About a month ago, I developed an Earthlab Earth Conservation Plan. Well, actually, it was mostly my just recording how I already conserve and what I intend to do in the future—recycle more, drive less, you know. Since I’d already replaced all my light bulbs, recycle everything Wildcat Creek will take, cook from scratch at home, and commute by bus or bike whenever possible, it was intriguing to see what other actions I could take that were within my power as a renter.
My score, despite all my actions that make me feel I should have a small footprint, was a dismal 317. Yes, that’s quite a bit below US and Canadian averages, but as I look around my neighborhood, I felt it should be way better than that. My garbage output alone is less than one quarter of any of my neighbors. I kid you not. I take my bin out maybe twice a month, and then it’s usually only half full. My neighbors all have two bins each, and they can barely cram in them what they toss in a week, usually piling bags and busted furniture beside them. I had to be better than 317! …though, I am significantly better than the unfortunate Lafayette average of 396, which is better than the dismal Hoosier state’s 417.
So I wondered to myself—is this because of Indiana’s fossil fuel dependency? Is it because power is almost exclusively from natural gas and coal? Is it all a part of that Midwestern farm-like-a-factory, take-no-prisoners mindset, that finds recycling distasteful and talk of conservation oddly contradictory to the so-called compassionate conservatism?
On a whim, I altered my personal stats to my old zip code in Spokane. If anything, I live more consciously, more carefully now than I did before I moved here. To the traditional glass, metal, and plastic recycling then, I’ve added newspaper inserts, junk mail, flyers, and cereal boxes. I’ve switched all my bulbs. I try to and generally succeed at making a tank of gas in my car last at least 3 months (which means I hardly drive at all). I wash everything in cool water (except my dishes, just can’t escape my need for sterility, there), and reuse everything I can. I’m even looking to replacing my old, warn-out computer with an eco-friendly one (though I’m a bit shaky on whether the software available and my computing needs will allow me to do this).
Even still—my Lafayette carbon emissions is listed at 17.6 tons.
SEVENTEEN POINT SIX? What the…..? The average output of a human being on the whole planet is only 13.5 tons (still frighteningly high).
The Spokane zip alteration showed me something truly eye-popping. Note that all I did was alter my zip code, which told the system that my little lifestyle was located in Spokane, in Washington State, not in Lafayette, Indiana. And my score?
My carbon footprint?
Right. Just by moving to Spokane, by going back home, my score would drop by 44%, and my carbon footprint would be hacked by more than half. Yeah, little old Spokane, the Spoke, the town that is considered by western Washintonians too darn conservative and backwoodsy.
Wow. To Lafayette’s score of 396—a factory-driven town surrounded by farmland and Midwestern ‘values’ (which don’t much include saving the planet—indeed, littering seems a favorite pastime from what I can tell), Spokane has a 280. To Indiana’s embarrassing 471 (even the nation as a whole does better with a 346, and the whole world averages less with a 330), Washington has a 294.
And I think it’s because of renewable energy, like wind and hydro power. And I think it’s because of Spokane’s environmental legacy, begun in 1974 with the World’s Fair. And though it’s gone downhill dramatically in the past 20 years, STA outstrips City Bus hands down. And there are actually bike lanes and alternate routes for cyclists, where here they are few and ridiculously short, fragmented, and illogically infrequent (note to road planners: a bike lane on only one side of a busy highway is absurd! What about cyclists wanting to return whence they’ve come? Out of luck? Forced to cycle illegally on the wrong side of the road? Moving target for entertainment purposes?). If I lived in Spokane, my home energy default setting would be Washington Water Power, not Duke Energy’s coal plants. And I alone could cut back carbon emissions by 10.2 tons a year.
……yet another good reason for me to ditch this place and get back to the Pacific Northwest as soon as possible.