After a great deal of time and effort and some very careful calculations, I’ve managed to measure my carbon footprint. It turns out that, much like my actual footprint, it’s somewhere between a large and an extra large.
Actually, I didn’t spend that much time, nor did I calculate that carefully—or at all. I had good intentions though. I came across one of those online calculators used to determine how much greenhouse gas we’re personally responsible for emitting into the atmosphere—in other words, how big of gasbags we are.
I was planning to write an insightful and informative column on the subject, being well-acquainted with many gasbags and having been called one myself on more than one occasion.
But once again, being insightful and informative proved to be too much for me, mainly because using the calculator required a more organized filing system than I have. Among other things, I’d need a year’s worth of energy bills, the average miles per gallon each of our vehicles gets and an estimate of how many miles per week we drive them. Alternatively, I’d need someone else to figure it all out for me.
In the end, I realized that using the online calculator would take a lot more energy than I want to expend, especially since I’m trying to expend less energy. And anyway, if your record keeping is anything like mine, shrinking your footprint is probably easier than measuring it. And it’s certainly less painful than shrinking our other footprint, which, as far as I know, can only be done with drastic measures, like cutting off our toes.
And bonus, a smaller carbon footprint saves money, unlike with actual footprints, where you pay the same for a size 6 and as you do for a size 10, something I’ve always been grateful for. So as a public service I’m providing the following tips for saving money while shrinking your carbon footprint. And you get to keep your toes.
In your home:
Always turn off the lights when you leave a room. Be firm about this, no matter how much it annoys those who are still in the room.
Turn the thermostat down this winter. When family members complain, tell them to be quiet and go put on a coat. An angry person is a warm person.
Remember a full freezer is more energy efficient than one that’s partially full, so stock up on ice cream. Not only will this improve your freezer’s efficiency, it will add to your own natural insulation.
Slay your vampires, no wooden stake required. Vampire power refers to the electricity many gadgets and appliances use just by being plugged in, even if they’re switched off. It’s like feeding a dead dog. It’s wasteful and it doesn’t do the dog any good anyway.
On the road:
Don’t fly if you can drive and don’t drive if you can walk. Obviously you can’t drive to New Zealand and you probably can’t walk to Cleveland, but use your best judgment.
Keep your vehicle in shape. Replacing your air filters regularly, keeping your tires properly inflated and having your radio properly tuned all help. Or maybe it’s your engine. It’s one of those.
Carpool whenever possible. I realize this may mean occasionally riding with some people you don’t particularly care for, and that can make the trip seem longer than it is. But try seeing them as dollar signs—dollar signs that talk too much.
Walk when you can. Walking is good for your wallet, good for the earth and good for your health. Or you could just stay home and lie on the couch which is also a great energy saver.
(Dorothy Rosby is the author of several humor books, including I Used to Think I Was Not That Bad and Then I Got to Know Me Better. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.)