think “one pound per mile”: on emissions reduction priorities

1lb emissions

Embedding balanced thinking in every day life is an essential part of the "resource literacy" we're promoting, right?

So, sustainability thinking involves much broader awareness of emissions 'metrics'...like the numbers in this chart. Wanna know the relative emissions impacts of, say, plastic bags versus driving. Here ya go!

Let's see: if we use an average of one plastic bag a day, we could go two weeks before accumulating the equivalent of one pound of emissions.

Now, perhaps if we all held in our minds the "one mile, one pound" metric associated with our vehicles, we might work harder to reduce our miles.

After all, one mile of driving is equivalent to 2 weeks of plastic bags.

Here's the backstory on this chart, whose metrics were derived from pace-setting research by Best Foot Forward and the CoolClimate calculator.

Turns out, the average vehicle traveling 12k miles annually has an ecological footprint equivalent to 1 pound of CO2 per mile, or 33 pounds per day.

A single flight from Kauai to LA also has a footprint of one pound per mile, which averages out to over 14 pounds per day (if you only take the one trip).

Our emissions from electricity (for the average KIUC user of 16 kWh daily) amount to one pound in only 2 hours, and sum to over 11 pounds per day.

If we include all the annual consumption for an average 2-person household in Hawaii, this amounts to over 150 pounds per day, or one pound every 10 minutes.

Oh, and, we could go an entire year without using any plastic bags, and save the equivalent of driving 22 miles.

OK, so there are alternatives for plastic bags, yet how about driving? Can you imagine a way to reduce our emissions by 80% (as now seems mandatory to avert catastropic climate change) without dramatically cutting back on our vehicle miles? (Or switching to electric motors powered form renewable sources...)

Published by Ken on August 19th, 2009 tagged Best Practices, Systems Thinking

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