New Resolutions and Going Carbon Neutral

January 17, 2015

Maybe it’s because I live in the hippie San Francisco Bay Area, or because there’s simply no escaping it, but no conversation among friends here can fail to come around to climate change and the environment. (And also the cost of housing and lack of decent public transit, but I digress.) It’s a big topic, and one that cannot be addressed without systemic change in our agriculture, industry, and transportation policies, but there are at least symbolic things one can do in one’s own life to show that living smaller and greener is the way to go. The newest hurdle we’ve tackled: achieving carbon neutrality by buying carbon offsets. This was something I’d considered and discussed here before, but this year (for 2014) we finally made the decision to do it. We bought them through a program for Google employees that allows you to buy the same offsets that Google buys, so we knew that the credits would go to reputable groups and actually be used as offsets.

As described in the post I linked above, we used an online carbon calculator to determine how much carbons (in tons) we needed to offset, then what the dollar amount would be. Unsurprisingly, the biggest part of our footprint comes from air travel, since we make multiple trips to the East Coast each year to visit family. Even having two cars doesn’t make much of a difference compared to air travel, since we don’t drive either of our cars very much.

If you’re wondering whether living the carbon neutral life has had a big impact in our day to day existence, the answer, of course, is no. But I think that symbolic acts, even ones that are relatively small, like this one, are still important. Maybe I will convince at least one person to do the same, or change one person’s mind, and that would be enough for me to believe that what we did was worth it. At the very least I can write this post about it and feel slightly better about my own privileged existence in the world.

Looking back at my resolutions from 2014 and from 2013, I recall that several of them were related to keeping a low environmental profile. I think I’ve made fairly good progress with many of them. I’m at the point where I’m trying to buy only replacement goods rather than totally new ones (ie, keeping my total quantity of stuff, especially clothes, shoes, etc, the same over time), except when it comes to kitchen gadgets, which we seem to have a special fondness for accumulating. I’m still biking roughly twice a week, except for December, when it rained for several weeks straight. We’re still composting, cooking at home weekly, and cooking mostly vegetarian food.

We even managed to grow our own grape tomatoes in our tiny apartment-landing garden this past summer. The tomato plant became Justin’s special pet; we’ll have to try again this year. Besides, “urban homesteading” is all the rage now so we’re like totally cool. Since we can’t have pets, plants have become our surrogates, and we’re steadily adding to our collection of weird succulents. We also grew some mint, cilantro, thyme, and chives this summer, none of which Justin wanted to let us eat. Come spring, we’ll probably replant our box, and maybe go big with peppers or a squash of some kind.

Our tomato plant, before we killed it by moving it inside while the building was painted.  It still produced tomatoes into September despite being mangled and ripped into several parts!

Our tomato plant, before we killed it by moving it inside while the building was painted. It still produced tomatoes into September despite being mangled and ripped into several parts!

Biking, composting, cooking, etc, have now become habits, which means that those past resolutions have been successful. This year, I’ve been thinking about what other kinds of habits I’d like to have. I want to make sure I maintain my writing and researching skills, despite having few opportunities for this at work. Thus, I give you my resolutions for 2015. (I’m going to leave off “finish the AREs” since I’m nearly done anyway, and it seems silly to make a resolution for something I’m going to do for sure. So count the two exams I have left under last year’s resolution.)

  1. Write monthly.

  2. Complete an independent, research-based project with a visual component before the end of the year.

  3. Complete all those arts & crafts projects I’ve started and left lying around the house.

  4. Find a new exercise routine in addition to biking. Because of concerns about injury and level of commitment, I decided to quit Quidditch. (Very sad, I know.) So now, quidditch-less, I am struggling to find a replacement activity.

Wish me luck!