How Much Carbon Dioxide Do I Emit?
environment | location
Most people’s lifestyles result in far more CO2 emissions than what is sustainable. Bjorn wanted to find out how much carbon dioxide he emits. He began to log his transportation, meals, heating and electricity use, and general consumption by using a combination of tools to track his CO2 emissions. In this video, he discusses what he did and the hard lessons we all must learn that even despite his efforts to not use more than is sustainable, he still lives outside of the range.
Google | Life Cycle Assessment
From The Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden and I’m currently running a project about Quantified Self and energy use and carbon emissions.
So why should you care about this? Well, if you believe in Donald Trump, you shouldn’t care about this it’s just a hoax. But if you believe in the scientific community, climate change is for real and it is caused by humans and we need to act on it relatively quickly.
So what is the state her of the world right now? Well we don’t live at a sustainable level at all. Two tons per person per year is the amount we can emit in carbon dioxide. In Sweden we emit five times as much, 10tons and in the US about ten times as much, 20 tons.
And if you talk about households, it’s the four big topics. It’s transportation, housing and electricity, food and the consumption, each of which accounts to 20 to 30% of Swedish household omissions.
So I have logged my own transportation habits, the meals I’ve eaten, heating and electricity use and consumption factors. Then used very scientific methods to try and calculate carbon emissions from this.
So let’s start with transportation. The average Swedish household is about 30% from carbon emissions from transportation. About 50% of this is from flying and 50% from driving cars. I have logged my own transportation using the Moves app for iPhone, so I get data on how long I have travelled and the mode of transportation. And it also has an open API, so I’ve been able to get the data and calculate carbon emissions from that.
So this is the month of May and I have very very low emissions in that month. I only travel by bus and metro system in Stockholm, so if that was a typical month I would end up with 33 Kilos per year compared to 3,000 which is the Swedish average.
But looking at April you see a completely different picture and those bars that’s a conference in Amsterdam I went to, emitting 355 kilos. And if this was a typical month I would add up with more than four tons per year which is far above the sustainable level. But a reasonable estimate is a bit more than two tons, and the big problem for me is conferences. Four tons of these is travelling to conferences in Europe like a lot of us. Not sustainable by far.
Now we move to heating and electricity use. So that’s about 20% for each household emissions, and for me it’s my house in the Stockholm area and my cottage outside of Stockholm, which generates emissions.
Heating my home is done using district heating, and in Sweden we generate energy by burning garbage which is very efficient. Even though it’s 17,000 kilowatt hours, it omits 26 kilos of carbon dioxide. Very very low.
This is my electricity use. I gathered data from my power company and it amounts to about 8,500 kilowatt hours per year. And I don’t generate any of this myself, but buy it from my power company.
So the power company how do they generate the energy? Well in Sweden it’s a lot of water power and nuclear power which which omits very little carbon dioxide, but in Estonia for example, 95% of the energy is created by fossil fuels so it’s 30 times worse. But for my case, it ends up with 87 kilos of carbon dioxide per year per person in my household with a four person household which is very very low value.
So now we turn to food. Food is about 31% of the Swedish emissions, and the carbon dioxide is generated by fuel for tractors and transportation and energy for heating greenhouses and cows burping methane.
Calculationg the greenhouse gases is very complicated. You have to use life cycle analysis. And we have gathered research reports and compiled it into a database of our own, and using this database we have developed a Chrome plugin, which you can go to recipe sites on the web. And it finds all the ingredients and calculates a carbon footprint for that recipe so it’s very easy to calculate, so 7 kilos for this dish for example per serving.
And you can go into details. For this Swedish meatballs which I’ve taken in this example, 3.5 kilos per serving of the Swedish meatballs. But if you look at the data, 98% of this is from beef or minced meat which is a very problematic ingredient.
So this is the month of April and you can see it varies a lot over the month. From the lowest meals I’ve eaten 155g and the worst meal 5.5 kilos, so it depends a lot on what you eat. And if you look at specific ingredients you can see that the first bar there that’s beef and minced meat. Even though I try to eat little of it, it’s 47% on my carbon emissions but only 3% of the weight of the food I eat. So it’s very very bad for carbon emissions.
But if you add everything up it amounts to about 1,700 kilos per year, which is below the average Swede but it’s almost consumes my entire carbon of 2 tons so it’s not a sustainable level.
Now we get to the most difficult part to quantify, consumption. That’s producing and transporting the stuff we buy which requires a lot of energy and raw materials like refrigerators or furniture and so on, 18% of an individual’s carbon emissions.
And to quantify that I downloaded the purchases from my bank, my 200 purchases and categorized these purchases into 32 different categories like electronics, sales, groceries, flowers or whatever. And then there is a calculator on the Finnish bank, called Åland bank, where you can enter how much we bought from these categories and get a carbon footprint for that. A very very rough estimate, but it’s only 82 kilos per year for me.
So what have I learned? Well starting with consumption, 82 kilos for me 1,800 kilos for the average Swede. It’s not much that I could do better than that but I could do a lot worse, buying a car which is 10 to 20 tons.
Then turning to food, the thing I should do there is switch from beef and minced meat to a soya based version, which we do already a lot but that would be not much of a problem and it would reduce my carbon footprint by 40% for food down to 900 kilos.
Electricity and heating, that’s very low value for me as well at 130 kilos and not much I can do about that, but it’s mainly because I happen to live in Sweden, where we have good values for that and my power company has the right electricity mix as well.
And finally travel, and the thing I should do there is stop going to conferences like this. If I stop that which would be quite realistic, I would reduce my carbon footprint by 76% down to 720 kilos.
So, I don’t live at a sustainable level. I omit about 4 tons of CO2 where the sustainable level is 2. But if I just stop eating minced meat and beef and stop flying I would actually go below the level and end up 2 tons and that’s a sustainable level.
So that was my presentation, thank you.