Today I picked up four pieces of trash and felt like a basic goddam hero. Four whole pieces! Never mind the 45 or so I walked right past. Los Angeles has something of a litter problem. Twelve-year-old me is jumping up and down with my hand raised, absolutely convinced I can solve this with some community building and impassioned speech giving, but thirty-two-year-old me is in control of the meatsack and has bills to pay. Still, it didn't hurt to pick up a little trash.
I did it because an app I use suggested people pick up two pieces of trash, which was a pretty great sentiment. I mean, ultimately, we're not really saving the world so much as making our neighborhoods a little better to look at, but you know, when you love the place right around you maybe that extends to loving the place right around that, and so on--in big concentric circles until we all hold the whooooole world / in our hands / we hold the whole world in our hands.
I've been wondering about my carbon footprint lately. I'm definitely on the "we collectively left the oven on and now we're going to bake to death" side. I ride my bike for a lot of reasons but not least among them is that driving my car feels awful from a citizen-of-the-space-rock perspective. I love driving my car as an activity, it's one of my most favorite activities--driving around with the windows down and singing my heart out to a beloved pop song? Sign me up. But I also love riding my bike and my bike is so cheap and low impact and eco-friendly that it's the closest any of us will ever get to a free lunch.
But anyway, I feel like crap about the fact that we're going to turn our planet into a barely livable disaster zone because I rather like it the way it is now. I have no real idea of what it is I should do to help, which I think is your average citizen's problem. We all understand that it's the cumulative effect of trillions of decisions that are driving us off this cliff and yet no matter how hard anybody tries nothing much seems to happen.
What is the feasibility of a carbon audit on my own life? I've been imagining it as some kind of ongoing experiment. Maybe I'd break it down by room. Take the living room: I'd investigate the electric usage of each of our devices, our lamps, our heater. I'd see how big of a deal it is to actually turn off my computer. I'd calculate the carbon footprint of my laptop and my monitor and my mouse and the mouse before this mouse, and all the books I have. What about the footprint of having mail delivered to my house? It quickly spirals out of control.
Anyway, you can freak out about how far your mail is traveling or you can get over yourself, google "carbon audit" and find this tool. http://www.nature.org/greenliving/carboncalculator/ And probably the eight things it asks you about are infinitely more important than how far your mail travelled to get to your house, unless you get a lot more mail than I do. No, I don't know if it's perfect. No, I don't know how it all fits together, which is increasingly of interest to me as I get old and crotchety and fall ever deeper in love with spreadsheets. Right now, my very rough estimate says we (Paul and I) put out 35 tons of greenhouse gas a year. Less than the US average for two people (53 tons) and more than the world average (11 tons).
But it helps. Sometimes I just need to feel like I can help, even if that means picking up four pieces of trash on our daily walk. There will always be more information to collect. There will always be numbers to compare and ways to improve. So I guess I'll keep picking up trash and trying to take a shorter shower.