I don’t know that I fully understand the concept of a carbon footprint. The phrase makes me picture a spreading, black substance seeping off our lawn like an oil spill or that black mildew in the shower.
But being a person with some free-floating guilt, I think from time to time about our impact on the planet – and how our well-meaning efforts to lessen it might not hit the mark.
The good. We conserve natural gas by keeping our house just below the level of “barely tolerable” all winter long. Cold? Put on a sweater.
The bad. My office is the coldest room in the house, whether or not we crank up the furnace. Some days I’m forced to use a space heater. If I don’t, after a few hours at the computer I resemble one of those neolithic men they occasionally find frozen in glaciers.
The ugly. We have a ridiculous number of energy-hogging electronic devices, more than two per person, and they are on at all times as evidenced by our family motto: “Go forth and seek a charger.”
The good. We recycle a lot. We could fit three members of my family (including me) in our recycling bin but we manage to fill it to the brim for every pick up. I have even, in desperate times, commandeered space in the neighbors’ bins.
The bad. A huge amount of that recycling is composed of 1) stuff we get in the mail that I don’t even read before I pitch it; and 2) empty gallon milk jugs (I truly hope they’re being made into furniture somewhere.)
The ugly. I have dozens of half-used gallons of paint that I can’t dispose of. Used to be I could put them on our city’s free listing service and people would haul them away by the wagonload until they were re-classified as hazardous waste. Now they take up space in our utility room. I’m thinking of leaving them on random doorsteps.
The good. My husband and I have always valued doing things over having things and tend to spend our discretionary income on experiences and events rather than stuff.
The bad. Doing things usually requires transportation, in our case endless short, inefficient hops to dance class, baseball, lacrosse practice and on the coldest days to the bus stop. You can almost tell time by watching me head up and down the street.
The ugly. Activities also require gear – lots and lots of expensive gear that takes a beating, smells after a while and take up tons of space. And probably reduces my fuel efficiency when it’s all stuffed in the car.
The good. We compost. Or really, I compost like a compulsive freak. Every carrot peel, kale stem, melon rind. Except, of course, the ones that go into the stock whose other ingredient is the disgusting collection of bones my family leaves on the plates after meals. I can’t help it – I come from a tradition of composting as evidenced by my mother who would go so far as to bury fat in the yard “where the moles can’t find it.” (Sorry, Mom, I know how much you hate to star in my blog.)
The bad. I’ve given up backyard gardening. My last few attempts resulted in my feeding the local livestock – deer, rabbits, woodchucks – which raises the question what it is I’m going to do with all this compost.
The ugly. I throw out a lot of non-compostable “mystery food” because I have the world’s most inconvenient refrigerator. Stuff gets shoved to the back to be found later when it’s unrecognizable. I’m probably throwing out enough to feed a bobsled team.
All in all, I give us about a C+. Or maybe less if used sports gear is also classified as hazardous waste.