Any day now I'm going to post a real simple floor plan of our house that Steve drew so he could figure out our lights and plugs and stuff.
STIRLING APODACA HAYWARD’S CARBON PROJECT LOG
My buddy Jacob Perea doesn’t believe we could really cut 72 tons of carbon dioxide emissions out of our lives, so I put together this report showing the things we did trying to reach our goal. I also gave Jasmine a copy to use for her Freaking Green story, but she thinks it’s too geeky so she didn't put it in her book. She says I ought to be thanking her because her editor “cleaned it up a bit.”
FIRST OF ALL, HERE’S MY CHEAT SHEET!
Lots of carbon dioxide emissions (CO2e for short) are easy to calculate. Here are three basic conversions you can use. For instance, your utility bill tells how many therms of natural gas you burned in a month. To figure out how much CO2 that pumped into the atmosphere, just multiply the number of therms by 13.45 to get the pounds of CO2.
Each therm of natural gas burned emits 13.45 lbs of CO2.
Each gallon of gasoline burned emits 19.4 lbs of CO2.
Each kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity used causes 1.99 pounds of CO2 emissions. It’s higher here in New Mexico than in some other states because we still use a lot of dirty coal.
For your house, the best tool for figuring out where the energy and money goes is the Home Energy Saver calculator, or HES. It’s at http://www.homeenergysaver.lbl.gov. (The LBL stands for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.) HES will calculate how much energy practically everything in your house—from window curtains to ceiling insulation to coffee makers—either uses or saves. It also tells you how much money each different thing is costing you, and how much CO2 it produces
HOW OUR PROJECT WORKED
When Aunt Olivia first hired Green Balance to audit our lives, they added up the emissions we caused from driving around or flying, what our house used, what we ate, and any other stuff that created carbon emissions. They didn’t include what Mom and Dad’s businesses produced except for the miles the two of them had to drive because of work stuff they had to do.
Of the 90 tons we emitted, we had to cut 80 percent, or 72 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. (That’s a U.S. ton, or “short” ton, which equals 2,000 pounds.) Anything we changed from how we did it before would count, whether it was at the house or at Mom and Dad’s businesses. If we made a change like switching from bottled water to tap water for drinking, we’d get credit for how much that would save for a whole year. If we did something different or unusual that increased our normal CO2 emissions, it would count too, like Jasmine’s trip to Los Angeles. Below I’ve listed the things we did in four categories: Transportation, Household, Food and Miscellaneous.
DAD TRADES HIS TRUCK TO CUT OUR DRIVING MILES: 9.09 tons
Green Balance made Mom and Dad and Jasmine keep track of the miles they drove for two weeks, along with the places they mostly drove to. Then they used that to estimate how much they each drive in a year.
Dad drove 19,860 miles a year in his big truck and caused 18.93 tons of CO2e. Mom drove 15,892 miles a year in her Excursion and produced 11.02 tons of carbon. Jasmine drove 11,934 miles a year in her old Neon and caused 6.53 tons. Brett and me only caused 2,000 miles of driving. Then we had to add in trips to Santa Fe and Durango and El Paso, and it all added up to 52,316 miles a year.
All together, we caused 36.48 tons of CO2e just from driving. A week after the meeting, Dad came home and told us he’d traded his truck for another guy’s smaller truck. Also he promoted one of his construction crew to site supervisor, so he can pick up materials and inspect the sites on one side of town while Dad does the other, which cuts Dad’s driving almost in half. With driving so much less, and using his new little truck, he’ll save 937 gallons of gas a year, which saves 9.09 tons of carbon.
CUTTING DOWN VACATIONS: 6.49 tons
We had to find more stuff to cut and Dr. Montoya said the easiest way would probably be to cut trips, particularly flying. Mom and Dad usually go on business trips together, like it’s a short vacation. Dad said he wouldn’t mind skipping the big builders’ show in Dallas and Mom said she’d skip the food industry show in Seattle. And usually all of us visit Aunt Casilda in Santa Monica, but our parents said we’d have to skip that too this year.
Steve said airplane travel causes more greenhouse gas emissions than pretty much anything else. High-altitude fuel combustion puts a lot more gunk into the atmosphere than the same amount of fuel burned on the ground. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the impact of airplane emissions is 2.7 times the effect of the carbon dioxide alone. Steve and Milton checked our flight distances and routes and types of planes on their computers and hacked some numbers and said skipping those three trips would save the equivalent of 5.75 tons of CO2 emissions.
We also needed to dump our vacation car trips, particularly since we always use Mom’s Excursion. We cut out driving to Durango for a vacation and to Santa Fe a couple of times to ski, and we didn’t drive to El Paso to visit Uncle David. Skipping those trips saved .74 tons of CO2. Cutting out both the driving and flying miles saves 6.49 tons.
MOM DRIVES JASMINE’S CAR: 4.53 tons
Even after we eliminated our vacations, Dr. Montoya said one of us probably had to stop driving. Obviously, it should be Jasmine. So she freaked out at the meeting and for the rest of the week. But we worked out a plan—Jasmine only drives her car when she goes to work twice a week, and Mom drives Jasmine’s little car instead of her giant SUV. The Green Balance guys figured that Mom burned 1072 gallons of gas a year driving her SUV. To drive the same distances in Jasmine’s Neon would only burn 605 gallons. So that saves 467 gallons x 19.4 lbs. of CO2e per gallon = 9,060 lbs. or 4.53 tons
JASMINE RIDES THE BUS: 3.84 tons
Jasmine’s driving to work at a sandwich shop adds up to only 676 miles a year. Then we add the extra miles Mom puts on the Neon driving past her office to drop Jasmine off school, which works out to only 680 miles during the school year because Jasmine’s school is close to Mom’s office. Together, that makes 1,356 miles still going on the Neon because of Jasmine. So subtracting 1,356 from her usually yearly mileage of 11,934 leaves 10,578 miles she saves. At 26.7 miles per gallon, that’s 396 gallons x 19.4 = 7,682 lbs. of CO2e, or 3.84 tons
MOM AND DAD DRIVE LESS: .40 tons
After graduation parties, Mom had a lot less catering business during the summer, which wasn’t good, but also, she didn’t have to drive as much to set up events and meet with people and buy supplies. So she figured out she had driven 7 percent less for the last three months. She thinks business is not going to pick up much this next year.
Dr. Montoya allowed her credit for the 7 percent reduction, which equals 1,112 miles. Then they started arguing over whether the miles Mom had not driven had been not driven in her SUV or not driven in Jasmine’s Neon. Dr. Montoya won, so they used the Neon’s mileage to figure she saved 799 pounds of CO2 emissions, or .40 tons.
JASMINE NEARLY WRECKS EVERYTHING: + .66 tons
That's a plus sign on the .66 tons. Jasmine won a contest and wanted to go to Hollywood to accept her prize, but all that CO2e for an airplane flight meant we’d never reach our goal by the deadline. She threatened everything short of suicide if she didn’t get to LA, because the trip would determine the whole rest of her life, blah, blah, blah.
I started looking at trains because they don’t cause nearly as much CO2e as planes. In face, Amtrak has its own calculator for CO2e per passenger mile. I found a train that would take Jasmine and Mom to LA for less than half the CO2e of a plane. It was a lot better, but it still added .66 tons of carbon that we wouldn’t normally have caused. So our total went back up right before the deadline because of Jasmine.
So Jacob’s reading about us cutting our transportation and arguing about everything. He said, Well, why didn’t we just buy carbon offsets and then drive or fly anywhere we wanted. So I said Aunt Olivia’s will wouldn’t let us do that because she wanted us to actually cut our energy use instead of just paying somebody else to do something. Also, some of the carbon offset companies actually reduce CO2, but others just send money to outfits to do whatever they were going to do anyway. I think I’ll research that, maybe use it for a school paper.
SWITCHING LIGHT BULBS: 5.30 tons
We started our project with cutting out the energy we wasted around the house. I couldn’t believe how much, mostly because our house is over-lighted like crazy. Dad built it to be a showplace to advertise his construction company, so he wired it like those gazillion dollar houses up in the Heights and in Santa Fe with . . .
76 regular incandescent bulbs
11 security lights
12 “can” lights
10 chandelier bulbs in two chandeliers
8 “wall washers”
26 fluorescent tubes
We left the fluorescent bulbs alone for now since they’re more efficient and more expensive to replace. Then for 32 lights we hardly ever use, Steve and Dad loosened the bulbs in their sockets. (Mom made Dad promise to tighten the ones in the dining room and living room for Thanksgiving and Christmas.)
Then we figured out which 50 bulbs we used the most often, and replaced those with compact fluorescent bulbs. (LED lights are even more efficient. They’re getting cheaper, but they’re still pretty expensive.) The Green Balance guys calculated that, on average, we used each bulb 5 hours a day, and that changing out each bulb saved 170 pounds of CO2e a year. So changing out 50 incandescent bulbs saved 8,500 pounds of CO2e.
Outside, Steve and Dad disconnected 5 of the 11 security lights, and that saved 2,100 lbs. more of CO2e. (Our neighbors kind of hated all our security lights anyway.) So altogether, the 8,500 lbs. plus the 2,100 lbs. made 10,600 lbs. saved a year, or 5.3 tons.
KILLING THE VAMPIRES: 3.70 tons
Our house has 37 gadgets that use standby power all the time—TVs, computers, printers, phone chargers, DVD players, garage door openers, you name it. We were able to run 29 of them through power strips so we can cut them off completely at night or when we’re gone. That saved 3,715 kilowatt hours of power a year. Since New Mexico gets most of its electricity from dirty coal, each kilowatt burned puts 1.99 pounds of CO2e into the atmosphere. So killing our vampires saves 3.70 tons of carbon a year.
TURNING DOWN THE THERMOSTAT: 1.15 tons
Mom and Dad set the thermostat on 72 when Brett and I were babies and it’s been there ever since. Nobody ever remembers to turn it down when we all leave in the morning, or at night. Steve installed a programmable thermostat to turn the heat down to 60 at 10 o’clock every night and then to start warming up at 5:30 every morning. Also, it turns the heat down on school days from about 9:30 in the morning till 4:00 in the afternoon when Brett and I get home. He said our house is a lot bigger than average (3,457 square feet!) so he calculated lowering the thermostat will save us 1.15 tons of carbon emissions.
HEATING WATER WITH THE SUN: 2.76 tons
Steve said switching over to a solar water heater instead of a gas water heater will cut over two tons of CO2e a year. According to the Energy Information Administration, an average family of five with a gas water heater uses 410 therms of gas a year. Each therm of natural gas burned puts 13.45 lbs. of CO2e into the air. So the water heater they put on the roof will cut our carbon emissions by 5,514 lbs. a year, or 2.76 tons.
CHANGING OUR COOLING SYSTEM: 2.73 tons
When the weather started warming up, Steve said we really needed to switch from refrigerated air to evaporative cooling because it was one of the few places we could still get significant savings. Our local electrical utility says evap coolers use only 23 percent of the energy used for refrigerated air. So they looked at their energy audit and said we used about 3,235 kilowatt hours of energy last year to cool the house. The 3,235 x 1.99 lbs. equals 6,438 lbs. of CO2e for cooling. If an evap cooler saves 77 percent of that, we’ll save 4,957 lbs. this year, or 2.48 tons.
Then Dr. Montoya started punching away on his calculator, looking at all the lights and gadgets we’d converted, and adding in factors for closing the window blinds and opening the windows at night to cool off the place, and said he thought we could legitimately add another quarter-ton of savings since we weren’t producing nearly as much waste heat as before. Another .25 tons brought the savings figure up to 2.73 tons.
TURNING OFF THE EXTRA FREEZER: .98 tons
There’s a regular side-by-side refrigerator-freezer in our kitchen, and Mom has another big freezer in the utility room that she mostly keeps full of leftover food from the catering shop. So Dr. Montoya said we’d save a lot if we ate all the food from the extra freezer and then unplugged it. Boy, the food got weird while we were cleaning it out! But Dr. Montoya used the Home Energy Saver program to calculate that we’d save 987 kWh a year. With New Mexico’s 1.99 coal conversion factor, that works out to 1,964 lbs. of CO2 emissions a year saved, or .98 tons.
DR. MONTOYA VERSUS OUR TVs: .64 tons
Dr. Montoya came down hard on our TVs—the big plasma screen in the den and the CRTs in Mom and Dad’s, Jasmine’s and Brett’s bedroom (Brett lets me watch his TV most of the time). Dr. Montoya's chart says they produced the following CO2e loads: 42” Plasma TV = 591 lbs. per year, the 36” LCD = 473 lbs. per year, one of the standard size CRTs = 220 lbs. per year. (We’re still using the other one.) So 591 + 473 + 220 = 1,284 lbs. = .64 tons
JASMINE HANGS OUT LAUNDRY: .59 tons
Another one of Dr. Montoya’s suggestions was that we hang laundry on a line to dry instead of running the clothes dryer. Jasmine does most of it. She complains, but just before she went to Los Angeles, I saw her admiring her arms in a mirror, and it sure isn’t because she’s been lifting weights.
Dr. Montoya used the Home Energy Saver calculator to figure out the results for our 12 loads of dirty clothes a week. The dryer uses 87 therms of gas a year, multiplied by 13.45 lbs. of CO2 emissions per therm, making 1,170 lbs. of CO2 emissions saved, or .59 tons.
WE TRADE REFRIGERATORS: .22 tons
We needed more CO2e savings to meet our goal after Jasmine added a bunch of carbon emissions by going to Hollywood. She sort of made up for it by realizing we could get a more efficient refrigerator-freezer. Our old fridge was made back in 2000 and uses 787 kilowatt hours a year. We traded for an almost new one that was the same size but was made in 2012 and only uses 564 kilowatt hours. The 223kWh difference equals 444 lbs. of CO2e or .22 tons.
So Jacob’s all full of suggestions about what we should do since he didn’t have to do anything himself. He wanted to know why we didn’t just install a photovoltaic system and forget all the stuff about efficient appliances. But before you put in a PV system, the first thing you should do is reduce your electric load by cutting any energy your house uses unnecessarily. Then I told him that we saved so much money last year by buying less electricity and gas and gasoline that it would pay for the PV system we’re planning to put in this year.
MOM STARTS CATERING VEGETARIAN MEALS: 7.12 tons
It’s really, really hard to figure out carbon dioxide emissions for food. You have to figure how the food was grown, how far it was shipped and how, how it was processed, how you have to cook it, how much is wasted and so on. The simplest way to cut food CO2e is to eat less meat, since meat production causes waaaay more CO2e than vegetables or grains. Mom decided she’d start pushing vegetarian entrees and buffets for events she caters. She charges less per vegetarian meal, but she actually makes more profit on them since she doesn’t have to buy meat.
Even to figure out CO2e for different kinds of meat is hard. Beef and pork and lamb all cause super high CO2e, like maybe 16 to 23 pounds for each pound of beef. Chicken and turkey aren’t as bad at 3 or 4 pounds. Plus, Mom had to estimate how many people would have ordered chicken or beef or pork if they hadn’t had the vegetarian choice. So far, her estimates have been pretty close.
Anyway, we averaged up stuff as accurately as we could and came up with 12.92 pounds of CO2e for each pound of meat. Mom says you have to allow for waste that gets trimmed off, like bones off a steak or skin and fat off a chicken breast, so she usually figures on buying an 8-oz portion of meat to yield a 6-oz cooked serving. (Restaurant meat servings are usually about twice the 3 ounces that the government considers a serving of meat. Mom says if she served only 3 ounces, she’d never get return customers.)
She says she’s been serving about 16,000 meals a year, and she estimates she could make at least 8 percent of them (1,280 meals) vegetarian with the lower price since everybody’s watching their money. So, 1,280 x half a pound is 640 pounds, and 640 x 12.92 per pound = 8,269 pounds of CO2 saved by switching to vegetarian.
Also, she plans to edge back to a 5-oz. cooked portion for most of the groups that want meat. If she cuts back by one oz. on a meat meal, that’s 12.92 lbs. of CO2e divided by 16 oz. equals .81 pounds saved of CO2e for one ounce of meat. If she cuts back half her non-vegetarian meals, that would be .81 times 7,360 meals = 5,962 pounds of emissions. The two actions add up to 14,231 pounds of CO2e cut, or 7.12 tons
COMPOSTING TEMPTATIONS’ GARBAGE: 5.85 tons
Cutting down on regular trash saves a pound of CO2 emissions for each pound of trash cut. If you compost a pound of food waste, it reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 2.5 pounds for each pound, because the stuff is not rotting and producing methane and other greenhouse gases. Mom contracted with this local grower to pick up 90 pounds of food waste each week from her catering shop to compost for his crops. Also, that made fewer bags and she didn’t overflow the Dumpster. So that’s 90 x 2.5 = 225 pounds of carbon emissions saved each week, or 11,700 pounds saved a year, or 5.85 tons
DUMPING BOTTLED WATER: .85 tons
Mom stopped furnishing individual bottles of water at the events she caters. Instead, she takes five-gallon refillable jugs and paper cups. Steve said bottled water is usually just plain old tap water anyway. It takes three or four times as much water to produce bottled water as you get in the bottle, and 87 percent of the bottles end up in landfills instead of recycling bins.
Anyway, Mom estimated that about sixty percent of the people she serves want water—much of which they don’t drink—so she could maybe eliminate 9,600 individual bottles of water in a year. Dr. Montoya said the estimates for how much CO2e is caused by each bottle change a lot, but we would go conservative and use a figure from the International Bottled Water Association, which works out as approximately .176 pounds of CO2e for a 12-ounce bottle. We didn’t count the transportation costs. So 9,600 x .176 = 1,690 lbs. of CO2e, or .85 tons.
WE GO HALFWAY VEGETARIAN: .78 tons
Mom decided she’d make half our meals vegetarian. None of us eats meat for our 7 breakfasts a week anyway, so that meant making just 4 more meals vegetarian. Now, about half the time we eat cuts of meat, like a pork chop or chicken breast or hamburger. The rest of the meals are stuff like spaghetti or enchiladas or seafood gumbo that use a lot less meat, about 2 ounces per person Mom says. So for now, we’re going to cut meat out of 4 of those kinds of meals.
If the average pound of meat causes 12.92 lbs. of CO2e, then two ounces causes 1.62 lbs. of CO2e. Dr. Montoya said that we’d probably use a bit more cheese or eggs to make up for no meat, so we should just count 1.5 pounds saved per person per meal. Four meals a week for 5 people is 20 meals a week, times 52 weeks, equals 1,040 meals a year that we’ll be changing to vegetarian. So 1,040 x 1.5 equals 1,560 lbs. of CO2e saved a year, or .78 tons.
WE DITCH CARRY-OUT: .53 tons
At one of the last meetings we were talking about eating all the stuff in the freezer and then unplugging it, and Ms. Maxine Mulville said we saved a lot by eating at home instead of at restaurants. We eat about 14 restaurant or carry-out meals a week—carry-out twice for all five of us and going to a restaurant on weekends without Jasmine, who’s usually out with her buddies.
Then Ms. Mulville starts dissing restaurant meals because they’re a lot heavier in meat and dairy, and restaurant operations aren’t very energy efficient. Mom starts arguing with her because basically Mom fixes restaurant food. At last Dr. Montoya said restaurant meals did cause more CO2e, but there was huge variation, and the figures were still up for debate. So they calculated that the average restaurant meal produces 2.25 pounds more CO2e than the average home-cooked meal, and recommended that we cut out restaurant meals to make our goal. Then Mom insisted we eat out at least once a week so she could occasionally eat something that she didn’t have to cook.
So we’ll skip 9 restaurant or carry-out meals a week x 52 weeks = 468 fewer restaurant meals a year. If each meal produces 2.25 extra pounds of CO2e, that’s 1,053 pounds a year, or .53 tons.
MAKING WINSTON GREEN: .20 tons
This one was crazy! A few years ago this book came out called Time to Eat the Dog? It claimed a dog caused more carbon emissions than an SUV, mostly because dogs eat so much meat, and TV news picked the story up like crazy. This guy in Brett’s class wrote a paper about how dogs and cats had awful carbon footprints and Brett got totally unhinged. Dr. Montoya said the claim was very “overblown.” He showed me an article (www.grist.org/article/dogs-vs-suvs/) about how SUVs burn much more gasoline than the article claimed and how most of the protein in dog food was this really gross waste that humans don’t eat anyway.
He said the number of dogs and cats really is a problem, though. We’ll get some credit for changing to vegetarian dog food for Winston, and Mom says she’ll bring meat scraps home if Brett will cut them up and mix a little bit with the dog food so it tastes like meat, but it will be a far lower percentage of meat content. Dr. Montoya said we’d save about .20 tons of CO2e a year.
MY SOLAR COOKERS: .17 tons
Each therm of natural gas burned produces 13.45 lbs. of CO2e. A gas oven cooking at 350 degrees for an hour uses .112 therms, so .112 x 13.45 = 1.51 lbs. of CO2e per hour of oven use. If we use our solar oven 3 times a week for really slow cooking—stuff like stews or beans or barbecue—that would be about 9 hours a week x 52 weeks, or 468 hours a year. So the solar oven would save 707 lbs. of CO2e, or .33 tons. But then Dr. Montoya said a lot of that food would normally be cooked on a burner on top of the stove, which burns less gas than using the oven, and he made me cut it down by half, which is only .17 tons. I don’t think that’s fair.
MELINDA MOVES IN: 11.36 tons
Green Balance calculated how much Melinda’s family moving reduced their emissions in Phoenix. They used the utility bills to estimate household emissions, which added up to 5.78 tons of CO2e for last year. Then Dr. Montoya figured that they had increased emissions at our house, mostly from hot water use, by 1.10 ton. That left a net saving of 4.68 tons.
Then Mom and Dr. Montoya talked to Melinda and Timothy about where they drove every week. It got pretty crazy because Mom hadn’t told Melinda all the details about Aunt Olivia’s will, and Melinda was pretty upset. Probably a good thing Jasmine wasn’t there. Using their weekly routines and some oil change receipts Timothy had saved, they figured their driving had produced 8.52 tons of CO2e. Then they figured how much they might drive in Albuquerque over the next year in Melinda’s car (they sold Timothy’s), which worked out to producing 1.84 tons of CO2. The net transportation CO2e saved from living here and not working was 6.68 tons of CO2e. The total saved by them moving in with us was 11.36 tons.
If Melinda and her family hadn’t moved in, we probably would have bought a solar photovoltaic system to meet our goal. They’re getting cheaper really fast—in some places, solar energy is now cheaper than coal—but my parents might have had to borrow money from Grandpa Mo or Aunt Casilda.
DUMPING OUR OLD CHRISTMAS LIGHTS: 1.54 tons
The big problem with our Christmas lights is that we use the old style bulbs outside; they’re bigger and we don’t have to buy new ones. The old bulbs each use 5 watts while the new LED lights use only .4 watts. Dr. Montoya says we can buy new LEDs for next year if we reach our goal and win the money. I couldn’t believe how much power they used, and we don’t even leave them on all night like lots of people around here.
Dr. Montoya and Mom figured out how many lights we use outside and for how long. We put up 43 strings outside—down the porch posts, around all the windows and along all the roof edges.
Each of the 43 strings has 50 bulbs and each bulb uses 5 watts, so that’s 10,750 watts they draw.
Dad estimated that we turn them on 6 hours a day for 24 days, or 144 hours total, so that’s 144 x 10,750 for 1,548,000 watts total, or 1,548 kilowatt hours. With New Mexico’s dirty coal, that’s 1.99 lbs. of CO2 x 1,440 = 3,081 lbs., which equals 1.54 tons.
BUYING DIFFERENT CHRISTMAS PRESENTS: 1.14 tons
According to the Green Balance guys, it’s really hard to get information in the United States about the carbon footprint of a product. Most of the data they used came from Europe, and most of it was stated as CO2e per money spent. Once they converted everything from liters and kilograms and euros and British pounds, it worked out to an average of 1.06 lbs. of CO2e for each U.S. dollar of goods bought. (Electronics are about 2.5 that amount since they’re complicated and also lightweight.)
So we tried to remember what everyone, including Grandpa Mo, spent on gifts last year. Here’s what we came up with.
Mom and Dad $1,800
Grandpa Mo 300
Mom and Grandpa Mo got upset at not being able to buy new presents so Dr. Montoya said, well maybe we could each limit buying new presents to $40 apiece, so our net money reduction came out $2145 less spent on buying new stuff. So $2,145 x 1.06 lbs. of CO2 = 2,273.7 lbs. of CO2 for gifts, or 1.14 tons
CHANGING JASMINE’S BIRTHDAY PARTY: .42 tons
Jasmine whined for about two weeks about having to change her birthday plans. The Green Balance guys estimated that, for her original plan, thirty guests would probably use 16 cars to go up to Ridgeline Movie Ranch from Heights High School, about 42 miles one way. So figuring 29 miles per gallon on average, that equals 46.3 gallons burned. At 19.4 lbs. of carbon per gallon, that produces 898 lbs. of CO2e. Subtract 56 lbs. for the 6 cars that traveled from Heights to our house and back, which leaves 842 lbs., which equals .42 tons.
BURYING AUNT OLIVIA: .30 tons
Figuring out what to do with Aunt Olivia was our first challenge. I helped by researching different things families do with dead people. (Other countries are starting to do cool stuff like freeze-drying bodies, crumbling them into powder and then sprinkling it on their rose bushes but the U.S. doesn’t have that yet.)
Most people here are buried or cremated. It takes at least 500 lbs. of CO2e to bury somebody the regular way. There’s all the wood or metal and trim stuff on a casket, then a steel or concrete vault to put it in, and water and fertilizer and equipment to maintain a gravesite for years. There’s also toxic embalming stuff leaking into the ground. Cremation, which burns fuel and also the body, takes about 90 percent of that. Burning a body releases toxic mercury into the air if the person has mercury tooth fillings.
So by green-burying Aunt Olivia, the only CO2e we had were the gas to drive the catering van up to Galisteo and for the funeral home guys to come down from Santa Fe on three motorcycles. Not having a regular casket and everything saved about .25 tons, and not having a big hearse and more cars drive all the way to the cemetery and back saved another .05 ton.