ECOLOGIC - “MY CARBON PAW PRINT”
By: Madeleine Dale, Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker, West Side Office.
My ears perked up when I first heard Deep Decarbonization, it sounded like a new food craze. Its not a culinary trend, its a policy to combat a global temperature rise approaching 2 degrees centigrade — as in the United Nations Deep Decarbonization Pathway Report. I’m a dog, 2C is not my fault. My ancestors hunted under the stars with a carbon paw print of virtually zero. Nature didn’t pump CO2 levels above 400 parts per million – civilization fuels the greenhouse effect which traps heat. Now the call of the dish trumps the call of the wild, my sympathies are divided between the perks of domestication and environmental stress.
Concerned canines can get a quick reading from The Nature Conservancy’s carbon footprint. A carbon print reflects the CO2 emitted into the atmosphere over the life cycle of a product or service (manufacture, delivery, refuse). The aggregate total of all articles consumed - from carrots to laptops - measures individual impact or “carbon footprint.” A good dog would panic over such a large CO2 paw print, but decarbonization isn’t about guilt or sacrifice. Sniffing thru each category (shelter, travel, food and garbage), reveals paths to decarbonization without deprivation.
Shelter for my family of 4 (2 humans + 1 teenager and me -I left out the cat) generates @3000 pounds of CO2 emissions annually. As a brave and noble hound, I spend most of my day on the couch (just like the teenager). I may not play X box, but my food requires a fridge, I require baths and AC runs for my comfort even when my family goes out. In our favor, my humans obsess on energy efficient light bulbs. According to the EPA calculator, replacing 10 incandescent bulbs earns a credit of @300 pounds (which makes up for my AC). Light bulbs illustrate the economics of climate mitigation – simple measures that do not cost much can save a lot on emissions.
When it comes to travel, my canine commute is basically a walk in the park, but my humans always take me on vacations. A few weeks by car logs @3000 miles and accounts for about 2 tons of emissions. Flying would double the CO2 released into the atmosphere so driving economizes and mitigates CO2 released into the atmosphere.
Food, my favorite topic, accounts for about 25% of a carbon footprint. The Carbon Food Printtraces CO2 emissions from seed to table – 12% for production, 9% for habitat destruction and 5% for transport and storage. My humans eat more, but my diet consists of more meat. The most carbon intensive source of caloric intake, Beef accounts for ½ of total food emissions. In the New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert writes a pound of beef is the equivalent of driving 45 miles. Switching to poultry, fish or pork can shave that by half, so I will change my paleo pallet if my humans cut back on out of season produce – their hot house tomatoes release more CO2 emissions into the atmosphere than my chicken. Take note, these menu changes reduce our CO2 food print and cut our grocery bill.
Garbage, my second favorite, provides another opportunity for mitigation without hardship. According to EPA estimates, the average family generates over 12,000 pounds per year, but I waste not and recycle table scraps. Recycling cuts emissions by 1/3. More GDP generally means more pollution, but recycling helps reverse that equation. Decarbonization shouldn’t be associated with expenses that cripple the economy, in the case of renewable energy, decarbonization could spur growth. An April Op ED by Paul Krugman argued that falling alternative energy prices make some options less expensive than implementing carbon sequestration for fossil fuel burning plants.
2C blankets the planet, the wild, the domestic and the fish in the sea. There is no excuse or escape, but instead of assigning blame, decarbonization builds on success. So I’m not ashamed to brag that my CO2 paw print is @1/4 of the national average. The EPA estimates a family of 4 generates @36,000 pounds of emissions for travel and @20,000 for shelter. Living in an urban center like NYC, creates certain economies of scale, i.e., no lawns to water, hi-rise buildings with efficient heat, short commutes, mass transit, etc. Another reason to bark, NYC just announced a new decarbonization initiative - Compost Recycling. Guess that’s for the households who don’t have a dog.
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Thoughts of Eco Logic are those of Madeleine Dale and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Halstead Property, LLC.