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Living in Seattle is very different from living in Gettysburg or at home in many ways, one of which is how my lifestyle impacts my environment. For one, I almost never use a car: with the exception of trips with friends I am always on either a bus or a bike. I don’t even own a car here! I also live in a small apartment, enjoy the benefits of density, and recently learned that a huge proportion of Seattle’s electricity comes from renewable sources! (More on that Friday) I decided to check out my ecological footprint at http://myfootprint.org to get an idea of how my new lifestyle impacts the planet.

So, how did I do? Well, I will not say “good” because it really is not – but compared to the American average, I am doing pretty damn well. According to this particular survey, my ecological footprint would require approximately 2.76 Earths if every person were to live as I do. The national average is closer to 5 Earths.

2013.11.4 Carbon Footprint Image (Seattle)

I am very proud of how my travel habits dramatically reduce my carbon footprint relative to the average American. It helps not owning a car – when i feel too lazy to bike I either stay home or take the bus. There is no convenient fall-back option. Unfortunately this does have mobility consequences, but the trade-off (including huge $$$ savings), are more than worth it.

Housing and goods and services are predictable. I live in a small apartment and use a number of energy-saving habits. I’d love to improve by adding things like low-flow shower heads and composting more, but living with a roommate implies some compromise. Goods and services is interesting relative to the national average, I am doing very well. This is largely because I am frugal and mostly buy things secondhand. However, even answering at maximum sustainability for 7/9 questions and mid-range for two questions, my goods and services footprint is still large. That is the quiz factoring in the American way – the range of scores possible are determined simply by your home country.

Food is my weakest link. As with every other category, I do not think that this survey accurately reflects my actual lifestyle. I am a “home vegetarian,” meaning I do not eat meat at home (there could be some exceptions, but so far I’ve stayed true). I do this for a variety of reasons, the main being it is economical and far more sustainable than eating meat regularly. However, I cannot give up dairy – milk/yogurt is a breakfast staple and I LOVE CHEESE!

So, overall not bad. I knew I would never fall under 1 Earth and it may not even be possible on this particular quiz if you live in America. Despite the many shortcomings of simple attempts to measure my footprint they still have educational value. I already knew food would be my biggest area of improvement and this quiz helped remind me to focus more on locally grown and organic foods in addition to cutting out meat. Check back Wednesday to see how this footprint compares to the same quiz taken freshman year in college and in Denmark.

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