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Good carbon footprint calculator?

 
master steward
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Sorry for the newbie question... Is there a good free carbon footprint calculator somewhere? I've searched around without much luck. The six I found on the internet made big assumptions or oversimplified things in ways that seemed to skew the results. They were easy to use but I guess I want something a bit more detailed. Depending on which I use, my family's footprint is somewhere between 22 tons and 8 tons per year And they didn't seem to indicate any way to make your footprint negative (Paul's eco-scale level 6 or above).

I tried the WWF calculator, carbonfootprint.com, nature conservancy, EPA, footprint network and cool climate Berkley calculators
 
Mike Haasl
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Hmm, it's been a week and no replies. Did I put this in the wrong section? Or maybe I answered my own question and there isn't a good free calculator out there....
 
pollinator
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Bump.  

Is there a really good _food_ print calculator in particular?

One I tried assumed I got my milk from Wisconsin.  I am pretty sure that is a fair assumption for most Americans, but not for me, and I can't get much of a hint by extrapolating from their data.

It's that time of the year, when I for some reason have started doing a yearly inventory of my carbon footprint.  I think I posted about it on permies last year, something about this, but I left food unsolved mystery and just focused on heat and transportation.  If I already posted something about this that I'm forgetting then my apologies.
 
gardener
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I honestly don't know, as my carbon footprint is still quite large due to importing things I'm not yet producing via the grocery store and feed store, but maybe this reply will bump up the thread and allow others to see & respond to it.

 
pollinator
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I only find broad-strokes calculators - driving, grid power usage, etc.  Nothing as detailed as where the milk comes from!  I guess if my CO2 production had gotten so low I was concerned about milk I would be thrilled!
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Thanks CK and Tyler.

Well, I'm fortunate that our grid has a 100% wind power purchase agreement option (that sort of means I'm 100% renewable in my electric usage...though still try to conserve my electric usage) and the driving I try to minimize but have given myself 6 months since I moved (mid-June) of just saying yes to help and rides, so I can settle in and not make myself crazy.  

For next year I want to get better on the car thing.  But there's not a lot I can do.

So I'm trying ot assess my food print.  I'll try and post an inventory here as a start, maybe y'all can help me think some of this through:

--Beyond Burger (veggie burger) about 26 lbs/ year
--grass-fed beef about 26 lbs/year    (I have a theory that grass grows witihout any fossil fuel inputs, petroleum-derived fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, tractors, or other inputs...am I crazy? electric fencing for mob grazing--embodied energy is something, but then operation is off of photovoltaic solar panels, yes?  and labor of the farmer to move them--thank you farmers!--is not a carbon-emitting element.  Is that too crazy?)  Part of the beef comes from Hardwick, VT, whenever possible.  
--fish (about 26 lbs/year) -- I have no idea...??? some is "sustainably farmed," some "wild caught," some my partner buys and then I have no idea
--yogurt, Pennsylvannia or NY, biodynamic, about 1/2 cup/day = 100lbs/year
--milk, raw about 1/4 time (put that under Transportation--driving to the farm--not Food: about 20 miles from here, 40 mi round trip and we try to make it part of a day trip)-- 1/2 cup per day x 90 days = 45 cups, about 25 lbs/year
(gallon is 8.6 lbs, pint is 1/32 of that, so about .25 lbs/day)                
75 lbs of "regular" (Whole Foods "grass fed" milk--I don't remember where that's from, but I think that's from Wisconsin actually, but not factory farms, unless there's now a grass factory I don't know about) 75 lbs/ year
cheese--2 oz per day, from Vermont.  food miles is about 200 round trip, divided by the whole truckload, so I'll call that negligible.
the internet says it takes 10 lbs of milk to make a 1 lb of cheese.  so 2.5 lbs of milk a day...x 365 = 913 lbs of milk/year local and, I hope, grass fed (their website does not tell me much, but it's the only inexpensive raw dairy available in stores here)


Other stuff too detailed to really calculate...

--buckwheat from God knows where (via Whole Foods; I maybe should just drive to Portland, 100 mi away,  a few times a year ?? to bulk up on it at the food coop and hopefully that's grown more locally??)
--oats, local
--rice from Costco, grown in India, I think
--cacao (don't judge)
--kale from local food forest in summer months (woohoo! I'm sustainable!) or my garden (almost! have to drive to a suburb 20 minutes from here where my plot is!)
--sunchokes from garden (10lbs/ year, shaves 10 meals off
--sprouted grain bread from California
--other greens
--fruits: foraged, local-ish apples, some blueberries, raspberries, strawberries from agribusiness
--almonds, cashews, walnuts
--herbs, garlic, onions

OK, I've spent 2 hours on this, and need a break.  I'd welcome any thoughts.  This is overwhelming, but it's helping a little to start listing this all out and feel like it's finite rather than infinite.



Tyler Ludens wrote:I only find broad-strokes calculators - driving, grid power usage, etc.  Nothing as detailed as where the milk comes from!  I guess if my CO2 production had gotten so low I was concerned about milk I would be thrilled!

 
Kc Simmons
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Lists are always good! That will allow you to focus on one component at a time, develop an estimate on how much it impacts your carbon footprint, and start planning on how to reduce it in that area.
You also may find ways to combine certain components in order to reduce the number of items on the list.
For instance, I've used my Instant Pot/pressure cooker to make yogurt using milk and a starter culture from the grocery store yogurt. While it involves some electricity, it reduces fuel/transportation costs, plastic packaging, and storage at the warehouse/store. Plus it's consistent as long as you have milk and you save enough from the previous batch to culture the next one. Then, it would also be more "bang for the buck/carbon" on your trips to get milk, since the milk is serving another purpose. Plus it just tastes better 😉

Things like that should be easy to figure out once you start breaking down the larger things like electricity, transportation, etc.
 
gardener
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Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:

--cacao (don't judge)

I will sooo... not judge. I have mild hypoglycemia issues and if I feel it dropping, dark chocolate covered almonds are my emergency food. They bring it up without causing the "spike then crash" scenario I struggled with for years! I'm not ready to move to an ecosystem that can realistically grow it in a polyculture it would be happy in!

I think it's important to work towards your goal and find ways to realistically offset where you can (you mention living in an apartment which is usually a smaller footprint than a single family home for example). It's a good exercise and I will watch where it goes! I suspect that the further you go from "normal USA life pattern" the more difficult it would be to use any sort of "off the shelf" calculator. We tried to use our local power company's "reduce your electricity usage" challenge. We were off the bottom of their chart before we even started! That would change if we bought an electric car, which since much of BC's power comes from hydro, would be an improvement over our current 20 yr old internal combustion engine car, but it's a journey and we're not there yet.
 
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If you read Rodale's _Eating Better For Less_ (Wolf, 1978, Rodale Press). There's a discussion about whether you should make food or buy it? After reading that, when times are tough here or I make the time, I make yogurt and we bake a single-rise yogurt bread from _Make Your Own Convenience Food_ (German & German, 1978, MacMillan).

When I first did this, I had a Salton yogurt maker I'd found at a thrift shop. Worked fine for years. The yogurt bread is still made here, every year at least once. The year we were doing this we were broke because DH got laid off. On Christmas Eve, we made bread for the neighbors, 2 loaves for the folks with kids, 1 for those without. That was 25+ years ago and now it's a Christmas tradition hereabouts. We've made as many as 21 loaves of bread on Christmas Eve, and there's no way we could do that with a traditional double rise loaf!
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
pollinator
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Thanks for the beautiful sharing!

I remembered 2 things--
I use olive oil
Chicken and eggs--since moving with my partner, I have access to a farm on occasion and we can get good eggs and chicken plus organ meats

Regarding chocolate, I have just heard that yaupon holly is a native _north american_ chocolate substitute, but it contains some caffeine as well as theobromine (the chocolate drug) .  I do better with theobromine (Woody Allen was prescient!) but hope to try yaupon soon.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Regarding yogurt, my yogurt-making skills aren't up to snuff, and it comes out ok and is raw, but nowhere as tasty as biodynamic Seven Stars or Hawthorn Valley. We are spoiled with awesome yogurt in new england.  I make yogurt (in the instant pot) mainly to preserve raw milk so it can last between trips to the faraway dairy farm. (The chicken farm is 5 miles round trip, the dairy 40).

I assume a more skilled yogurt maker could get better yogurt using the Seven Stars culture and good raw milk....
 
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