What's My Carbon Footprint?

It's a lot - and kind of insignificant as it turns out. More on that in a minute.

First and foremost, how are you doing? I've been in a little bit of a funk.

We just finished Plastic Free July, and I didn't post as much as I usually do about it. Maybe it's because the consequences of climate change have been smacking us directly in the face here in the US. We've had a heat dome, haze, poor air quality from wildfires. Tornado warnings and like, actual tornados on a pretty regular and scary basis. Not the norm I've been used to in NJ, but it is our new normal.

I've been feeling overwhelmed and wondering if my individual steps and actions, (like bringing my own bag or eating less meat) make enough of a difference. Reading helps me relax, and this week I started the anthology "All We Can Save." One of the co-editors, Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson also has a weekly podcast, so, yesterday, I tuned in while having my morning coffee. And, the latest episode on "How to Save A Planet" was exactly what I needed. 

Logo for the podcast "How to save a planet"

Here's the topic. A listener writes in asking Dr. Johnson and her co-host to settle a debate she's having with her brother. The listener states that she realizes we "aren't going to recycle, bike or Beyond Burger" our way out of climate change, but feels individual actions matter. Her brother says it's all pointless without systemic change from the top down. Which sibling is correct?

If you're short on time, here's the spoiler....they both are. Kind of.

If you have the time, please go have a listen to the episode on Spotify and let's discuss. For now, here are my big takeaways:


  • As an American, I have one of the largest annual carbon footprints on the planet. The average across the country is 16 tons per year. (The global average for individuals is closer to 5 tons)
  • And that big carbon footprint of mine is still just .0000000003 percent of total emissions.

Sounds like the listener's brother won, huh? Not so fast. 

He's right in that we need big policy changes to fix this climate emergency, but we aren't off the hook as individuals.

Our actions do matter, and there are lots of ways we can help - from driving and flying less, to making your home more energy-efficient, to eating more of a plant-based diet. Yes, even bringing that reusable bag. 

But, there's a catch. It isn't enough to do all of those things perfectly on your own. What the planet needs is for most of us to do those things imperfectly - and to talk about it.  To keep talking about it, and not by shaming or nagging people - but by calling people in to collectively put pressure on those who have the power to make those big policy changes we need.

Bringing my own bag to the Acme as an individual won't solve the plastic problem, but lots of people like me bringing our own bags - we normalize that behavior and when we all shout out to our elected officials, we get a ban on single use plastic bags.

So, let's talk about it - what are the climate actions you're passionate about?  What can we do together?

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