My Sustainability Misconception

By: Jolie Wasserman*

The Croton100 Carbon Tracker Increases Awareness of How Sustainably You Actually Live and Steps You Can Take to Reduce Your Emissions!

I thought I lived sustainably because I study environmental science at a university committed to carbon neutrality. I thought I lived sustainably because I turn the lights off after I leave a room. I thought I lived sustainably because I recycle paper and plastic waste. However, after using Croton100’s carbon tracker to calculate my family’s household emissions, I realized my sustainability misconception:

I don’t live as sustainably as I thought!

Using education to inform people about the climate crisis is essential to combat global warming. But when teaching about sustainability, climate leaders and teachers should include how to calculate and understand the size of one’s individual carbon footprint. Before using the Croton100 carbon tracker, my sustainable knowledge was largely incomplete since I did not know the amount of anthropogenic emissions for which I am responsible.

Turning the lights off and recycling is the bare minimum that we can do to reverse anthropogenic environmental degradation and curb the climate crisis. You can go above and beyond such small steps in the fight for sustainability by calculating how much carbon your household releases and making sustainable lifestyle changes to lower your carbon footprint.

Croton100’s carbon tracker is an easy way to calculate the exact size of your carbon footprint! My family and I filled out the carbon tracker together and it only took us thirty minutes to complete. Croton100’s carbon tracker facilitated the carbon tracking process by dividing emissions into four sections: transportation, heating, electricity, and food and waste.

Under the transportation section, the tracker included links to check the gas mileage for a specific vehicle type, which my family used to determine the exact carbon emissions for our cars.

At the bottom of the transportation page, the tracker lists helpful tips for reducing transportation-based emissions such as carpooling or buying a more sustainable car when it’s time to upgrade your vehicles. After using the carbon tracker, my family is considering the latter. 

The next emissions section, heating, also contains helpful tools to assist you when filling out the carbon tracker. This section allowed me to learn which heating sources my household uses and taught me and my family about the difference in emissions between heating sources.

The tracker includes a link to a ConEdison page that helps you calculate your annual cubic feet of gas. Additionally, the bottom of the heating page lists helpful tips for reducing heat-related emissions. The following image is included in the carbon tracker that displays the relationship between carbon emissions and heating system types. 

Next, the electricity section includes a ConEdison link with step by step instructions on how to calculate your annual kWh of electricity. My family and I found this to be very helpful since we have never calculated our kWh of energy before, so this process was foreign to us. And at the bottom of the electricity page, Croton100 lists great tips to reduce electricity-related emissions such as using clean energy like solar panels and putting electronics on a sleep timer.

Finally, the food and waste section was comprehensive and simple. The tracker taught me that as the only vegetarian in my family, my diet emits almost 50% fewer carbon emissions than my meat-loving family’s diets.

After sharing this news with my family, they agreed to cut meat out of their diets two days each week to help reduce our total household emissions. Facts and figures regarding emissions levels associated with different foods and diets can be found at the bottom of the food and waste tracker page. One of the charts is shown below.  

Thanks to the Croton100 carbon tracker, I am fully aware of how my actions influence the health of the environment. Even if you think you live sustainably, you may have a larger carbon footprint than you think! With the Croton100 carbon tracker, we can educate ourselves and avoid sustainability misconceptions!

* Jolie Wasserman is a Sophomore at Cornell University and a Trained Climate Reality Leader.

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