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Emissions: before and after, and transportation

February 28, 2007

I recently posted links to two GHG emissions calculators that can help you quantify your current emissions levels and figure out how to reduce them. The one calculator I had not been able to find at the time was from the official One Tonne Challenge site, which seems to be gone. Luckily, I was talking about emissions calculators with a cohousing friend of mine this weekend, and he informed me that the One Tonne Challenge emissions calculator is still available. It is a much better tool than the previous two I’d linked.
First, it establishes a baseline for your emissions. All the other calculators focus on “what are you going to do from now on?” to figure out your emissions reductions, but knowing how much you are emitting right now certainly helps – or makes you cringe.

My job situation changes fairly frequently, so it’s hard to say what my emissions level really is. What I did was take a snapshot of my situation right now and assume that it’s going to stay like this for the year, and based my emissions on that. Right now I drive nearly 100km a day to get to work and back. The result? I am utterly horrified to report that transportation accounts for over 90% of my emissions! To heck with installing CFL lightbulbs, I have to find a job closer to home!

While I drive a relatively fuel-efficient vehicle, it’s still too much vehicle for just getting me to work and back. I am now seriously contemplating a much more fuel-efficient vehicle, preferably a diesel. You can use the Office of Energy Efficiency’s Personal Vehicles Initiative (also available throught the OEE’s EnerGuide site) to compare vehicles based on their fuel efficiency. The One Tonne Challenge emissions calculator will also help you select a more efficient vehicle. Ideally, I would find work close enough to home to allow me to bike to work and elminate a vehicle entirely. Short of that, I need to do all I can to keep my vehicle as efficient as possible. I should invest in a quality air compressor so I can keep my tires inflated properly. (For what it’s worth, I’m not entirely convinced that nitrogen in tires is worth any additional cost.)

If my emissions are this high driving only 100km with no traffic, how much emissions (and money) could people commuting to Toronto save by carpooling, taking transit, or either moving closer to work or finding work closer to home? Our uber-mobile workforce is obviously a major contributor to Ontario’s emissions.

OK, back to the One Tonne Challenge emissions calculator. As I’ve mentioned, it gives you a baseline for your emissions. It then steps you through all aspects of your life that contribute to emissions, and gives you suggestions for how you can reduce them. It will suggest replacing your vehicle, and offers a list of replacement vehicles in order of descending fuel economy. Other options for your home are simple checkboxes, allowing you to pick the ones you can and will do, and see your emissions reductions immediately. It is a great tool.

I now realize, however, that my focus on sustainable housing may be slightly misplaced. Transportation is where the bulk of my emissions are, and I’m certainly not the only one doing 100km of driving a day. This is where the 4 Rs come in to play – we need to Reduce the amount of driving we do as a society. That will give us the biggest bang for our buck, hands down.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 25, 2007 8:27 am

    After working through the GHG calculator, it recommends using energy star appliances over older energy hogs. It makes sense to use more efficient appliances, but I’m interested in figuring out the footprint of purchasing a new appliance and disposing of the old one. At some point old appliances need to be replaced, but if they still work, and consume 25% more energy, is it worth keeping the appliance to the end of it’s natural life thus averaging out the ghg used in the production of the appliance? I might not have explained that well, but hopefully it makes some degree of sense. 😉


  1. Career/lifestyle emissions « Andrew’s Sustainapedia

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