Thursday, March 22, 2007

Has My Dog A Carbon Footprint?

I decided to calculate my carbon footprint today. It's just that we have a lot of dinner parties coming up and I thought it might make an interesting conversational gambit. You know the kind of thing : "mine is so big, how big is yours?". Anyway it is a vital statistic that everyone should know in this new green world. Indeed it is the kind of information you will need to declare on everything from an application form for a passport to a claim form for a new pair of false teeth. Name, address, telephone number, date of birth, body mass index, carbon footprint.
It is good to know that there is no shortage of very useful websites you can go to which will help you calculate your footprint. They are all slightly different in their approach, but most of them involve calculating your primary footprint (your individual carbon dioxide output based upon your use of energy and transport) and then adding on your secondary footprint (your share of all the other things that go on in society). As gas and electricity consumption tends to be a household purchase, most of the calculators allow you to feed in total quantities of energy used and then divide that by the number of people living in the household.
And this brought me up against my first major problem. Can I count the dog? It is an important question as without Amy there are just three of us and with her there is four. She is statistically significant. Leaving her out would bump up the carbon footprints of the rest of us by .... err by .... em .... well by a lot anyway. I tried doing a search of the various websites looking for guidance on this issue but to no avail. It remains one of the great unanswered questions of the modern age. Does my dog have a carbon footprint? One could argue that she doesn't because she is merely a passive consumer of energy and has no say on questions such as whether the fire should be turned on or whether we should watch TV or sit around the piano and sing songs. But I have no say in such questions either so if she manages to escape a carbon footprint then so should I.
Wanting to achieve as low a footprint as possible I took the executive decision to count her in as a member of the household (I balanced this value-judgement by deciding not to count the rabbit on the basis that he is pretty stupid). This then brought me up against my second major problem. The result of your carbon footprint calculation differs depending on which website you use. The calculator at the website of the UK organisation "Carbon Footprint" decided that I had a footprint of getting on for 13 tonnes of CO2 per year - well above the UK national average. It is even worse if I use the Sky Carbon Footprint calculator, with that my footprint is 13.5 tonnes. I was feeling pretty low until I chanced on the BP Calculator and with that I came out with a footprint of just 8 tonnes per year, significantly below the national average.
So my top tips for reducing your carbon footprint are :
1. Shop around. Leave that computer switched on a little longer. Surf the web a little more carefully. There is a calculator out there which can help you save the planet.
2. Get a dog so that you can share your carbon footprint with a four-legged friend.

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