Recording, Resources & Zoom Chat - Measuring and Reducing Your Personal Carbon Footprint - May 15, 2022

Scott Henson
Scott Henson
Last updated 
Measuring and Reducing Your Personal Carbon Footprint: Zoom Recording on YouTube


Discussion Description:
On May 15, Anand Cousins led a discussion about we can do at the individual or family level which would significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. He went through  the calculations (based partly on his household) as well as giving a prioritized list of suggestions on what the best actions to take are. Americans have the biggest individual carbon footprints of all countries, so there is lots of opportunity to improve - and in the Pacific Northwest in particular we can potentially cut down our home carbon emissions by 30-40%.

Primary Discussion Resources:


What Can I Do? Getting into Action! :

  • Earth Hero. Once you are inspired into action, you need a companion to help.  Good news, there is an app for that!  Fill out a short survey to get a profile of where your carbon emissions come from. Set targets to reduce emissions, relative to global averages and IPCC recommendations. Browse ideas for actions to figure out your first steps. Track your progress with helpful reminders and tools to measure your impact. Discover social actions that have a multiplier effect. Refine your profile as you go to get a personalized view of possible actions. Go out and reduce carbon pollution, work with others to address climate change, and care for our shared planet.
  • Regeneration.org Punch Lists. A punch list can be for an individual, family, community, company, or city.  It is the list of the actions you or a group will undertake and accomplish over a predetermined span of time—one month, one year, five years, or more. You can make different lists for different time periods—this week and this year for example.
  • Drawdown Ecochallenge. Connect the dots between your values and the impact of your actions with Drawdown Ecochallenge! Drawdown Ecochallenge is offered in partnership by Ecochallenge.org and Project Drawdown. Together, we're taking action on the 100 most substantive solutions to global warming. Stretch your limits, earn points, and see your positive impact grow. Take the challenge, and see how a few weeks of action add up to a lifetime of change for you and the planet.

Resources Shared During Our Discussion:

  • So many this week, please see chat log! :)

Full Chat Log:

00:16:57 Paul Litwin: I have been to Toms!
00:17:17 Scott Henson (Seattle): I think is our first EVER Seinfeld reference!
00:18:28 Scott Henson (Seattle): NASA above Tom's is an AMAZING “fun fact”!
00:18:31 Paul Litwin: So they weren'
00:18:40 Paul Litwin: weren't recycling their paper!
00:19:29 Paul Litwin: Great story!
00:19:58 jimlittle: Love your personal story
00:20:14 Scott Henson (Seattle): Yes, thank you for the personal story Anand
00:20:28 Don Parda: https://greenbetween.home.blog/ has factors I use for calculating carbon footprint, e.g. gasoline, electricity, beef...
00:24:43 IeRM P. Schmidt-Pathmann: Black Carbon is 3000-4000 times as potent as CO2 (from COP26 ISWA)
00:26:55 IeRM P. Schmidt-Pathmann: Besides Volcanos, landfill fires that are increasing with a warming planet are one of the major sources…
00:28:11 Scott Henson (Seattle): The problem with the oil companies is not how useful their products are, it’s their deceptive behavior and their tactics for decades to slow down and delay meaningful action to being the full scale transition to sustainable materials, energy and power sources for generations now and to come.  It's the deception and lobbying (that many companies do) that is a big problem.
00:29:52 IeRM P. Schmidt-Pathmann: Yes Scott and the same applies to landfill companies and their lobby. Landfills are a major source of CO2 and It is become incomprehensible why people avoid the topic of waste and why some people think that zero waste magically just happens.
00:32:46 Scott Henson (Seattle): The EPA has a summary of the Global Warming Potential of each Greenhouse gas here: https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/understanding-global-warming-potentials
00:34:50 Scott Henson (Seattle): On Methane...here is a great resource on how much impact it has: https://skepticalscience.com/methane-and-global-warming.htm
00:36:01 Scott Henson (Seattle): so many articles on this in the NYTimes...and other leading Climate Desks…
00:36:16 Scott Henson (Seattle): https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/07/climate/methane-emissions-record.html
00:36:30 Scott Henson (Seattle): https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/24/climate/methane-leaks-united-nations.html
00:36:46 Scott Henson (Seattle): https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/04/climate/methane-leaks-satellites.html
00:38:07 Scott Henson (Seattle): and for our country…the EPAs inventory of Greenhouse gases: https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/inventory-us-greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-sinks
00:40:30 Thor Olson: There are no known benthic fossils of photosynthetic foraminifera in the Arctic Ocean for the last 20 million years.
00:40:58 Suellen Mele: FYI, The WA state legislature passed an important bill this year: HB 1663 bill will reduce methane emissions in Washington by requiring owners or operators of certain landfills to install methane gas capture systems and to collect gas at an extraction rate that complies with surface methane emission limits (set in statute).
00:41:44 Scott Henson (Seattle): @Thor - what does that mean (in layman terms)?  🙂
00:42:49 Thor Olson: The icepack has covered the Arctic Ocean in all previous interglacial events.  We breached this in the last few years meaning we are significantly warmer in the Arctic than can be determined for 20 million years.
00:43:31 Scott Henson (Seattle): @Suellen - thank you for sharing that.  Here is the link to track the bill: https://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=1663&Initiative=false&Year=2021
00:44:16 Thor Olson: Current Mauna Kea CO2 measurement for April is 420 ppm
00:44:25 IeRM P. Schmidt-Pathmann: Sue, while it is nice and helps a little it is insufficient. Stopping landfilling of all untreated waste is what is necessary. Zero untreated (TOC >3%) still reactive waste to landfills is pivotal from a number of aspects.
00:45:53 Suellen Mele: Keeping organics out of landfills and into productive uses is key to decreasing methane! Another bill that passed in the WA legislature this year was HB 1799. It requires separate organics collection in certain jurisdictions, reduces legal liability risks of donating edible food, sets up new funding and financial incentives to increase the use of compost, and much more. Awesome!
00:46:37 Scott Henson (Seattle): current C02 readings here: https://keelingcurve.ucsd.edu/
00:47:50 Thor Olson: They report 421.57 ppm CO2 or a little higher.  There is variation between sensors around the world.
00:48:02 Jeff Thiel: how to these numbers relate to the 37 GT global emissions we read about in the media?
00:49:23 Scott Henson (Seattle): here is another view of what Anand is discussing from a "Drawdown" perspective: https://drawdown.org/drawdown-framework
00:49:33 Thor Olson: 350 ppm Co2 would be nice.  We need to be under 300 ppm to slow down ocean current acceleration.
00:49:41 IeRM P. Schmidt-Pathmann: Keeping this stuff out of landfills no doubt is key. What can be seen from countries that have done this over a decade ago it still isn’t enough.  In addition to keeping food and other organics out of landfills how the material is managed other than landfilled is also critical. Currently Cedar Grove Compost is of rather poor quality.  There is compost and the re is compost. If the compost is contaminated it contaminates the soil it is applied to.
00:50:16 Corey Vail: Is there a significant increase in carbon emissions from agricultural tilling?
00:51:13 IeRM P. Schmidt-Pathmann: Unless there is a proper infrastructure to replace landfilling of versus materials such as an IWMS its just rearranging the deckchairs on the titanic.  Moving away from landfills opens up the abilities to managing materials in a much more circular economic way. Cheap landfilling is in the way and wishful thinking and inadequate actions are not going to help, period.
00:51:48 Jeff Thiel: Yes thank you!
00:58:08 Suellen Mele: Incredibly useful chart! That you!
00:58:36 Suzanna Litwin: This chart: wow
00:58:59 IeRM P. Schmidt-Pathmann: https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/swiss-co2-emissions--small-country--big-footprint/45810036
01:02:49 Jeff Thiel: this analysis adjusts for imports - consumption basis
01:04:25 Scott Henson (Seattle): here is an example on the amazing "Our World in Data" site: https://ourworldindata.org/consumption-based-co2
01:05:06 Jeff Thiel: we cause a lot of emissions with our imports of goods that we consume here.
01:06:50 Jeff Thiel: I concur with Anand that the Berkeley model is the best one - comprehensive, accounts for indirect emissions too.
01:07:43 Scott Henson (Seattle): link: https://coolclimate.org/calculator
01:10:55 Scott Henson (Seattle): By the way, Paul Hawken's new Rengeration.org site (to complement the Regeneration book) uses this calculator as well: https://regeneration.org/carbon
01:14:31 Paul: Can we not just use joules?!
01:15:08 Thor Olson: Hehe, can we use metric?  Good luck with this.
01:15:57 Paul: Honestly, I'd even take calories. Although I hate kWh most of all
01:17:05 Thor Olson: Happy slugs to you too.
01:17:36 Scott Henson (Seattle): Also, if anyone wants an "easy button" on all of this, I would recommend "Earth Hero" (started by climate scientist Peter Kalmus) that tries to make a lot of this work much more "straightforward”: https://www.earthhero.org/app/
01:19:09 Suzanna Litwin: Low-flow: another Seinfeld reference!
01:20:17 Don Parda: From the GreenBetween web site.

What generates a tonne of CO2e? These equivalencies will give you a rough quantitative feel for the components of your carbon footprint, but be aware that determining precise values for an individual case is a very complicated process. Derived from https://www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gas-equivalencies-calculator, a tonne of CO2e is roughly equivalent to 113 gallons of gasoline, 99 gallons of oil, 1110 pounds of coal, 1450 kWh of electricity, 19 CF of natural gas, or 190 therms of natural gas. For example, in my case by going GreenBetween I’m using about 500 gallons less heating oil each winter, which means I’m reducing my annual carbon footprint by about 5 tonnes CO2e. (I don’t have air conditioning.) Derived from https://carbonfund.org/calculation-methods/, a tonne of CO2e is roughly equivalent to 5000 passenger air miles. From https://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/distances.html you can get passenger air miles from your location to other locations and calculate..
01:24:41 Don Parda: Derived from http://css.umich.edu/factsheets/carbon-footprint-factsheet, and https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46459714,  tonne of CO2e is roughly equivalent to the following number of servings: 339 of beef, 914 of cheese, 1,302 of pork, 1,778 of poultry, 2,517 of eggs, 3,111 of milk, 14,000 of rice, 20,364 of legumes, 32,000 of carrots, or 74,667 of potatoes. Perhaps you can significantly reduce your carbon footprint by modifying your diet, for example replacing servings of high-carbon-footprint meats and dairy with servings of low-carbon-footprint legumes. Note that beef has a particularly high carbon footprint
01:25:03 Paul: Go Blue!
01:25:31 Paul: What fraction of the US emissions per capita come from these household sources? In other words, if these all sources went to zero what would US emissions look like?
01:25:34 Scott Henson (Seattle): Bob Greenspun is a great resource if folks need an energy auditor and partner for this...
01:25:46 Jeff Thiel: the utility audit I had done was useless.  The blower test with thermal imaging done by Bob G was quite useful.
01:26:08 Scott Henson (Seattle): http://simplicityhomeenergy.com/
01:26:29 Paul Litwin: And Bob Greenspun spoke to our group back on Dec 5 2021. See recording at https://drawdownseattle.org/conversations/ (scroll down)
01:27:16 Paul: Does anyone remember what the average US per capita emissions mentioned earlier is?
01:27:41 IeRM P. Schmidt-Pathmann: https://www.pse.com/en/pages/energy-supply/electric-supply
01:27:44 Jeff Thiel: around 24 on a consumption basis
01:28:07 Scott Henson (Seattle): and our world in data's chart: https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/co-emissions-per-capita
01:28:46 Paul: Thanks
01:30:28 Jeff Thiel: PSE has improved to about 50% carbon burning recently:https://www.pse.com/en/pages/energy-supply/electric-supply
01:30:43 Paul Litwin: Amazing the $8 a month for PSE customers.
01:30:51 Sarah H: Or no car!!!
01:32:05 Paul Litwin: We did a talk on electric cars back on May 9 2021. Same link as above for the recording and materials
01:34:03 Paul Litwin: Also it's going to depend on your diet
01:34:22 Jeff Thiel: I've got plenty of stored fuel (ie, fat) to burn on a bike!
01:36:03 Scott Henson (Seattle): @Jeff - it's a good "stockpiling strategy”! 🙂
01:36:45 Scott Henson (Seattle): Heat pumps are AMAZING!  We have 3 (soon to be 4)! 🙂
01:37:05 Paul Litwin: We have a heat pump furnace!
01:37:11 jimlittle: Gradient Heat Pump, a spin-off from Saul Griffith’s Other Lab will be available this summer.  $2,000 to heat & coll 450 sq feet.
01:37:17 jimlittle: https://www.gradientcomfort.com/
01:38:00 IeRM P. Schmidt-Pathmann: Anand - great presentation
01:38:14 Paul Litwin: Yes, fabulous presentation!
01:38:26 Scott Henson (Seattle): Heat Pumps are also available in other items (non HVAC) such as dryers and hot water tanks
01:38:38 Jessica Hirst: Really helpful presentation! Thank you so much!!
01:38:46 Suellen Mele: Thank you so much! Very helpful!
01:40:02 Paul: PSE Green Power mix of sources: https://www.pse.com/green-options/Renewable-Energy-Programs/green-power
01:42:25 IeRM P. Schmidt-Pathmann: Sounds as that protecting our democracy costs a lot of CO2 as well… https://insideclimatenews.org/news/18012022/military-carbon-emissions/
01:42:46 IeRM P. Schmidt-Pathmann: https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/how-war-impacts-the-environment-and-climate-change/
01:43:24 IeRM P. Schmidt-Pathmann: Currently heat pumps in many EU countries are sold out…
01:44:45 Scott Henson (Seattle): Anand - a huge thank you for all of your efforts to pull this together and share with the group!  Also, let's make sure Jim Little gets a plug in about our next talk…
01:47:51 John Kriese: Great talk. Thank you
01:48:02 Gloria Samuels: Thank you for an excellent presentation!  Will there be a link to review?
01:49:04 Kimberly Smith: Thank you, Anand and all, for the great information and resources!