I’m working up the ledger, at long last, for the ecological impact of my family. Without a more accurate map of the impact, I can’t be confident the changes I am making are really having sufficient impact.
I figure we use about 2,000 gallons of heating oil a year, but I’m going to get the exact number going forward. This month, we used 93 gallons, but I’ve already set the thermostat down to the point that we all wear sweatshirts in the house.
We get two tanks of gas a week, at about 15 gallons per tank. That’s 1,500 gallons of gasoline. Easy to monitor.
What about electricity? We are burning an average of 47 kwh per day. If I assume my electricity is all oil-based, and that 70% of the generation cost is fuel, that’s about a gallon a day, or 360 gallons a year of electrical “fuel”. That’s hardly anything, compared to the heating oil and the gas!
Then there is airfare; I hear a lot of bad things about that, too. Lesse. I travel domestically 10 times a year, and international 1.5 times per year. According to the carbon offset websites, this is as bad as taking a chainsaw to an acre of brazilian rainforest, or thereabouts. But something doesn’t wash. Jet fuel is going for about $2/gallon right now, bought by the ton. A domestic flight costs $300, and the international ones are usually twice that. Even assuming half the cost is fuel, which is unlikely, the total fuel consumption of all my flying every year is… 862 gallons. Assuming a more reasonable fuel cost percentage gets it to about 500 gallons a year. Sure it’s a lot, but compared to my car and heating oil, it’s a short pole. It could be that, because the fuel is being burned in the atmosphere, it makes a bigger environmental impact. if anyone has a reference, I’ll take it.
(BTW, for those doing their own carbon calculations like me, you could get more detailed. A 737 holds 6,700 gallons of fuel, and when full, carries 115 passengers. It can go coast to coast and back without refuelling, so figure 3,000 gallons one way. For a specific trip from JFK to SFO, on a full aircraft, each passenger should expect to burn 50 gallons of jet fuel, round trip)
Then there is trash. Packaging, cardboard, paper, cans, bottles. I’m already all over this like white on rice, so we’re not throwing that much into the land-fill, but I’ll need to get more specific here as well.
Finally groceries, consumables, and the like. My son uses the metric of 30% of the price is fuel costs for all goods and services, but that might be low, when you consider most things today are made in china or south america and flown or shipped here. But based on that, I can get a calculation going here as well. Using his numbers, though, we burned another 200 gallons of fuel this month on our consumables. At 2,500 gallons a year, this is my second biggest item.
Long story short; the mathematical model is coming together, and anyone who has already developed some spreadsheets for this and is willing to share, I’d be much obliged. But the best way to decrease my family’s footprint seems to be…spend less money on goods and services, and buy food locally. Oh, and maybe move that thermostat down one more point…