Tuesday, 15 December 2009

My Carbon Footprint

As Copenhagen becomes the hotspot of global warming spat for the second week, it seems less likely anything substantial  can be achieved by the summit. However, one positive effect it has is for sure – it has raised the awareness of the global warming issue across the world.

Just a few months ago there was a blackout in my house due to an unseasonal thunderstorm. I was home alone and suddenly felt so bored – without electricity there was no form of entertainment in the house! No TV, music, internet, game consoles and not even cooking! Whereas such blackouts were quite frequent where I lived during my childhood yet I quite enjoyed it for we got to have candles and play shadow puppets… So I decided to have a good old traditional form of entertainment by buying a piano.

Out of curiosity, I took part in calculating my carbon footprint using an Ecological Footprints calculator adopting Australian model. It turns out that it would take 2.4 planet Earths to support my lifestyle if everyone on Earth lived like me, which is below the Australian average of 3 according to WWF Australia.


However, if I factor in the fact that many of my consumption of resources are actually shared by my family, it only takes less than one Earth, which is ideal.

Looking at the result, about half of the footprint comes from food. I tried to recalculate it with total vegan, the result was actually 8% worse. So my love of meet is actually good for the planet :)

Another thing is that I fly a lot due to work. If I did not fly at all, my carbon footprint would reduce by about 8%. The good thing is that I don’t have to commute to work every day, which offsets my extra carbon emission.

There are many things people can do to improve the situation. I think it all bog down to 3 things: be frugal, share, recycle. These concepts are all familiar to IT professionals like myself because we have to create systems that are preferment and cheap at the same time, although we call them by different names like algorithm efficiency, resource-pooling, package reuse, etc. Sharing (e.g. taking public transport) and recycling have received a lot of public attention. But one thing that is often overlooked is frugality (even in the IT world as hardware becomes cheaper and cheaper). Frugality is a virtue in east Asian traditional cultures. However, due to the western influence and economic boom in the region this virtue is in danger of being lost. When everything is being labelled with and measured in monetary units, it is very easy to miss the actual impact of wastage.

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