Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Going on a Carbon Diet

I decided to try out Slate’s Green Challenge co-sponsored by Treehugger. It’s described as an eight week carbon diet:

For the next eight weeks, Slate, in collaboration with eco-Web site treehugger, invites you to consider your own individual contribution to global warming—and challenges you to go on a carbon diet. The goal is to reduce the amount of CO2 that you put into the atmosphere by 20 percent.

You start with a test that estimates your individual carbon load. I used my car (not the hybrid my wife drives) and came out with a carbon load of 18,274 lbs, which is the equivalent of 1.79 cars. According to the results page for my test, the US average is 44,312 lbs per person so I’m not doing too bad there. I guess it helps to already be aware of some of these things.

Each week for the next eight weeks, I’ll log in and make a series of ‘pledges’ to do things that will reduce the carbon load in a specific area. This week it’s transportation. I will keep my tires inflated, make sure the air filter in the car is clean once a month, and drive 25 fewer miles per month by combining errands. I also realized that I can save 10 miles per week by taking an alternate route to work. If I do these things, I can supposedly take the equivalent of .25 cars off the road.

I could take more had I been willing to ride trains (Nope. I live in Texas.), carpool (with whom?), purchase carbon offsets (not sure I trust that one), and buy a hybrid in the next six months. The hybrid would be nice – we love ours – but reality is reality and greyhounds are big dogs and I need something that can haul them all. I’ve got a Honda CR-V and it’s great and gets decent mpg, but I’ll probably wait on the hybrid until hybrid CR-Vs come along. Honda sales people say it’ll be in a year or two.

Here are some other transportation things you can do courtesy of Slate:

  • Keep your tires properly inflated by checking them regularly when you fill up at the gas station. Environmental Defense notes that 32 million U.S. vehicles ride on at least two under-inflated tires, wasting 500 million gallons of gas each year.
  • Drive 65 miles per hour instead of 75. This increases fuel efficiency by 15 percent, thereby reducing emissions. And speeding tickets.
  • It seems almost too obvious to point out, but idling cars get zero miles per gallon. According to the Department of Energy, no more than 30 seconds of idling is needed to warm up a car, even on cold winter days.
  • Cutting your driving by a few miles each day stops tons of CO2 from entering the air each year. Could you walk or bike to do that nearby errand? Could you carpool or commute by mass transit—even just one day a week?

So, there it is. If I keep my pledges, I will have reduced my carbon load by 14% or 2558 lbs. If my math is right (a large if), I only have to lose 6% more carbon, but I’ll go for as much as I can. Won’t you join me?

1 Comment

  1. The U.S. deparment of Energy clearly has never lived in Minneapolis. Even if an engine could warm up from -20 degrees in 30 seconds, it takes far longer to get all your windows scraped and defrosted.

    Other than that, I’m all in favor of reducing my carbon footprint.

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