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Published March 20, 2009, 12:00 AM

Cutting carbon output requires new lifestyle

Dear Jim: I want to live more “green” and also save money. I am trying to find out how to calculate my carbon dioxide footprint to see how efficient I am. How can I determine the carbon emissions for various activities?

Dear Jim: I want to live more “green” and also save money. I am trying to find out how to calculate my carbon dioxide footprint to see how efficient I am. How can I determine the carbon emissions for various activities? – Cathy M.

Dear Cathy: Living “green” generally does reduce a family’s living expenses overall. Even if you did just break even on the green improvements you make to your home, your children and grandchildren will thank you someday. They may not like it now though because it will require some lifestyle changes if you are serious about becoming more green.

There has been so much discussion of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use and its effect on global warming that many people think of it first when becoming more green. Although this is the primary source of greenhouse gases, other gases such as methane (meat production), nitrous oxide (cars, industry), and fluorinated gases are also significant contributors to a warming planet.

It would be very difficult, if not impossible, for you to calculate your carbon footprint yourself. If you Google “calculate carbon footprint,” you will find many links to online carbon footprint calculators. These use complex programs loaded with carbon dioxide emissions data for the calculation.

You will find a significant variation in your carbon footprint results from the various online calculators and it is difficult to know which is correct. The primary advantage of using several of the online calculators is to increase your awareness of which human activities emit the most carbon dioxide into the environment.

Some of the calculators are simple and ask only about your major energy consumption activities. These include the amount of your driving and flying and the size and energy efficiency of your home. Making your house more efficient and driving less are the quickest ways to reduce your carbon footprint.

The more complete calculators take into account lifestyles. On some of them, as you answer the questions, you see the carbon footprint number change. Global Footprint Network has an informative footprint calculator. In addition to carbon dioxide, it takes your entire ecological impact into account and tells you how many planet Earths it takes to support your lifestyle.

These better online calculators include detailed factors such as how much and the type of meat you eat, do you eat locally grown food, do you select items with minimal packaging, are you fashion conscious and buy many clothes, etc. For example, I have beehives in my backyard (visit www.dulley.com/bee/ to see them), so I do not have to buy sweeteners, which are processed, packaged and shipped thousands of miles.

The following Web sites offer free online carbon footprint calculators: Carbon Footprint, www.carbonfootprint.com; EPA, (202) 343-9990, www.epa.

gov/climatechange/emissions/ind_calculator.html; Global Footprint Network, (510) 839-8879, www.footprintnetwork.org; and Nature Conservancy, (703) 841-5300, www.nature.org.

Dear Jim: My attic has blown-in Fiberglas insulation on the floor between the floor joists. I want to add a plywood floor over part of it for storage area. Will putting plywood over the insulation cause any problems? – Mike H.

Dear Mike: The only problem you will have to be concerned about is moisture buildup underneath the plywood during winter. Even though wood is permeable to moisture, vapor may condense on the plywood and make the insulation wet and ineffective.

Since the area will be used for just storage, leave an inch gap between the edges of the pieces of plywood. For added insurance, drill small holes every several inches through the plywood for better moisture migration.


Send inquiries to James Dulley, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244, or visit www.dulley.com

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