One day of Juan’s carbon

November 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

We might not realize it but from the moment we wake up in the morning until we go to bed we do things that increase the CO2 levels in the atmosphere. Even when we sleep, whether its because we have left some appliances on stand-by or use the heating during the night, we increase our carbon footprint.

Giving some thought to this matter I decided to measure all my carbon emissions in a normal day of my life in order to study which activities of my daily life are less eco-friendly and try to cut those emissions somehow. I do not want to stop doing the things I like, but I believe I can always improve my behavior in relation to the environment. I am really sure I can continue my life normally while being more environmentally friendly person.

Measuring my daily carbon footprint was not an easy task; most of the online carbon calculators are only good to measure long periods of time (months or years) but not days. For that reason I couldn’t use any of those and I had to figure out my emissions by doing some calculations. As a reference I used the common midrange value that 1 kWh of electricity produces 500g of CO2. Obviously this number could change depending on where the electricity come from (oil, natural gas, wind, etc.) but it is a figure commonly used for these sort of calculations.

Below I have described my day on the 10th of November 2011, explaining every activity that consumed energy and its CO2 emissions associated:

I woke up and took a hot shower for 6 minutes. Currently I am living in a flat where the water heater runs by electricity (0.95 kWh; 475g CO2).

While I made my breakfast I used the toaster for 3 minutes (0.035 kWh; 17g CO2) and the microwave for 1 minute (0.016 kWh; 8g CO2).

After breakfast I left home and took the train from Shadwell to Queen’s Park (8.2 miles; 360g CO2) where I spent the day working on the bloomtrigger project.

At my place of work I used my laptop for 8 hours (0.4 kWh; 200g CO2) and the microwave to heat my lunch for 3 minutes (0.047 kWh; 24g CO2). Fortunately, the place is very bright and we don’t need to switch any lights on.

When I finished my work I came back home so I used the train again, covering a distance of 8.2 miles travelled (360g CO2).

Upon my return home I enjoyed cooking a delicious Spanish omelette and a sponge cake. I had to use the electric hob for 30 minutes (0.36 kWh; 90g CO2) and the oven for another 30 minutes (0.78 kWh; 195g CO2). As these meals were to share with my girlfriend I divided the associated emissions for that energy consumption by two.

After dinner I used my laptop for 3 hours to read online newspapers and to watch a film (0.15 kWh; 37g CO2). I stayed in my bedroom with two different lamps switched on for 4 hours, one of them with a low energy light-bulb (0.007 kWh; 5g CO2) and the other one with a standard light-bulb (0.06 kWh; 60g CO2). As in the previous case, I took into consideration that the energy was consumed by two people.

I also charged my mobile phone for 1 hour (0.005 kWh; 3g CO2).

Considering that I share the flat with four other people and we have the heating running by oil my CO2 emissions for that day were 4,083g CO2.

The same argument is used for the fridge and the result is 112g CO2.

If we add up all the emissions of that day the final result is 6.03 kg CO2. The graphic below shows how these emissions are laid out:

I was very surprised by my results; I had no idea that my heating emissions would account for considerably more than half of my daily carbon footprint. The issue is that as long as I live in a rented house with central heating, there is nothing I can do to cut my emissions down. Except switch the heating off, but that would make me a seriously unpopular housemate. Regarding the transport, I used the train (one of the most eco-friendly modes of transportation) so I think I am doing well in this respect. So, which activities can reduce my COemissions? Well, why not trying to cut down on my electrical consumption by taking shorter showers or by using the oven as less? Yes, I believe that this is something I can do! And as I’m struggling to reduce my carbon footprint anymore why don’t I buy some ‘blooms’ to help protect some rainforest with bloomtrigger project in Peru, as deforestation accounts for 20% of global CO2 emissions, this is a cost-effective and immediate way to help reduce global CO2 emissions and help tackle climate change. Yes, I will buy some ‘blooms’ as well.

Note: The calculations used for this article are the best approximations I could find, with the aim of making people think about the impact of our activities in terms of greenhouse gases emissions. Not all the emissions of this day have been represented here (For example carbon emissions associated to my food).

By Juan Mateo Perrote

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