It’s summer in Minnesota. The sun is shining, everything is a rich vibrant green, and the smell of fresh cut grass is wafting through the window. That smell triggered childhood memories for me…as well as a curiousity: what is the carbon footprint of lawn care?
In our last post, we explored the definition of sustainability according to ecological economist Herman Daly. When measured against his comprehensive definition of sustainability, very few businesses or products have yet to achieve true sustainability.
Sustainability is a big deal today. It is an oft uttered term among a wide array of businesses and designers.According to studies by BSR and Global Scan, 62% of business leaders “identified the integration of sustainability into core business operations as the most important leadership challenge for business today.”
Over the last few years, the number of Americans who report being familiar with the term “Carbon Footprint” has gone from the minority to the majority.Most people now not only know the term but also want to see us act on making meaningful reductions on our greenhouse gas emissions. We have a much better chance of successfully changing our behavior - and our environmental impact - if we understand what makes up the aspects of that impact and prioritize our efforts accordingly.
Statistics indicate that for most of us, our values include mitigating climate change and making changes to improve our environmental impact.The US Federal Government and a few select State governments provide $21.5B in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.One third of that subsidy, $6.5B annually, directly subsidizes oil exploration both within the United States as well as overseas - that is almost as much as the entire funding the EPA receives.What could we accomplish if we were to simply stop public funding of oil exploration?
In 1949 the United States consumed 32 quadrillion BTUs of energy.By 2013, our total energy consumption grew to almost 98 quadrillion BTU’s.Per person, that is an average of 314 million BTU’s, almost 50% increase in per capita consumption. Over that 64 year time span, that works out to an annual increase of 0.6%.Considering all of the technology driven lifestyle changes that have taken place in those 7 decades, the increase actually seems pretty reasonable.
What might surprise you is that throughout that entire time frame, renewable energy has played a role in powering our country.
The US consumes a sea of fossil fuels annually, literally.We burn through 289 trillion gallons of oil every year.Our use of fossil fuels produces over 6.5 gigatonnes of greenhouse gas, a mountain of man-made atmosphere.Many mountains, in fact.The US is responsible for 860 cubic miles of atmospheric CO2 every year, the size of 10 Mount Shasta’s.
Many of us have begun to be more aware of the environmental impact of our electronics, but the magnitude of the impact may still shock you a little. We wanted to explore the topic from the perspective of wasted carbon footprint
With the US Senate working towards a vote on the Keystone XL pipeline and President Obama’s January 6th press release indicating he would veto a Keystone bill if it reaches his desk, there is little chance you have not heard of the pipeline.The proposed Keystone XL is intended to deliver Canadian Tar Sands across the United States to port towns in the Golf of Mexico.As we’ve been watching the debate unfold over the last number of months we have been wondering what, exactly, is the carbon footprint that pipeline would be responsible for.We were shocked and think you might be as well.
Calculate the footprint of the internet?Am I serious?Well, actually, yes!The results might surprise you!
To support the efforts of a client, we recently wanted to calculate the carbon footprint of the the internet as well as the typical website.The exercise offered an interesting side journey so we thought we would share the outline with you.
Few things seem to irritate us quite like air travel.At times it is hard to think of air travel as luxury. But it is. Every day 8.3 million people benefit from being able to blast themselves across the sky.We are capable of covering distances in the matter of hours that most of humanity could not even imagine crossing in a lifetime.
While you read this, there are likely 5,000 commercial flights in US air space. Our national air traffic currently exceeds 24,000 flights a day.The relative expense of air travel continues to go down .More of us are able to travel and are choosing to travel by air because of the benefits of such quick transportation at relatively low cost.
The average family has two.And they will spend 852 hours inside them each year. 23% of that time will be spent idling. Each of our families will spend, on average, nearly $18,000 a year for all of the vehicle expenses combined - over $400 for fuel for that idling alone.
The 253 Million cars on American roads will travel 3 trillion miles this year.And they will produce 1.2 billion metric tons of co2, or if you like even bigger numbers: 2.64 trillion pounds.That volume of co2 requires 986 million acres of forest to remove from the atmosphere.
Being a scientist predicting the future must be a tough job.In fact, I am not sure why anyone would want to make specific predictions – the chances of you being 100% accurate are quite dismal.In fact, some predictions are just down-right funny now.
Some of my favorites are from futurists in the late 1800’s who combined the burgeoning scientific discoveries of the time with a vivid imagination to make predictions of the future.A number of outlandish predictions from around the turn of the 20th century were immortalized in a series artist’s renderings by France and Germany to entice public excitement over the coming new century.My favorites are the Airborne Firefighter’s, the Whale-Bus, and the Weather Control Machine
Svante Arrhenius, a Nobel awarded scientist, established the first scientific theory of the Greenhouse Effect within Earth's climate. He is considered a 'founding father' of modern physical chemistry and his work is the foundation of our modern understanding of the ice ages and the mechanisms of climate. In 1896 Dr Arrhenius predicted that increases of atmospheric CO2 concentrations from burning fossil fuels would lead to global warming.
A detailed review of the data show's the last 120 years of data to be in strong support of his predictions:
"I come from a state where we see a warming. We're seeing it with increased water temperatures; we're seeing it with ice that is thinner; we're seeing it with migratory patterns that are changing," Senator Lisa Murkowski said on her recent re-election night. "So I look at this and I say this is something that we must address."