My Net Zero Carbon Journey: Carbon Footprint

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The first step in my personal net zero carbon zero is to quantify my own personal carbon footprint. The analysis of my top categories will guide my own actions to reduce my carbon footprint.

I have just calculated my 2016 carbon footprint using the following online calculator: http://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx

According to the calculator, the average footprint for people in Canada is 20 metric tonnes. My carbon footprint came out to be 18.3 tonnes, essentially average. According to this indicator, the average carbon footprint for people in industrial nations is 11 tonnes and the average worldwide carbon footprint is 4 tonnes.  In order to get to the average worldwide footprint I need to reduce my carbon emissions by roughly 80%.

My footprint breakdown is as follows:

Category Carbon Footprint (tonnes) % total
House (home energy use) 3.9 t 21%
Car * 5.5 t 30%
Total Secondary Footprint  (top subcategories shown below) 8.9 t 49%
Food and drink 6.7 t 34%
Telephone, mobile/cell phone 0.6 t 3%
Insurance 0.5 t 3%
Pharmaceuticals 0.3 t 2%
Paper Products 0.2 t 1%
Clothes, textiles, shoes 0.2 t 1%
Total 18.3 tonnes % for Top 3 categories: 85%

% for Top 8 categories: 95%

*This is also my transportation total as I did not take any flights, rail or buses.

The big concerns I have about this calculation was that the secondary calculations are based on dollars spent on different categories. My food spending is quite high based on two main factors:

  1. I tend to shop for local high quality foods where possible and do not price shop. I make many food choices based on the ecological footprint, this pushes up the cost of food, not the amount or footprint.
  2. I have included the cost of animal (pet) food in the food category because I am responsible for the carbon footprint of my animals. You can pay anywhere from $30 to $150 for a 30lb (approx. 13kg) bag of dog food. It is highly unlikely that the expensive bag has 5 times the carbon footprint of the inexpensive food.

This quick carbon footprint calculation shows that I have a lot of work to do and changes to make to get my carbon footprint even to the global average, let alone net zero.

My next steps are:

  1. Collect better data on my specific consumption and patterns of purchases to better quantify my footprint.
  2. Critically look at my top three footprint categories for reduction opportunities: Food and drink, car use, household electricity use.
  3. Investigate the purchase of credible carbon offsets.

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