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Household CO2 Emissions Calculation - A 2021 Update

January 25, 2021

Helping Our Planet Breathe - Measuring, Reducing, Offsetting CO2 for Our Household 

Climate change is becoming an increasingly volatile threat and from the data and science we know that CO2 emissions are the primary driver of climate change.  From the shifting levels of rivers and lakes, to the increase and severity in tropical storms and hurricanes, to the increase in fires and extended dry seasons - climate change impacts us all.  One small contribution we can all make is to take stock of our own household CO2 emissions by measuring, reducing, and offsetting the emissions unavoidable in our daily lives. 

With the US being the second worst contributor to CO2 emissions in the world, we as individuals should be asking ourselves:

  • How much CO2 does my household emit every year?  What are the primary sources of CO2?
  • How can I reduce my carbon footprint?  
  • How can I offset any unavoidable emissions, and how do I know they'll go to legit projects?

My wife Nicha and I have been working on this for the past few years, and this is our 2021 update.  If you'd like to figure out your own household emissions there are a few good sources we refer to at the end of this blog.  So if you don't know how to answer the above questions, the references can take you there.  

2020 - Covid Influenced CO2 Reductions

Our household, like all households across the world, went through some dramatic changes in day to day activities in 2020 - from commuting, to travel, to the time spent at home.  This is reflected in our 2020 CO2 emissions.

The graph shows that we reduced our total CO2 emissions by over 5 tons this past year - down from 19.46 to 14.24 tCO2.  That equates to about a 27% decrease in household CO2.   While some of this was planned, most was dictated by the pandemic and the stay at home requirements necessary to help reduce the spread of Covid-19.

Our 2020 goals were to reduce our air travel and driving - which for anyone who's ever done household CO2 footprint analysis would know are typically the largest CO2 contributors - unless you drive electric vehicles.  For Nicha and I, we love travel and so every time we step on a plane it means a huge chunk of CO2.  We planned, at the beginning of the year,  on reducing trips in both airplanes and cars to reduce our overall footprint by 10%, but the coronavirus pandemic pretty much put a halt to all travel for us - with the exception of Jan/Feb ski trips and one business trip made in September.  

So bravo for us, but as things open up, we'll still need to figure out how best to continue to reduce our CO2 footprint.  

What's interesting about our 2020 data is the increase in electricity and decrease in natural gas.  We had made a concerted effort to use cold water cycles during our laundry cycles, and perhaps since we didn't use as many clothes (benefits of work from home), and our winter was fairly mild - gas usage was down.  And with the brutal summer we had and more time home with computer, lights, and AC going - perhaps this explains the jump up. Not sure exactly why the numbers changed in different directions but this seems to be the most logical assumptions. 

Goals for 2021

As we start off this new year, we have a few new elements we'll be taking into account - a new house with some new land.  And with travel opening up most likely in the second half of the year, we'll want to keep our travel below 2019 levels by at least 10%.  We've been looking at electric vehicles - as this will be the most impactful investment we can make if we can't reduce our road miles or air miles. But the pricy nature of these vehicles will mean we'll need to save for these vehicles in the future.  Plus our current vehicles get decent mileage and we don't drive huge distances on a day-to-day basis.

So goals for this year will include:

  •  Creating a carbon sink by planting native prairie grasses - we have a couple of acres we are working to bring back to as natural a landscape as possible with the help of Plant Wise - a local landscaping company that focuses on minimizing use of water, creating sustainable ecosystems with native grasses, trees, and greenspaces.  We are not sure how much carbon this will capture in 2021, but we'll be figuring this out.
  • Reduce travel by at least 10% from 2019 levels.  We probably will travel more than last year, but still want to reduce overall travel both by car and plane.
  • Ecobee implementation - We've put in a smart thermostat to automatically adjust the thermostat's in our new house, which we hope will keep our electric and gas at or below 2020 levels.  
  • Composting - Since we have new space, we'll be planting some gardens and have built a composting bin to reduce food waste going to landfill.  We'll be updating this impact on CO2 for 2021.  
  • Solar - As JOOBs HQ has been a producer of energy now with it's solar panels - we'll be looking into the feasibility of adding some solar panels to our house.  Look for a blog update on JOOB's solar efforts in a few weeks!

2020 Offset - Cool Effect 

We have used Cool Effect for the past  few years to offset the unavoidable emissions we've made, because they use some of the most stringent standards to verify the projects they invest in provide true carbon impacts.  To date they've reduced over 1 million tons of CO2 from their project work.  I would suggest you check them out incorporate them in your offset work.  




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