Modern Art: A Footprint in Pen and Ink

Challenge #1: What’s your carbon footprint?

It took me awhile to get creative with an artistic rendering of our family footprint. I tend to express myself in words more than pictures. In any case, here’s the result.

Choosing answers for the carbon footprint calculator was much easier, although it took some deliberation and research. Kirsten is living on campus and not really home much, so I wasn’t sure about including her as part of the household. Of course, her existence requires a basic energy, so I ultimately counted her. In regard to driving, we left out the mileage Charles puts in for his job because it’s not something we can change. Even so, transportation via car and plane is about 90 percent of our carbon output, shown here in pink.

The next highest amount was due to home heating and electricity, represented by the big yellow toe print. The family agreed that home energy use is more accurately measured in therms and kilowatt-hours rather than cost, because prices vary by region and season. I found out that our local power company has a program called Energy Waves that allows us to track our energy usage over the past 17 months to see trends. It offers lots of helpful hints on how to save energy.

I checked out a couple of different carbon footprint calculators online to see what differences there are. Many of them give credit for recycling, which makes sense (and cents). Creating products from used items definitely saves energy compared to extracting virgin materials through drilling, mining, and logging. The results from the Zoo calculator, considering both high and low estimates, places our family footprint between 27.4 and 35.9 tons of carbon dioxide annually. That’s about the weight of six elephants, yet about half the amount of the average U.S. family! So while we’re doing a pretty good job, we have room for improvement, as does my artwork…

Patti Turkle

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