Wednesday 31 December 2008

2008 in review: choices and their consequences

I've been tracking my CO2 output for a year now. Time for a summing up. My choices over the year have resulted in emissions of 12,800 kg of CO2 (which is quite a lot more than the national average of 8,600kg). That's according to my own calculations of course, but here's how it breaks down:

"Flying for work" covers two return trips to Memphis, and two to Wellington.

"NZ Apartment CO2 depreciation" is twenty percent of the CO2 emitted in building my apartment, and emitted by the building materials over the life of the building. I got the figures from NZWood - they have a handy calculator. It's probably a bit off but it's an interesting thing to consider.

"Flying for fun" covers one flight from Little Rock to Houston return to visit Pete and Ben and Adrienne, and one flight to Sydney to go for a run and do a little shopping.

"US Condo life" and "NZ Apartment life" are the costs of lighting and heating/cooling and generally using electricity in each home - about four times the emissions per day for my temporary American home, due mostly to the huge cost of heating and airconditioning.

That's without counting the CO2 emitted in the production of the food I ate, in the manufacturing off the stuff I used and bought, in the maintenance of the golf courses and movie theatres and restaurants and gyms I frequented (infrequently). I've excluded that because I don't know yet how to count it.

And it's also without counting the CO2 emitted by things I didn't actively choose - for example, the NZ government's activities. I chose to buy an apartment in a concrete building (rather than a wooden house), so I'm counting the amortised CO2 cost of building it, but I didn't choose the wooden condominium in Arkansas, so I'm not amortising the cost of building that (a pity - it was probably carbon negative). I chose to stay alive, so I'm counting the 200kg of CO2 I exhaled over the 366 days of the year :-)

To use up that CO2, it will take about 8.5 hectares of mature forest planted in a temperate land (like New Zealand) a year of living and leafing.

So what could I have chosen to do differently? The obvious choice is to avoid going to the US for five months. If I'd worked in NZ all year, and gone to Japan on holiday as I'd originally planned to, my output would be (after five minutes in Excel) about 4900kg, only 38% of what I actually caused to be emitted.

I started the year wondering if I could have any effect on my CO2 output. I think I've safely confirmed that I can.

The next step is to make those better choices which reduce my impact on the planet.

And the step after that is to make it easy for everyone else to make those choices too - by making it easy for them to see the consequences of each choice they make.

(And maybe there's a step involving buying 8.5 hectares of mature forest. )

2009 will be The Year Of Better Choices for me - for CO2 and for life in general. How about you?

Tuesday 16 December 2008

Tracking my power usage with Wattzon

There should now be a "WattzOn" badge at the top of the right hand column (over there --->). has a "personal energy usage" calculator, which can give you a rough idea of how much energy your lifestyle uses up. The number in the badge is my own usage. What's yours?

I went through the series of questions and the very first one piqued my curiosity: my energy usage halved when I changed my "country of residence" from USA to New Zealand. Apparently it's based on government policies which affect CO2 creation. I wonder if they've updated their estimate since the election?

Even though I did well out of living in NZ, I got all those watts back again from flying around the place. Maybe next year I should stay put.

Thursday 4 December 2008

First tomato!

Look, three little green tomatoes! And this year, I'm actually going to get to eat them.