My Carbon Footprint

I recently finished reading William Power’s Twelve by Twelve: A One Room Cabin Off the Grid and Beyond the American Dream.  The author’s memoir about his 4 month stay in this cabin without any basic utilities is a thought provoking read.  He uses parallels between his experience in the 12×12 and his time spent working in developing nations to make a strong point for lowering our carbon footprint and taking a new look at the so called American Dream.  Many reviewers commented that he didn’t spend enough time describing what it was like living in the cabin itself but I think they’ve missed the point.  After spending some time in a 300 sf camper I can say that when living in a confined space life is much more about what’s outside that space than in it.

This book really got me thinking.  Currently my husband and I live in a 2100 sf house in Florida.  Our dream is to purchase a fifth wheel camper and travel the country.  We will need either a 3/4 or 1 ton diesel pick-up to transport our new home.  The pick-up will be our main mode of transportation.  I’m sure we’ll bring bicycles and walk many places but we will not be the people in a Class A camper with our car hitched to the back.  I’m not knocking that, I just can’t see us doing it.

This has me wondering which carries the greater carbon footprint?  Living in a large air conditioned home or living in a space 1/6th the size but driving a 1 ton diesel truck?  I’ve given this a lot of thought.  While we will be doing a lot of traveling, our hope is to set up camp in a location and spend upwards a month at a time there.  If we do this we really want to get a feel for a community and it’s surroundings rather than just passing through the common tourist areas and moving on.

In reality we will most likely sell our larger home and get a smaller more self sufficient townhouse.  For at least a few years I want to maintain a home base.   I am assuming that either the utilities will be turned off while we’re gone or we’ll rent the space to someone else which I guess makes it their carbon footprint and not mine.  Can a footprint be transferred?

In my studies I found a couple of websites that help you determine your carbon footprint.  The first is a quick easy version the second is more detailed and frankly asked specific questions about water/electric/gas use that I couldn’t answer at this time.  According to the my surveys, living in our current household our carbon footprint was scored at 40.  I redid the survey using a mobile home and driving a large vehicle 20,000 miles per year and the score was 33.  The average american household scores a 53 so I am glad to report that either way we are better than average.  When I have more time and my utility bills at hand I will try the second calcuator which I’m assuming to be more accurate based on the questions asked.  Either way I found it very interesting and it put some of my concerns to rest.  Check it out and let me know what you think.

    • Angie
    • July 7th, 2010

    I ran across your blog on freshly pressed.
    Interesting. I’m going to check out the link.

  1. Great post. Checking it out now!

  2. I did the survey for our currently 4 person home. It came out to 34, the average American 4 person home is 110. The average worldwide is 22.
    I don’t really know if these numbers represent fact or opine of the people who created the website but it was fun to do.
    We are highly earth concious and my husband has even started a biodiesel manufacturing operation as a second career after age 50.
    In Maryland recycling is mandatory or one gets fined.
    A movie you might be interested in seeing which I saw and found really interesting and even funny was “No Impact Man” A family in NYC that lives off the grid for one year. Very cool.
    Great post thank you.

  3. I’m so excited! My footprint is HALF of the US national average. Thanks for this post!

  4. Thanks for a great blog. I have a largish motorhome (RV) in the UK and use solar power for everything.

  5. Love the post, the look of the blog, and the idea of Power’s book (I am going to get it). Thank you also for posting great vegetarian recipes. On or blog we have tried to get our readers to start going meatless on Mondays – as part of the Meatless Monday movement. Some have embraced it, others have been more resistant, but are at least thinking about it. I am excited to read your blog and ideas. My husband and I are going to try the Curried Potatoes in Red Sauce :). Thanks!

  6. Great post.Thank you

  7. I love it.good job.

  8. Have you tried the Ecological Footprint? It’s a little like carbon footprint but focuses more on everything, not just carbon.

    It’s very interesting that I saw this on Freshly Pressed today when in my geography lesson we were calculating Ecological Footprints!

  9. What a trailer you’ve got yourself there! I looked at models that size when I was trailer shopping, but I went with a more compact pop up trailer so I could tow it with my Caliber. As an environmentalist, there is nothing better you can do than visit nature in its natural habitat in your trailer!

    The Codger

  10. Wow, I’m so impressed with some of your scores!! It’s really great to see a community of people all working to lower our impact on the planet.

    As for the camper, I need to add a disclaimer, it’s not ours. We plan on buying one in a few years but this one we rented for a week. We wanted to get a feel for the lifestyle before sinking so much money into it. I love the idea of getting one that’s all solar, what a great suggestion.

    I will definitely look into when I have more time, am about to leave for work, but it looks really interesting. I’ve also just placed a library hold on No Impact Man so thanks for that suggestion also.

  11. I read somewhere that a lawnmower gives out more carbon footprints that a lot of other major devices….it’s hard to follow mores without leaving carbon footprints.

  12. I am sceptical of these calculators. I have looked at a few of them and answering all questions honestly my footprint varies by up to 25% from one calculator to the next. Even my lowest estimate is a around the national (UK) average that is claimed to be 9.8 tonnes per person per year. They all use more gas and electricity (I have a very and efficient house) than me and do a similar number of miles in a similar or less efficient car than mine. The calculation was based on the last twelve months in which time I haven’t taken a flight. So they are saying an average person in the UK drives less miles than me, uses less energy at home than me, only eats locally grown food and never flies. I just don’t buy it.

  13. Looks Great! I’m gonna visit the link and see for myself.

    • Rob
    • July 7th, 2010

    Love it

  14. Hmmmm…. My husband and I have the same trailer dream and never thought of comparing the carbon footprint to our house. We have talked about the most efficient vehicle/trailer combo. How much space must we have if it’s just the two of us and it’s temporary? I think we will look into a solar option, one of our friends is into that and I think he could fix us up. Thanks for the thought provoking article… North Coast Muse @

  15. I wonder if y’all have heard of Earthships? They are a great way to reduce one’s own (and the amount of others) carbon footprint. I’m sure if you google it, you’ll find it. They’re really cool structures!

    With Love and Gratitude,

    The Intentional Sage

    • Songbird
    • July 7th, 2010

    I just ordered from my electricity company one of those electricity meters that show you how much energy you are using, most companies supply them for free…

    • theguys123
    • July 7th, 2010

    I’ve been trying to go green, but I think the key to a cleaner planet isn’t just recycling, its using all around less, and that includes food.

    • Emme Lily
    • July 8th, 2010

    My boyfriend and I drove an ’87 motor home across Canada from Seattle to NYC last Summer. We took 4 months and were able to stay in a community for an extended amount of time, as you mentioned wanting to do. Our first step to creating a smaller carbon footprint was by installing solar panels to run the electronics/lights. We also conserved water due to our smaller holding tank and cooked most of our own meals. We purchased a Zuma 125 scooter we were able to stick on the back of the rig, which was easy for trips while keeping the motor home in one place (awesome gas mileage–and fun!). We also traveled by kayak when we could. Our trip was the most amazing adventure so far and I would recommend it to everyone. If you’re interested, check out some photos from my blog,

  16. I’ve been looking into the idea of a small house on a small piece of land I’m buying. I already live in a pretty small house (1200 sq ft) but living in the burbs it isn’t feasible to have wind energy and solar is out of reach financially.

    But one day… hopefully one day because according to the site my score was pathetic. We’d need 5.5 earths if everyone lived like me. 😦

  17. I’m a vegetarian who is currently looking to go to an all-local, low-impact diet., so this post was really interesting. My folks are vegetarian, so I grew up one, but I stuck with it because I was conscious of my health, wanted to know where my food came from.

    I’m now applying the philosophy that personal health/diet is linked to environmental and global health/diet.

    Thanks for the calculator!

  18. I think I’ll be checking out your link too. I know my family probably won’t be too bad because our house is really small, we don’t turn on lights very often, don’t use a dishwasher, ect. that we don’t tend to use too much power. Thanks for sharing this!

  19. We purchased a Zuma 125 scooter we were able to stick on the back of the rig, which was easy for trips while keeping the motor home in one place

  20. Well done for considering the ecological impact of your holiday, but why not take a tent instead and pack it in a smaller car? That way you could cut your CO2 emissions for the trip to just a fraction of that generated by a whopping great motor home. Because for all the good intentions, driving that huge chunk of metal all the way around with you is hardly an ecological solution.

    The average carbon footprint in the UK is 9.7 tonnes, while in the US it’s over double that at 19.8 tonnes. By comparison, in India that figure is only 1.2 tonnes, while in Tanzania it’s just 0.1.

    In terms of saving the planet and sharing our resources thoughtfully and equitably, I’d say we’ve all got some way to go.

  21. I love the idea of going all local, sadly it is not as easy an one would think. Where does one purchase local vegetarian protein sources? My other issue is that I work Saturday’s which makes it impossible to get to the fresh markets. Hopefully my schedule will eventually change.

    I just looked up the Zuma 125 and it is so cute. I wonder how that handles on mountain roads. Does anyone know?

    Last, I agree that tent camping is by far the most ecologically friendly. However we are looking to turn camping into a lifestyle rather than a holiday. My husband will still be working, and will telecommute from wherever we are so the convenience of satellite internet and phone must come with us. Due to my back issues the comfort of a real bed must travel with us as well. When we eventually purchase a camper it will be as environmentally friendly as possible.

  22. Great article.. Thanks

  23. Great article.

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    Road Rage with A & A

  24. hello there, in some cases when I first go to this website I get automatically redirected to another page which appears very weird. You may well want to take a look at why this is going on! Cheers

  1. July 7th, 2010

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