It's time to see how I'm doing with my carbon footprint for the year 2008. As a reminder, I've set a 2008 New Year's Resolution to cut my carbon footprint in half: from 22 tons to 11 tons.
On initial inspection, things are going incredibly well. The year to date total is just under 3 tons. Highlights:
- Our electricity bill has remained low and steady since implementing our energy-saving projects last year.
- Our hot water projects have helped immensely.
- Recycling is going very well. We are producing 75% less garbage every week!
- We have been making a conscious effort to walk more and drive less. This has significantly reduced our gas miles, which should be some of our biggest savings this year.
- We took one trip to Cleveland earlier this year to visit my in-laws, but other than that our travel has been kept in check. We did take one vacation so far this year, but just stayed at home and enjoyed the local area. It was great.
Before I can claim victory, I have some very bad news. You may remember that 2008 is also the year that my husband and I decided to take a three month sabbatical from work to travel the world. For us this is a one-time, chance of a lifetime opportunity. We'll be going all over: Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Spain, England, and elsewhere in Western Europe.
Our itinerary is vetted now, and I ran it through the carbon calculator. The results are not good.
The flights we'll be taking will more than double our remaining carbon footprint. On the plus side, we won't be driving for three months, but this barely makes a dent in the result. With the flights factored in, we will only improve our carbon footprint about 33% this year.
Of course, there are lots of ways to play with the numbers to make these figures stab my conscience less. I am offsetting our travel, of course, with a company that will plant extra trees to soak up this carbon. In theory, since this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, I could amortize the carbon cost out over the next few years.
There are also justifications such as the fact that travel better connects me to the world, and inspires me to work harder towards its preservation, which is true. But the stark reality is that despite our commitment to shrinking our footprint, when our goal came into direct conflict with one of our passions, we couldn't make the sacrifice.
I have mixed feelings about this. Of course, I look at all I have accomplished so far and am enormously pleased with it. But I am also disappointed in my ability to be hardcore.
So what will I do? My current plan requires me to look beyond just myself and my measly little footprint. In order to balance the scales and achieve some semblance of my goal, I will need to find other places I can make an impact. Convince my apartment complex to switch to CFL lighting, perhaps. Maybe work with friends and family to shift their habits. Enact an energy-savings plan at my place of work.
In the end, finding other ways to prevent greenhouse emissions beyond my personal lifestyle may balance the equation on paper. But it still feels like robbing Peter to pay Paul.