I never got around to determining just what my carbon footprint is. Well, today I decided to try out three online quizzes that estimate. I took the highest — and most consistent — two out of the three results to estimate my carbon footprint to be about 5.3 tons/year out of an average American household figure of 9.4 tons/year, putting me at about 56% or more earth-friendly than about half of my neighbors. Predictably, where the greatest gains are made in my (mostly unintentional) eco-stewardship are in frivolous consumerism; my carbon footprint was probably considerably lower when I was sleeping on a loading dock.

But, this is only a very rough estimate based on self-reporting in online quizzes. One question that immediately springs to mind is … what about the fact that most of what I purchase is made in China, and other developing nations with lax environmental regulations? Alas, I can’t find any actual figures, but it stands to reason that Chinese steel that utilizes cruder manufacturing processes that aren’t nearly as beholden to environmental regulations as say, German steel, yields greater emissions in production. I shop at the Dollar Tree and Amazon, so unless I’m splurging or stumbling upon crazy deals I’m buying at best American steel (whose production carbon footprint is lamentably close to China’s). Not that I’m worried that all my virtuous re-using and recycling is being thwarted by relying mostly on shoddy Chinese goods; I seriously doubt the fraction of China-origin purchases of mine is significantly greater than is that of the middle class denizens above me on the societal food chain.

It’s good to think about, though. Which most people don’t, even those silly yuppies who present themselves as eco-groovy and make a show of chatting up the sexy little Sierra Club corporate panhandlers during lunch. If they did think about it, would they feel so comfortable strutting down the street in bedecked in hundreds of dollars of Carboniferous era? Or, for that matter, those boorish blue-collar suburbanites who burn yard debris and illegally dump appliances alongside roads? Or every one of us who don’t use rechargeable batteries and think nothing of throwing them out in the trash when they’re spent? I can use less water, I can eat less processed foods and beef, and I can get a bike and take the bus less; hell, I’m sitting here in front of a computer typing out this blog post, when I could be outside gardening or taking photos of blossoming cherry trees!

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