I was curious about how many tons of carbon dioxide that my family pumps into the atmosphere (= global warming). Looked at the most direct variables: flying, driving, and home electricity. There are obviously more variables to look at (like beef!), but I’m starting with these three, as the data is readily available and I gotta start somewhere.
- Flying = 14.6 tons per year
- Driving = 4.1 tons per year
- Electricity = 0.5 tons per year
So, 19 tons of CO2 per year. Damn! Sorry about that, earth and future generations. Good news is that I now know how to reduce it by ALOT (like 5 times less)!
Here’s what I learned:
- I thought electricity consumption would be an important thing to optimize. But it’s NOTHING compared to driving and flying (at least not here in Sweden)! No more bad conscience for forgetting to turn off lights and computers.
- BIG aha: Buying a plugin hybrid car will reduce our carbon footprint by at least 3.5 tons per year! Because our driving pattern is almost 100% local (carting kids around to school & activities), we’ll almost never need to burn gasoline. Good, cuz I can’t find a fully electric car that fits our big family comfortably. And our current car is breaking down anyway.
- A big part of my flying footprint has been just going back and forth to Billund in Denmark every month or two (working with Lego). But actually, it would take only 9 hours for me to get there by train. Train is basically zero carbon footprint. So if I continue travelling to Billund I’ll probably to do it mostly by train. First class, working along the way. Train = 3 ton reduction per year!
- Biofuel is the only effective way of reducing flight emissions (other than not flying of course). Biofuel can reduce aviation CO2 emission by about 80%. That compensation will cost me about 400kr per flight hour via flygreenfund.se. Most of my flights are well-paid business trips to do conference keynotes, so I can definitely afford to pay that. Will do that for all flights from now on. Biofuel compensation = 9 ton reduction per year! I asked flygreenfund.se to invoice me SEK 26,000 today, to cover this year.
- Update (Mar 2017): I’ve learned a lot about carbon offsetting, see article Effective carbon offsetting – what we’ve learned and what we’re doing.
- I was surprised to learn that the electricity I use is clean (from CO2 perspective). 54% hydro, 45% nuclear, 1% wind. Sweden in general has mostly clean electricity.
- Despite (5), I’m exploring options to install solar cells on our property. Might not significantly reduce my carbon footprint, but I see it as more a long-term thing. It’s an investment that hopefully will pay off in 10 years or so, it is a way of supporting clean energy in general, and I will learn things along the way. About 10% of Swedens total energy is imported fossil fuel (roughly – hard to find consistent data about it). The more people who use solar energy at home, the less they use the grid, the less dirty electricity Sweden needs to import, the more clean electricity Sweden can export. Haven’t done the math on that yet though, so no numbers.
These improvements amount to 16 tons less CO2e emission per year, or a 5 times reduction!
So here’s my goal for 2017:
- Flying = max 3 tons per year, and all of it carbon compensated.
- Driving = max 1 ton per year
- Electricity = max 0.5 tons per year
Total: 4.5 tons of CO2, instead of 19! Still not good, but definitely better.
I’m definitely not an expert on these things, but it took just an evening of googling around to learn how to cut my carbon footprint 4-5 times, without any major lifestyle change. Pretty cool!
I made sure to be picky about the sources of data. No reporters, tabloids, or social media bubbles! Checked multiple sources for everything, and fiddled around in a spreadsheet to double-check the math. But do let me know if I’ve got anything badly wrong (and if so, please include references).
Here is the spreadsheet if you are interested. I listed most sources there too.