General Question

RayaHope's avatar

Are you concerned about your Carbon Footprint?

Asked by RayaHope (7249points) 3 weeks ago

A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide and methane) that are generated by our actions.

The average carbon footprint for a person in the United States is 16 tons, one of the highest rates in the world. Globally, the average carbon footprint is closer to 4 tons. To have the best chance of avoiding a 2℃ rise in global temperatures, the average global carbon footprint per year needs to drop to under 2 tons by 2050.

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34 Answers

Acrylic's avatar

Not even an ounce.

tedibear's avatar

I played with a couple of carbon footprint calculators and come in at the high end of average for the U.S. Honestly, I’m more worried about large corporations.

Entropy's avatar

No. Ultimately, you aren’t going to seriously move the carbon needle that way. What’s needed is a revenue neutral carbon tax. Otherwise, your choices just won’t penetrate deeply enough into the economy to make a difference. There’s too many B2B and other things where you just don’t have an effect.

I think we should be investing in geothermal and fission instead of wind & solar because they’re base load power and ready now. Fusion is the future power source, but it’s a century away I’m betting. There’s too much hand-waving and W&S’s storage problems. I don’t think people appreciate the supply chain impossibility of converting to electric cars AND buiding out the needed energy storage at the same time.

But even geo and fission can’t be built up fast enough. I’ve always considered 2050 to have been as much a scare-tactic as anything else, but even if the date were 2075, we’re NOT going to get to a zero carbon economy by then. The developing world can’t afford it, and we’re not far enough along in the developed world.

This is why I think we need to do geoengineering, specific solar engineering. It can be done at a fairly affordable cost and can counter the temperature portion of climate change effects to buy us more time to adapt and get to net zero. The longer we wait, the more damage we’re doing. We should have started solar engineering decades ago just like we should have embraced geothermal and fission decades ago.

My $0.02.

kritiper's avatar

Yes, but only so much. Mankind will never do enough to squelch the threat.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

Sure just one more reason we chose not to have children.

seawulf575's avatar

Most times average carbon foot print is done by figuring the carbon footprint of a nation and then dividing it by the number of people. According to this we are probably second in the world for carbon emissions with about 4500 metric tons per year. We rank well below China with the clocking in closer to 12,000 metric tons per year. Per capita we rank 13th in the world (13.68 metric tons per person) whereas China ranks 28th (8.20 metric tons per person). Isn’t it fun how statistics can be manipulated?

The average person exhales around 2.5 pounds of CO2 per day. If you exercise a lot you are actually putting out up to about 7x as much as your couch potato counterpart. But on average 2.5. That equates to each human breathing out about 0.41 metric tons per year. That adds up to 137,350,000 tons per year…just from breathing. Forget the methane produced from bodily wastes!

Me worrying about what I put into the mix is pretty miniscule. Even adding in my vehicle that gets driven probably less than 2 hours per day on average, I’m not a huge contributor.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@smudges and @RayaHope Here is the greenhouse gas calculator that’s used and quoted in most scientific papers. GREET It was created by Argonne National Labs with contributions from industry, including oil companies and car manufacturers, universities, scientific papers, etc. It collects data continuously. Energy consumption, energy production, automotive emissions, factory emissions, emissions from farming, home heating, production of raw materials, shipping. It is a massive effort.
II used GREET in my previous job. I even contributed a few data points relating to the use of butanol as an alternative fuel for automotive applications.
I have found that the amount of money you spend on products, energy, fuel, and heat is positively correlated to your own carbon footprint (meaning if you spend more, your carbon footprint goes up.) So, if you drive less, set your thermostat down a little, don’t buy crap you are going to throw away in a short time, your carbon foot print will be reduced AND you will save money. It is easier for me to see the relationship when I relate it to $$$.

GREET is a massive program with massive data sets. You are free to download it and run your own experiments.

LuckyGuy's avatar

You can figure this out yourself with some basic chemistry. But here are some numbers for you. When burned completely, a gallon of gasoline produces about 19.5 pounds of CO2. A gallon of diesel fuel and home heating oil produces about 22.2 pounds. I use about 700 gallons of gasoline per year. My home uses about 800 gallons of fuel oil. (If I didn’t burn wood.) You can do the math. This is ignores all the produces I use.

Forever_Free's avatar

Yes I am. Various things I do is composting, solar, well water, my own garden, heat from my own wood harvest.

Smashley's avatar

I am, in the way that a person is responsible for the own morality, rather than the sum total of all people’s moralities. I am concerned and actively reduce/avoid unnecessary consumption, because it is the right thing to do. Yes, we need a carbon tax like 40 years, and at this point we probably need geoengineering to simply not die, but I’m just little old me, and what little old me can do is support the idea that reducing consumption and moving toward a sustainable future is every person’s moral duty, so far as they are able. I uphold this on a personal level, to fulfill my own moral needs and to add a sincere voice to the body politik.

canidmajor's avatar

I get the sense from your Q, @RayaHope, that you are more likely asking about our attitudes about than about the actual data.

Yes, I am concerned. I realize that large corporations, who have little to no environmental moral compass, can wipe out in (literally) a minute, any efforts I might make in a year, but in spite of that I still try. Maybe it won’t be in time, but I hold out hope that more and more awareness will lead to generational changes in attitude, and thus changes in corporate actions on a big scale.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Of course, the hippies had a lot of great tips. I compost, recycle, didnt have kids and drive a few times a week.
I try to purchase ethically and shop locally when possible, and we aren’t large consumers of material goods.
We also garden food.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

People don’t realize that activities other than burning fossil fuels cause massive CO2 emissions. For example, roughly 10% plus or minus a bit of all our CO2 release is from curing concrete.

canidmajor's avatar

@Blackwater_Park The good news is that companies are addressing that and are working on remediation. Google “low carbon concrete” and bunches of stuff comes up about that.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yes. I do what I can to reduce it…..which, without the countie’s / state’s help, is precious little.

seawulf575's avatar

Almost everything you do will contribute to the “carbon footprint” or other issues. Let’s look at some of the ones we have and reflect a bit. I have seen composting. Composting is the break down of organic matter which results in either CO2 or CH4 being released. These are really not huge contributors into the greenhouse gas issue due to the relatively small amount released. But here’s a consideration: what would that contribution be if everyone composted? We have large land fills across the nation that are all undergoing some form of decay of organic matter and these all release the same gases in much larger amounts.

Another consideration to composting is the consideration of where you got the compostable material to start with. Did you grow it yourself? Did you use any ICEs to help till the soil? Did you use any pesticides or fertilizers on your garden? That all has to be contributing to many of the issues. Or did you buy the material from a store? That would require driving to the store, the energy that operates the store, the fuel that moves the trucks that deliver the material and on and on and on. All that goes into what you are composting.

Recycling is also a mixed bag. Plastics for example can break down and release microplastics which get into our system and into our bodies. They can present a health hazard. Not to mention the fuel expended in processing the plastics for recycling and add to the carbon footprint for recycling. And the fuel of the trucks or the cars bringing the recyclables to the recycling center.

I saw an answer for heating your home with your own harvested wood. Burning wood is burning an organic fuel and releases all the same greenhouse gases as most fossil fuels. Not to mention the fuel used to cut down/cut up the wood for burning.

Solar and wind power bring problems of their own due to the scarcity of some of the rare earths (and not so rare earths) needed to make them. Mining and processing the ore adds to the carbon footprint.

Now, all that being said, I’m a big fan of raising your own food and composting and all sorts of things like that. I think it is healthier and less risky than processed foods. I’m actually all for alternative energy sources though I truly think we need a whole lot more research into them.

snowberry's avatar

Someone mentioned above about using well water. We have a well, and need 4 filters plus a water softener to make our water acceptable for household use. And another 5 filters to make it drinkable.

Carbon footprint? Ha!

KRD's avatar

No. I let photosynthesis take care of the carbon. But I don’t use much.

RocketGuy's avatar

We do what we can for carbon footprint without spending a lot more than the average person. Why strangle ourselves if no one else is?

RayaHope's avatar

@RocketGuy Unfortunately that is what most people think and that is the problem. I realize a single family may not be able to do much by themselves but big corporations need to start seriously doing something worldwide to slow down this problem.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

The problem @RayaHope money and profit mean more to these companies than health or the planets health so they do not care ,and most don’t believe there is a problem in the first place.
By the time they do start caring it will be far to late.

RayaHope's avatar

I think this is just one reason we need new fresh minds in our governments to change these old thinking styles that are killing us and our planet.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

Very true but money rules,and these old timers are not going to give up and step aside .

Blackwater_Park's avatar

@RayaHope Every generation says that. The truth is, it’s not so much an age thing as it is a paradigm shift that’s needed. Generation X is poised to take the reigns and they think differently than boomers and millennials. Those generations think exactly the same. We’ll see where that goes. Gen X is not so idealistic and generally more pragmatic.

Smashley's avatar

It’s the age old problem. The people actually have the power to save themselves if they worked together, but competition comfort and distrust get in the way.

“No one else is”
“What can I do?”
“My impact is so small”

These are all excuses.The people have chosen this course. We choose it in our lifestyle and our apathy.

The argument that the burden is on corporations is further apathy and passing responsibility. Corporations operated under the rules we gave them and kept our 401ks fat. Exulting them now as the only ones able to do anything about this, just encourages the pipeline of public money into private hands as we all seek the savior of capitalism to help us buy our way out of the shit we’re in.

Corporations will always bend to profit. Use your anger to change the law and how they make money, and you will see the change you want. You can’t hold corporations responsible, but you can make them pay.

As seen during the pandemic, large scale lifestyle changes can have an effect on greenhouse emissions. Unfortunately it seems like we need a virus to get us all willing to work together.

RayaHope's avatar

@Smashley I gave you a ga not because I liked your answer (in fact I really don’t like it) but because it’s true. Our entire system needs to change, but when you consider we can’t even adopt one system of measurement “the Metric System, that the entire rest of the world uses” our country seems to have a problem with true advancement in the areas that really matter.

canidmajor's avatar

I don’t agree that nothing is being done. It’s not enough, and it’s not fast enough, but things on a larger scale are happening. For decades the auto industry has been working towards more sustainable personal transportation; higher gas mileage, lower emissions, hybrids and EVs are examples of that. The article I linked above about lower carbon concrete, large scale measures to reduce the use of single use plastics (been to the grocery store lately? What bags are you using?), recycling measures started decades ago are becoming more efficient and effective examples.

A lot of people enjoy too much the wringing of hands and blaming everyone else, take a moment to learn about and support the people and companies seriously working on remediation.

smudges's avatar

@RayaHope and I talked about her source, but if anyone else is interested in reading about or calculating their carbon footprint, here’s a link:

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
snowberry's avatar

Our water is still nasty even after all the filters. We just added two more. The water is just disgusting here. Short of adding a distillation machine, and lots of carbon filters to get rid of the nasty smell and dissolved gasses, I don’t know what else we can do.

seawulf575's avatar

@snowberry it sounds like your well is caving in. might want to get a well digger out to inspect it.

snowberry's avatar

@Dutchess_III I’m not in the city so it’s not their problem.. I am on a well. The water that comes out of the ground here is that bad.

@seawulf575 The entire neighborhood has this problem, but that’s an interesting idea. I will look into it and let you know.

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