Carbon Footprint Shock!

Challenge #1: What’s your carbon footprint?

This igloo was created by my son, but it’s what our house feels like INDOORS in the winter.

Yikes! I just went into “carbon footprint” shock. Using the San Diego Zoo’s carbon footprint calculator, our little family of 3 (plus 2 dogs) weighs in at 67.5 total metric tons. Honestly, I calculated that three times, making sure I was putting all the numbers in the right spot over and over. Gulp. What surprised me was that, beside the “average consumer” section, that heating oil was our biggest CO2 contribution. I really thought it would be driving.

But now that I really think about it, driving would have been the case if, two years ago, both my husband and I had not taken jobs much closer to home. For him, home is his office. He does a fair amount of driving during his busy season – most meetings take place 45 miles from home in Annapolis, Maryland. But otherwise, he handles the morning drive to school for Henry, and that’s about a 4-mile roundtrip. For my part, I cut out an 80-mile roundtrip drive that I had been doing for 13 years, and then a 90-mile round tripper which was a 2-year stint. Now I drive less than 5,000 miles a year, commuting about 8 miles daily.

But, I digress…we recycle – it’s great now that Baltimore City has single-stream recycling once a week. I still have to pluck out the errant newspaper bag or aluminum can from the trash, but we are pretty good at this part. We wait as long as possible to turn on the air conditioning in the summer. Frankly, we all prefer to keep the windows open and use ceiling fans, but when Baltimore turns into the hazy, hot, and humid mess it can be in August and the dogs can’t breathe, it’s time to turn it on.

We have oil heat in an almost 80-year-old house. Two rooms in our house are not insulated (or if insulated, very minutely). One of the rooms (a small powder room) doesn’t even have a heat vent in it (insert your own joke here!), and the other is a sun-porch turned family room. There are doors that don’t completely fill the frames and a sliding glass door that leaks like a sieve. We do plug those up for the winter, but it’s not fool-proof.

We don’t turn on the heat until our son’s lips are blue. (Just kidding!) This fall, it didn’t go on until mid-November, and even then we would turn it off when we had a few Indian summer days. Okay, I sound like I am trying to justify that crazy number. Well, I guess I am. I suppose we better get cranking and bring our total down. And a snowy winter in Maryland is just the time to do it!

Jane Ballentine

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