Sunday, September 16, 2012

My Carbon Footprint is Better Than Yours. Darn right, it's better than yours.

So, we can't deny it.  You really kinda do need to have a car in Atlanta.  The majority of the day plans Here's What You Do recommends just require it.  Or, you'd spend all day trying to get to one place from another on public transportation.   Some places we recommend, you literally can't there from here.  That is, on public transportation anyway.  It's just the way it is in Atlanta for now.  

With all that car travel comes pollution.  Green house gases filling the air.  Even if we did become a more public transportation-able city, we'd still pollute.  So, what do you do?  The name of the game is to reduce your carbon footprint, no matter how you travel.  The less polluting you do, the better for Atlanta.

That Lambo Gallardo might look and drive sweet, but how much does it hurt the old carbon cycle?

What is a Carbon Footprint anyway?

You might be wondering just what a carbon footprint is?  Why do you have one?  Can you make it smaller?  Your carbon footprint is basically the amount of green house gas that gets released into the atmosphere as the result of actions you take.  So, it's pretty straightforward.  Reduce your carbon footprint, reduce your contribution to green house gases floating around up there, reduce whatever nasty effects those gases are having on the world.  Boom! 

How much are we really polluting?  Can we make a difference?

First off, we wanted to understand exactly what we are talking about in terms of the pollution in Atlanta.  How much pollution is caused by cars?  Can one person actually make a difference?  Science my friends.  That's the answer.  In 2008, The United States E.P.A did a study to find out about our carbon footprint.  Turns out Cars, SUVs, and Pickups contribute about 64% of the footprint of transportation, which in turn is about 28% of the total carbon footprint.  So, if all cars stopped altogether today, we'd immediately cut our total national carbon footprint by about 20%.  If we all got cars that used half the gas we currently use, we'd cut it by 10%.  Not too shabby.

In real numbers, if you have a 10 mile commute in Atlanta, and you stopped using your private car to do it - either by traveling less, working at home, taking public transportation, etc. etc. - then you would reduce your footprint by 8.1%, or about 4,647 pounds in a year!  That's pretty awesome.

Cars, SUVs, and Pickups make up 64% of the carbon footprint of transportation, which in turns makes up 28% of the green house gas emissions in the United States.

So, how do you do Reduce your Carbon Footprint?  Here's what you do.  

1. Know how much you are polluting.

There are lots of iPhone and iPad apps that you can use to calculate your carbon footprint.  Check out this review from geekSugar.  We recommend the Carbon Footprint app.  All you do is update the app whenever you buy gas with your odometer reading, and it does the rest.  

The Carbon Footprint iPad and iPhone App will help you get a handle on how big your carbon footprint really is.

2. Start looking for the Carbon Footprint section in the Here's What You Do day plans.

Over the next few weeks we'll be rolling out Here's What You Do day plans with Carbon Footprint estimates on them.  That way, you'll know exactly what your footprint is as you adventure in the ATL. We'll also be actively trying to suggest day plans that require little travel from one place to the next, to reduce the footprint.  Keep an eye out for the Carbon Footprint section.

Your Here's What You Do Carbon Footprint is...

3. Get a better car.

The name of the game in reducing carbon footprint is to get a car with higher gas mileage - so it pollutes less per mile you drive.  Clean Fleet gives us the top 10 lowest carbon footprint cars.  Consistently, the number one is the Toyota Prius.

The Prius is consistently ranked the lowest carbon footprint car.  Plus it saves you a lot in gas every year.

What about electric cars, you might ask?  They're good on carbon footprint.  But not nearly as good as you might think.  For electric cars, it's all about how good the electricity grid is where you plug in.  Audubon Magazine drops the science.   They explain plugging in an electric car in New York is like having a gas powered car with 70 mpg, from the perspective of carbon footprint.  The same thing in Colorado would be like having a gas powered car with 33 mpg!  Big difference.

In Atlanta, we rank better than a large portion of the country in terms of our electric grid, and the benefit of getting an electric vehicle.  But, that's only if you're willing to pay the price.  Electric is still pretty pricey.  It's new tech.  Wait a few years.  Prices will go down as electric becomes mainstream.  In the meantime, a nice hybrid will do fine.

This figure from Audubon Magazine shows Atlanta is in the Better region when it comes to the benefits of electric vehicles.   That means it's better to get an electric vehicle than a gas-powered car, even a hybrid.  But, only if you don't mind the cost.  Electric cars are still pretty pricey...

4. Take public transportation when you can.  From the EPA report:

What Individuals Can Do To Reduce Their Carbon Footprint 
Switching to riding public transportation is one of the most effective actions individuals can take to re­ duce their carbon footprint.
Car transportation alone accounts for 47% of the car­ bon footprint of a typical American family with two cars—by far the largest source of household emis­ sions and, as such, the largest target for potential reductions. The average passenger car in the U.S. produces just under 1 pound of carbon dioxide per mile traveled. 
If just one driver per household switched to tak­ing public transportation for a daily commute of 10 miles each way, this would save 4,627 pounds of carbon dioxide per household per year—equivalent to an 8.1% reduction in the annual carbon footprint of a typical American household. This benefit has a greater impact than other actions, such as replac­ing light bulbs with compact fluorescents (a 1.6% re­duction based on 20 out of 25 light bulbs changed) or adding R-40 insulation to a home attic (a 1.2% reduction).

So, take Marta when it's convenient, my friends.  Every little bit helps.

5. Take day trips that require less travel.

At Here's What You Do, we'll suggest trips that keep you in one part of town all day.  That way, less travel.  Smaller footprint.   Try to do the same in all your Atlanta travels.  If you have to go to Decatur, do everything you have to do there all in one trip.  So easy.

6.  Stay cool, my friends.

You know, napping has a very little carbon footprint indeed.  Why do you think we suggest one every day?!

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