Low Impact Life Carbon Emissions

After finding out that each person only has a carbon budget of 37 tonnes CO2 for the rest of their lives if we want to sty below 2 degrees warming I wanted to calculate my own impact. Which is a measurement of the carbon emissions of living our version of the Low Impact Life. I used Klimatkontot because it was the most detailed one I could find but there are lots of different calculators out there and even though the numbers only give a very rough estimate it is a still interesting to investigate my impact.

My results

First I did a calculation of my life if I hadn’t started on the path to living a Low Impact Life. I was still fairly environmentally minded since I have studied environmental science but in my day to day life I didn’t do that much that differs from the people around me. Here are my results:

If we didn’t live a Low Impact Life
  • Home: 500kg CO2e/year
  • Travel: 3300kg CO2e/year
  • Food: 2000kg CO2e/year
  • Consumption: 1300kg CO2e/year
  • Total: 7100kg CO2e/year
  • Society: 2000kg CO2e/year
  • Total: 9100kg CO2e/year

So my results show that I was at the same level as the average Swede which is around 10 000kg CO2/year. The largest category is travel because I used to travel quite a lot, 2-3 round trips by plane per year. I also bought a lot of clothes and didn’t think about what I was eating. A large chunk, 20% of my emissions, is caused by just living in the modern society we have today. And because our society is built up already the way to reduce these emissions are to push for political action, leave society or a bit of both. Then I did a calculation of our life now, the Low Impact Life and here are my results:

Low Impact Life
  • Home: 100kg CO2e/year (-400kg)
  • Travel: 2000kg CO2e/year (-1300kg)
  • Food: 1000kg CO2e/year (-400kg)
  • Consumption: 600kg CO2e/year (-700kg)
  • Total: 4200kg CO2e/year
  • Society: 2000kg CO2e/year
  • Total: 6200kg CO2e/year

So by living my version of a Low Impact Life I have reduced carbon emissions with 2900kg CO2 or 32% per year! This is mainly due to actively reducing our travel. We now try to fly only one round trip year. The change in my diet to a paleo diet has also reduced the impact from food along with throwing less food. Buying less and only second hand also has a large effect. Buying renewable energy and thinking about water use and heat pulls down the home category.

Since 37 ton CO2 forever equals 1156kg CO2/year to 2050 and after that zero we are a lot higher than the level needed to keep the planet below 2 degrees warming. But by living a low Impact Life we have moved the needle in the right direction. I also ran the calculations based on a scenario where we live in a little house with solar cells, have an electric car, one round trip flying by plane, only eat locally and pretty much no consumption and this was the result:

Super Low Impact Life
  • Home: 100kg CO2e/year
  • Travel: 1000kg CO2e/year
  • Food: 900kg CO2e/year
  • Consumption: 100kg CO2e/year
  • Total: 2100kg CO2e/year
  • Society: 2000kg CO2e/year
  • Total: 4100kg CO2e/year

Its interesting to see that we can get down pretty far if we keep to the parameters set above. Since we buy renewable energy already and think about our water use the emissions from housing are the same in both scenarios. So living in an apartment buying green energy or a house with solar cells will both be low impact choices. The biggest impact we could have is if we bought an electic car (although it doesn’t come without impact when buying it) and if we stopped traveling by plane. Also bringing down our consumption even further and only buying second hand will also have an effect. In the calculator you couldn’t choose if you were growing your own food and I think that could bring down the food category even further. Hopefully impact from society will also start getting lower as we make changes that street us of the path of fossil fuel dependency.

To have some data even though it’s very rough estimates is very important because it starts lots of thoughts on how to get even lower and which choices will lead the greatest results!

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