Impact of Humans On Earths in Measurements

Impact of humans on Earths in measurements (carbon footprint)

Sustainability, climate change, global warming, glaciers etc are the buzzwords on everybody’s tongue. A person who is present and up-to date about the situations knows that there has been a rise in a call-to-action revolving the above words. The question now lies, are we all working towards the same goal in multiple ways? Does a person who recycles every single object need to also install solar panels to increase his/her contribution? We do not exactly know what we are doing right or wrong. If we do not know, how we can put forward a positive contribution towards environmental sustainability?. At the end, the effort put in is futile. 

Calculating “carbon footprint” essentially determines the amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds emitted due to the consumption of fossil fuels by a particular person and gives you an answer. The idea behind it is to give a reality check in terms of actual numbers. People are data-driven. We believe in data more than abstract theories. If data can prove that your carbon footprint is the maximum due to transportation, it’s a signal to switch to more efficient modes of transportation! Carbon emissions have an irreversible effect. Once the fossil fuels are burned, it cannot be recovered. The resources that are been taken granted for today, may not be available for the upcoming generations. Bay Area needs more people to be aware since a large population reside here, and the surrounding Silicon valley industry calls for excessive emissions. 

This report is built upon personal consumption statistics through the ISCFC (powered by Stanford) organization. This can show each individual what is the measurement of consumption among the categories of Food, Transport and Home Energy and Appliances. The types of questions asked are “how many meals you take out in a week”, “how many LED lights do you have installed and what’s the average run time”, “how many miles per week do you drive, or do you take public transportation”. An answer to each question calculates the carbon footprint in terms of kilograms. 

Who you are, where you live and how much you consume resources vary from household to household and country to country. For example, amongst countries like United States, European Union, India,China and Africa, US ranks the highest in the carbon footprint measure. Hence an individual whose household is in US, the carbon footprint will be higher as compared to a village in India. Below is an image which is proof as a data. For instance, a household who eat beef in India might have a higher carbon footprint than a household in the US who have a 4 family member household, because it takes more than 2400 gallons of water to just make 1 pound of beef. India in general, has a lot of underdeveloped rural areas which might be a factor contributing to the least carbon footprint. While that is not ideal for the economy, at least it is for environmental sustainability! 

Figure A represents my carbon footprint while attending college in India and figure B represents my carbon footprint while attending college in United States. As mentioned above, each household is different, and the same person can accumulate different levels of carbon footprint in different countries. According to ZDNet, If you live in California where electricity is produced with relatively clean sources, your carbon footprint from electricity for the average household is only 5 percent of the total carbon footprint of the household. If you live in the Midwest, it could be 25 percent or more, and it’s a huge difference. Hence, it is crucial and important to select the     country of your residence for accurate answers. 

Results based on input based in California

Category (kgs)

You

Your Region

Home

1393 kgs

2757 kgs

Food 

754 kgs

2223 kgs

Purchases

114 kgs

1191 kgs

Transportation

3185 kgs

2557 kgs

My home category is low because our house is equipped with up to date technology (google nest, LIFX LED bulbs) which helps in efficient heating/cooling and the lighting system, the newly replaced water heater consumes less energy while providing hot water for showers. Childhood lessons learnt like switching off electrical appliances and leave no running water while brushing and shaving have remained the same! Our light bulbs have automatic turn on and turn off, the thermostat has the eco mode on as well. 

My food category is low despite having 3 family household because we are primarily vegetarians at home, eat non-vegetarian at restaurants and do not take out meals often. We also occasionally compost, always recycle and opt for minimal-packaging food. Being Indians, we tend to cook all our meals at home, hence there is a limited number of processed foods which leads to less plastic. 

My purchases category is very low compared to the regional quantity because as a family, the 2 out of 3 of us lead a minimal lifestyle. We have strong ethics about consumerism and do not fall into trends as easily! We limit our purchases to once a year, buy quality and expensive stuff to last us around 2-3 years. Buying pastel/monochrome colors can give a lot of variety to the wardrobe without burning a hole in your pocket. 

My transportation category is higher than regional quantity because of the commute to college and back home. I live in South Bay and travel 120 miles round trip on 3 days for college. I took public transport for a full semester and it took me total of 4 hours of commute on one day. When I drive, my total commute is 1 hour and 30 mins only. I usually refer public transport because I can work on the way, but it is extremely inconvenient. 

Possible actions to reduce carbon footprint in each category

  • Home: Use the central heating/cooling system a lot more lesser than usual. Fix and repair house insulation to keep indoors warm, instead of turning on the heating system for a long time.
  • Food: Eat less eggs, add more greens. Possibly shop from farmers market to reduce packaging materials from Whole Foods.
  • Purchases: Already very low, cannot do more except encouraging the other family member to reduce mindless shopping :-)
  • Transportation: Carpool to SFSU with students. Though I already reached out to many students, the schedule couldn't work for all of us. Buy a Hybrid vehicle, since cutting down usage of gasoline will help reduce carbon footprint.

Recommendations to alleviate school’s collective carbon footprint

  • Install hand dryers in all restrooms and completely eliminate use of paper towels
  • Encourage restaurants on campus to use reusable food containers
  • Cafe’s should provide a discount to students who bring their on mugs
  • SF state bookstore should give discounts on water bottles
  • Plastic bottles should cost more to refrain students from buying them
  • A campus wide carpool program to make more students aware and provide the ability to connect.
  • Ban unnecessary distribution flyers
  • Install sensor lights in all classes
  • Stop early morning sprinklers because it is ineffective (the water goes on to the ground instead on the lawn)
  • Electronic parking ticket systems to reduce the wide usage of paper for printing tickets in the garage.
  • Water efficient restrooms on campus
  • Publish the metrics of carbon footprint and educate students about the same.

In conclusion, being a responsible citizen is very important and crucial. These are testing times, and need serious contribution from the society. If one campus takes an initiative, it will lead as a snowball effect to the surrounding universities as well. The main issue revolving around carbon footprint is that it cause irreversible and irreplaceable damage. Once a plant is cut, it’s cut and it will take years to grow back for it to be cut and produce paper. Resources are being taken for granted without caring about the future consequence. As mentioned earlier, the generations to come in future may not be as lucky as we are currently. Efficient methods of transportation, home fixtures, bathroom fixtures, and lifestyle changes are not an expense, but rather an investment in long term future. Personally,  call-to-action needs to be taken on transportation. Moving nearby and commuting via public transport will help reduce emissions, but, the cost of living is very high in San Francisco. Reducing emissions due to a poor public transport system should be taken care by the City officials. The food industry also should be aware of the misuse of resources. It’s great to see that the impact of food, home and purchases is lesser than the region. At least some contribution is good contribution! 

Each product we use has an effect, the carbon footprint. Being mindful is the key. 

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