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Household CO2 Calculations - A 2021 Update

December 30, 2021

A look at our 2021 Household Emissions

Well, 2021 is coming to a close and in addition to popping the bubbly and looking back on the year, it's time to figure out your household emissions.  

Why Worry about our Household Emissions?

From 2000 to 2019, there were 7,348 major natural disasters around the world, killing 1.23 million people and resulting in $2.97 trillion in global economic losses.

By comparison, the previous 20-year period, 1980-1999, had 4,212 natural disasters, claiming 1.19 million lives and causing $1.63 trillion in economic losses.

Most of these events were due to climate change, with climate related disasters increasing 83% over the past 20 years.  And we know that CO2 is a prime driver for climate change. 

Household US energy consumption accounts for 20% of carbon emissions in the United States - so it's not just corporations that are causing issues with the environment - every individual house has carbon emissions that can impact the planet.  It's time everyone takes a look at their emissions and does something to reduce and offset their household emissions.  

Emissions for 2021

The graph below summarizes our emissions for the latest year, and compares to the past years.  As was the case in 2020, our travel related emissions were much lower and our driving miles were reduced.  Both of these reductions had a lot to do with the pandemic and our pregnancy which kept us closer to home than most year.  This and our goal of reducing travel and driving have kept these emissions low. 

With the move to our new home in 2020 we have seen a reduction in electricity due to our energy efficient home, but an increase in natural gas usage.  The new home uses natural gas for cooking vs. electric that we had in our apartment, and relies on a gas furnace for heating. 

We looked into electric vs. gas with our new house, and with Michigan's electricity source still being primarily coal, gas, and nuclear - the difference in CO2 between gas/electric is really nominal.  We may look into solar and/or electric for the house in the future.  Our community is also looking at providing electricity sources coming 100% from solar which may prompt us to change out our appliances and switch to electric heat which would reduce our emissions significantly. 

In looking at 2021, it's interesting to note that driving and travel are both less now than our electric and gas household emissions.  So while we reduced our overall footprint in 2021 by over 35% as compared to 2020, we'll need to figure out the household power and heat source issue soon.

While we don't get into the hairy details like food source (local sourcing, eating at home vs out, etc) , water usage, and food waste/composting - we know these also have impacts on household emissions and waste other resources.  For example, eating fast foods vs locally sourced vs. home cooked meals have impacts on carbon emissions.  And the use of water, engaging in recycling, and composting to reduce food waste are all things households can do. 

Looking to 2022

So how can we move the needle lower for emissions in 2022?  A few initiatives we'll need to look at:

  • Electric car - The Fisker Ocean seems to be a reasonably priced option to our outback, and could help keep our CO2 down. We'll be looking into this option for next year if availability is there. 
  • Electric heat with green source like solar?  - We'll need to figure this out as our natural gas usage is one of the larger contributors to our emissions now, but the power source from the grid isn't much greener currently. 
  • Reasonable air travel - While we didn't do much travel in 2021 we expect to travel in 2022.  Keeping this to 2020 levels will be a goal. 

And if you want to know what the average household emissions are for the US?  That range is pretty large - we've seen metrics that say the average person emits 27 tons of CO2 per year to 90 tons of CO2 per household.  The important thing is to begin to measure your emissions and try to make meaningful steps in reducing your footprint. 

How Hard is it to Calculate Your Household Emissions?

So how long did this process take us?  From gathering information on our flights, to tracking our driving mileage, to evaluating our electric and gas bills, to calculating our waste and recycling, to going online to buy the COOL Effect  offsetting project - the whole process was only a couple of hours. 

Some resources to get you started include the links below.  There are many online resources to help you calculate your household carbon footprint.  

Wren -  

Terrapass - We have many friends using this resource,

EPA - this government site has some helpful tools for first time footprint calculators.

All of us can do something to help our planet.  We can't wait for governments or businesses to lead.  There's nothing more important.  Can you help?








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