It is 2013, and it is time to make New Year’s Resolutions. In most years, I would renew my previous year’s resolution to “lose the same 15 pounds”. However, this year, I am not going to do that. In 2013, I am resolving to reduce my gasoline consumption and carbon emissions by 30%.
I estimate that in 2012, I spent $2,863 on gasoline, drove approximately 14,200 miles, and based upon the Energy Department’s ton of carbon emission per gallon of gasoline conversion factor of 19.4 for light vehicles, emitted 15,300 tons of carbon into the atmosphere. Just to put my annual consumption into context, in 2011, the average driving American spent $1,700 on gasoline and emitted 9,100 tons of carbon. The quick math indicates that just like my weight problem, I am consuming and emitting more (35% more) than my fair share of gas carbon annually.
Achieving this resolution will require a concerted effort to leave my car in the driveway and take advantage of Atlanta, Georgia’s in-town carbon neutral resources. First, instead of driving the 17 miles to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for business trips, I will hop a ride on the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) rail system. The MARTA station is a 10 minute walk from my home. In addition to the parking fees I will save, MARTA will get me to the gate faster because it will drop me off inside the airport; up one escalator and I am in baggage claim. In 2011 and 2012, I averaged approximately 30 rounds trip to the airport or approximately 1020 miles. I project that taking MARTA instead of driving to the airport will save me $207 on gasoline and reduce my emissions by 1099 tons (or 7% toward my target amount).
Second, I will substitute my car for my 50cc 1983 Honda Urban Express scooter when tackling neighborhoods tasks. I estimate that I drove 900 miles last year going to grocery stores and running errands producing a 970 ton carbon impact. The Honda Urban Express is purported to get 100 miles to the gallon which would mean that for the same 900 miles, I would only emit 175 tons of CO2 emissions, excluding the additional hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides emitted by scooters. Can riding scooters really have such a significant impact? According to Piaggio Group Americas, Inc., “‘If Americans used a Vespa for 10 percent of their everyday travel’, the company declares, ‘they could reduce national fuel consumption by 14 million gallons per day and decrease CO2 emissions by 324 million pounds per day.'” My car-to-scooter plan should reduce my gasoline consumption by 41 gallons and my carbon impact by an additional 5% or 800 tons.
Third, I plan to reduce grocery store trips all together by becoming a backyard farmer. In past years, I used my upside down tomato planters to spice up my salads with organic produce. This year, I will venture beyond the salad bowl and attempt to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables – many of which I purchase on a weekly basis. How will this city slicker accomplish this? In Atlanta, there is an organization called The Backyard Farm that will send a consultant (for $60 an hour) to evaluate your backyard, patio, roof-top or deck and give you advice on growing produce and managing livestock, including your very own hen house (for fresh eggs). Hungry Mother Organics, founders of the Backyard Farming association in the Carson Valley-Reno, estimates that a $500 investment in the necessary farming utensil and seeds will produce a three-fold return (nearly $1,500) in vegetables and fruit. Though I don’t plan to recreate a scene from Charlotte’s Web in my backyard, I do plan to eliminate half my trips to the market or 6 gallons of gasoline and 161 tons of CO2 emissions (1% of my target).
Fourth, I plan to walk my daughter to school every day the weather permits. We live 1.25 miles from my kids’ school. In Georgia, students are required to attend school a minimum of 180 days which computes to 360 trips back and forth to the school, or 450 total miles. If I can walk my daughter to school at least 50% of the time, I will reduce the miles I will drive in 2013 by 225 miles and my emissions 242 tons (1.5% of my target) not to mention the 23,000 calories I will burn making the daily trek.
Finally, instead of driving to see my brother and participate in monthly Selma Dallas County Chamber of Commerce meetings in Selma, Alabama (230 miles from Atlanta), I plan to utilize video conferencing and Skype to digitally “reach out and touch” them. Fortunately, Atlanta has a wealth of video conferencing centers, including ACT Conferencing, that are within a scooter ride of my house and that also charge by the video meeting. Eliminating one-half of my monthly round trips to Selma, Alabama would reduce my expenditures by $556 dollars and my emissions by 2975 tons or 20% of my target amount.
Cumulatively, my plan should reduce my carbon emissions by 35%, 5% beyond my target goal, but like my perennial commitment to shrinking my waist line, it requires execution to deliver results. Achieving my 2013 goal comes with the benefit of saving money, over $1,000. Now, that’s a real incentive! I could use that money to hire a virtual personal trainer. I can work out from home, burn calories and possibly lose that same 15 pounds without emitting more CO2. There is hope for me after all.