My Own Carbon Footprint

My Own Carbon Footprint

Carbon footprint is one of those catch phrases that has entrenched itself in our vernacular over the last few years, and yet it’s still something few of us can really get a grasp of. Major corporations have made great proclamations about use of carbon credits to shrink their overall carbon footprint, but how many are truly making a difference and how many are simply green-washing to boost their image?

The cause of my guilt!

While blowing the leaves off the lawn last fall, guilt (as is always the case) inspired me to consider my personal carbon footprint. Using my 5 horse power blower and accompanying 2 cycle backpack blower (both frowned upon by many of the associations I proudly support) does not employ best practices for fall cleanup, but surely is offset by my many other activities… right? Let’s explore!

Now, before the villagers burn me out and string me up, let me tell you the following; we have a large lawn, just under a full acre of grass, so raking is a major chore. I no longer blow the lawn free of every last bit of detritus, as I did long ago. I leave a fair amount of leaves on the lawn and mulch them in to feed the soil organisms, and the leaves that are removed are composted in a large compost area at the base of our yard. Finally, I use no fertilizers or chemicals on the lawn at all; it is treated solely with compost tea. Still, I am not able to assuage the guilt over my carbon footprint, and secretly pray that none of my contemporaries drive by and see me committing such a heinous violation.

To bolster my defense (and lessen my guilt), I offer up my business activity as evidence. My company, Blue Heron Landscape Design, practices sustainable design, uses only organic fertilizer and many yards of compost each year in the gardens we design and care for and use native plants whenever possible in those gardens. We organically treat lawns for a small group of clients each year using the afore mentioned compost tea, organic fertilizer, and other natural amendments. Surely this activity will tip the balance in my favor when it comes to neutralizing my carbon footprint, why it might even put me in the black with carbon credits to spare.

A positive of cleanup, Leaf Pile Day!

With the jury back in and a unanimous not guilty verdict, you would think I would be satisfied, wouldn’t you? Well not so quick Mr. Darrow! You see regardless of the fact that I appear in my non-scientific way to have offset my carbon footprint; there still lingers the emissions of my tools of choice in the air surrounding my living space. My clothes reek of oil and gas. And, had I not worn hearing protection, the mild Tinnitus I currently deal with from my younger days, would blossom into a full chorus of torture. Going forward, I think I’ll do more raking and mulching, and a lot less blowing.

So, my gentle, planet friendly readers, that leaves me with the following question; do carbon credits actually affect change or is it simply another slight of hand developed to allow an easier, more profitable lifestyle? Clearly the jury is still out!

I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on this, please share!


11 thoughts on “My Own Carbon Footprint

  1. Not sure about the transition from 1) saying that your business activities ‘*might* even put you in the black with credits to spare’ to 2) deciding that ‘the jury was back in with a unanimous not guilty verdict”

    Sort of sounds like the cartoon where the scientist has a lot of equations on either side of the board and the phrase “and G-d said let there be light” in the middle and the caption reads “you need to be a little more specific here”

    Did you actually purchase carbon offsets? If not, I would be very interested in how you did the calculation to come up with the not guilty verdict. (don’t worry, I am *not* getting out the rope or the torches – since my own carbon footprint is probably no better…)

    1. No Maureen, no offsets were purchased and no calculations were made. This post is written tongue-in-cheek, and meant to spur discussion on carbon footprints. We hear the term a lot, and I am interested in peoples thoughts on the matter. My initial thoughts are that carbon offsets are a good thing, but not sure about their actual effectiveness. Would love to hear more.

      1. In theory offsets are a good short-term boost to carbon reduction efforts. So part of the issue is not so much whether they are ‘effective’ as whether the efforts are valid – is there really a carbon reduction? – which requires auditing/certification of the efforts. Offsets are only short-term solutions however, because eventually there will be no more offsets to buy so individuals/ organizations will have to cut their own carbon output to sustainable levels.

  2. Scott, I think all of us who try to live thoughtful lives feel guilty from time to time, wondering if we’re doing enough. My guilt trip stems from the amount of driving I do in order to visit clients and vendors. Does the amount of plant material I “push” and smart gardening advise I give off-set all that car pollution? I think we just have to continue to do our best and not beat ourselves up!
    Thanks for an intriguing topic of discussion today!

  3. Scott,

    Lawns & leafs certainly are a sticky situation for anyone who is trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle. I wrote a post about my leaf situation back in November and showed the huge pile of leaves we have the city pick up each year. Our problem with leaves is we simply have too many. I can’t possibly compost and use all the leaves that fall in my yard every year.

    One of my commenters put it perfectly – sustainability is about finding what works for you. It’s all a give and take and the fact that you’re mindful about it puts you ahead of the game in my book.

    1. Thanks Debbie! We have quite a few leaves here also, and the inability to turn such a big pile slows down decomposition. I have an idea to speed things up this though. More on that later.

  4. Dont forget that blowers also kick up mold and other irritants in the air where as it wouldn’t by raking, bad on the lungs. Old technology is the way of the future. I cant wait to break out the shovel tomorrow as the rest of the world plows and snow blows our way in to hell. I guess they are looking at how global warming will slow to stop the amount of snow down the road.

  5. Scott:
    You are doing well, don´t worry. The Carbon Credit is this new currency. Carbon credits are a voluntary method for individuals to directly reduce energy consumption and the resulting green house gas emissions. It is a way to reduce our carbon footprinting.

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