Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Exercise 3: Ecological Footprint

When I had finished calculating my ecological footprint, I was very excited to compare it to the average American and bask in how green I am. Accordingly I had a little bit of a shock when I compared my ecological footprint of 62.6 acres to the average of 23.5 acres. The I realized that I had calculated my monthly footprint instead of my weekly one. Whewww! This reduced my overall footprint to 14.5 acres, with my food footprint being 1.0, my housing footprint being .2, my transportation footprint being .7, my goods and services footprint being .2, my stocks footprint being 12.2, and my waste being .2.
Needless to say, I was very surprised by my stocks footprint! This measured the production and environmental costs of manufacturing, selling and distributing my long-term "possessions." I use this term lightly because, as a college student living in the dorms, I do not actually own many of the things in my room. It would probably have been more realistic to divide the footprint of my bed by all of the college students who will use it in its lifetime before and after me. However, I nonetheless now look at manufactured items in a different light. Before I could not have quantified just how much of an ecological footprint my possessions could have, even when they are long-term possessions.
This experiment also made me realize that I am not as green as I think I am. Even though my footprint was considerably below that of the average American, it would still require 92.5 Earths to sustain a human population that lived like me. This also helped to quantify just how impressive it is for Merkel to live on a ecological footprint of just 2 acres. However, my results also helped me set up some short, medium and long term goals for my ecological footprint.
In the short-term (within this year) I have relatively few options concerning my lifestyle. I am already a vegetarian, which is basically the best I can do while eating it the dining halls. I can't control what the housing is like when I live in a dorm. I already use public transit instead of having my own car. I don't have a job and am a naturally stingy person, so I don't buy many things (although my laptop is a necessity as a student and just in general). I don't have control over what's in my room (bed, fridge, desk, etc). Finally, I feel like I already do a lot to minimize my waste.
One thing I could do in the short term is limit my seafood intake. I eat seafood when it presents itself (albeit, not very often), but I noticed that seafood has a very large footprint, especially when compared to something like chicken. I don't drink milk and have maybe 4 eggs a week, but I can be a little excessive in my dairy product intake due to my incalculable love of cheese. I enjoy making quesadillas and sandwiches with several slices of cheese in the dining halls, but I will try to make this more of a rare occasion.
In the medium-term (1-10 years from now) I will have more flexibility to reduce my ecological footprint. Once I live outside of the dorms I plan to start a personal experiment where I only buy food (excluding when I eat at restaurants) from farmers' markets. I love the environment of farmers' markets and look forward to making friends with the farmers.
I will also still be using public transit or biking instead of driving myself, but the feasibility of this depends on where I live in relation to where I work (aka if I don't work by the beach, I will have a long commute). However, especially when I don't have a family, the most gas-guzzling vehicle I would have would be a city-cruiser scooter or motorcycle type of deal.
Due to my stinginess (I'm going to be living by the beach...) and my environmental concerns, I plan to live with multiple roommates until they are replaced by a husband-type of situation and kids. Growing up a triplet has left me very well suited for dealing with dealing with and sharing with a lot of people.
Regarding waste, I plan to institute composting, hopefully in conjunction with a small garden, and green technologies. However, I'll probably be living in an apartment or condo, so there may be rules inhibiting that.
Hoever, in the long-term (over 10 years from now) I will probably be in a position where I will own my own property, and will accordingly be able to institute changes like composting, gardening and installing green technologies. Another aspect of my long-term life that will reduce my footprint is my plan to only have one biological child and adopt others. For my future children and my own personal fulfillment, giving up my career and salary as Merkel suggests is not an option. However, I do plan on using my money to "vote" green in a capitalist economy through my purchases.

1 comment:

  1. A triplet! Wow that must have been interesting growing up. Admirable goals you have. Just one comment about giving up income- I doubt Merkel and others like him expect every one to quit work but they do show how we can live happily with MUCH less than we are accustomed to thinking we need. THere's lots of stuff you can do with your money besides consume stuff you don't need...