What is The Carbon Diet?
I started The Carbon Diet as a lifestyle arts experiment to slash my carbon footprint by 75%, road-testing a different method each week. I bust the greenwash and find out what really works. I also test the limits of individual action. What can we fix ourselves and what needs political leadership?
I've been accused of trying to live #mybestlife. I resent that. I'm trying to live #myleastworstlife. I want to find the cheapest, laziest, most pleasant way of cutting carbon. If you're looking to become your InstaBest, move along. There's nothing to see here. But if you want simple and effective ideas to try, hop on board.
Where am I up to?
I launched this project in April 2018. I'm about two-thirds the way through and I plan to finish later this year. I've looked at household waste and recycling, feeding pets, flying, heating and cooling your house and food & drinks. I'm testing out household electricity and gas at the moment. Next, I'll cover the stuff we buy, transport, offsets and how my footprint compares to that in another country.
Where are the biggest cuts? Of the areas I've looked at so far, here's what works.
These cuts come from the 'average' Australian footprint of around 21 tonnes CO2e per person per year. Savings are based on an average Australian lifestyle, not mine, because we're not all steak-loving, champagne-sipping bike-riding hippies. My weekly posts set out details of what's involved.
I've spent most of my life in cities and large towns and my viewpoint may relate to those in a similar situation. In any case, what suits one person may not suit another. I like to think about carbon the way I think about money. People choose to spend it on different things, but we should all ask the same questions. Do I need this? Can I afford it? Should I save instead? Should I spend it on something else?
About my data
I run bottom-up consumption data and report on a per-person basis. I look at elements an individual can control. This means I leave out a lot of society's footprint (think hospitals, roads and wars). Most government data comes from a top-down production model reported in aggregated form. Industry data differs again. These datasets don't match up, but gosh darn it, I try to make them play together.
My averages are usually based on government data. My carbon factors are more rubbery. I use the most robust factors I can find, but this field is new and some data is pretty weak. I show my sources and spreadsheets in the 'Notes' section. I welcome feedback if you think I've got it wrong.
Don't get attached to particular numbers. Their precision is a lie. All carbon footprints and inventories are estimates, not measurements. They're based on a measured activity (like how much petrol you used this week) multiplied by assumed behaviour and conditions (that this is an average week for you) multiplied by a government, industry or academic carbon factor. That carbon factor is based on a lot of assumptions. The best we can expect of carbon accounting is to rank the activities in the right order. A good carbon analysis shows you what generates a lot, what generates a little and what might backfire.
Only you are the Boss of You (but not everyone's qualified for the job)
I welcome feedback to this site and I really appreciate the experience, views and data people submit. Ideas thrive when others contribute, so keep it up! I've noticed that the strongest backlash comes from those who think I'm telling them what to do. I don't recall being appointed Boss of Your Life but I'm keen on the paycheque. Please post it to the charity of your choice.
I do not feed trolls. If a comment involves abuse, death threats or crimes against puppies, I do not respond.
Thanks for joining me on my carbon journey! You can subscribe or check in for regular updates and I hope you find something of interest here.
Do not feed the trolls. It only makes them stronger.
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