This week I decided to take a footprint calculator quiz to see how much of an impact I’ve been having on the environment. The quiz asks you a variety of questions about your lifestyle from food habits to how much rubbish you generate. I’m going to take you through my answers step by step and see where I could improve. If you want to take the quiz you can find it here!
How often do you eat animal-based products?
Easy one to begin with, never for me. Feels like we’re getting off to a good start.
How much of the food that you eat is unprocessed, unpackaged or locally grown?
This one’s a little harder, because to be honest I don’t know. I made an educated guess at 30% on this one. I purchase a few of my grains from a zero waste store, and most of the fruit and veg I eat is unpackaged. Regarding locally grown, it’s a really tough one. I am guessing not much considering I live in the UK and I’m aware quite a lot of our food is grown abroad.
What housing type best describes your home?
I decided to base this on the student accommodation I’m living in at the moment, as that is where I spend most of the year. I went with duplex as the building has a couple of housing units in it.
What material is your house constructed with?
Another easy one, brick – as is the case with most houses in the UK.
How many people live in your household?
10 people live in my house at university – which means the space is probably used quite efficiently as it’s a high number.
What is the size of your home?
Based on some measurements I found on the accommodation section of my university’s website, around 168m2. We don’t have any living space like normal houses, its just bedrooms, bathrooms and a kitchen which means we likely have a little less space per person than those living in private homes.
Do you have electricity in your home? How energy efficient is your home?
Yes, we do have electricity. I made another educated guess at the house being below average energy efficiency. I had a browse around my universities website and couldn’t find anything about the accommodation I’m living in being sustainable or energy efficient. It was also built probably around 30 years ago; when energy efficiency wasn’t as high a priority.
What percentage of your home’s electricity comes from renewable sources?
I went for around 10%, again no information about the sustainability of my accommodation on the university website – so I am going to assume its nothing to shout about.
Compared to your neighbours, how much trash do you generate?
Here, I compared myself to my housemates and decided on less. Like I mentioned before, some of my food is unpackaged. A lot of my flatmates eat ready meals which have a lot of packaging, and this tends to be a rare treat for me as I normally cook my meals in bulk from scratch.
How far do you travel by car or motorcycle each week?
I don’t travel by motorcycle at all, as for car I put 10 miles a week. Whilst I’m at university I don’t travel by car at all and get around exclusively by foot and by bike, however I do go home occasionally and travel around by car, so I went for 10 miles as a rough guess.
What is the average fuel economy of the vehicles you use most often?
I based this on my Mum’s car, which if I ever travel by car is the car I travel in. It’s a mini cooper and a quick google search revealed that it’s pretty inefficient.
When you travel by car, how often do you carpool?
I put 30%, as although whenever I travel by car its always with My Mum – oftentimes it’s because I have asked her to drive me somewhere and make a journey she otherwise wouldn’t have made. However sometimes I do hop in when she’s going somewhere, hence the 30%.
How far do you travel on public transportation each week?
I answered not far as like I said earlier, I tend to get around mostly by foot and by bike, however when I travel home I do travel there by train.
How many hours do you fly each year?
Average guess of around 22 hours. Ashamedly, its been 56 this year but that’s a lot more than I would normally do. 22 hours puts me at one return long haul flight a year, which I would say is fairly accurate.
My earth overshoot day is 4th August, which means if everyone lived like me, we would need 1.7 earths. Not exactly the result I was hoping for, lets look a little closer.
So it looks as though my biggest footprint comes from the mobility sector, and I think it’s likely the 22 hours of flying a year that has done that for me. Next is shelter, when I move into my own home eventually, I would definitely love to live somewhere more energy efficient, but as a student there’s not a whole lot I can do about this currently. Food is the third category; I know that being vegan is the best thing I can do; but I definitely slip up on the packaging sometimes, as well as eating local. Package free foods are something I am always striving to work on, and I feel I’ve made good progress on this overtime. As for local, this is something I’d definitely like to look into as I really don’t know much about it at all. Next is services and then finally goods; I don’t tend to buy and consume too much and so I feel I’m doing pretty well there.
What can I do to improve?
Fly less – this is the really obvious one, but it’s the one I feel is hardest to tackle. What I find difficult about flying is that if you’re going to a long-haul destination then there really is no other alternative method. Having relations in far away places makes it really hard to cut down on flying. I definitely want to travel by train for destinations in Europe, and as for any long-haul flights – I will make sure to offset. (I know this isn’t always the best tactic, but it does do something – check out my post about it here)
Keep striving to buy package free foods – this is something I am continually working on and aiming to get better at.
Buy local foods – something I need to research but I definitely feel as though I can make some positive changes here.
All in all, I have to say my results are a little disappointing. Earth overshoot day this year was 29th July, which means that after that date we started to use more of the earths resources than we can regenerate. My personal overshoot day was 4th August, which means I’m about a week better than the average person – which is not really that impressive considering I really try and make efforts to be good for the environment.
I don’t want to get too down on myself though, as it’s important not to completely blame individuals when there are structural reasons as to why we can’t get a better score. For example, many of us can’t help that the buildings we live in aren’t energy efficient; this is something governments need to take into account when commissioning new housing. If we do not have effective public transport, it can be hard to get around in an eco-friendly way – this is again something that governments need to implement.
So I definitely want to take on my own personal responsibility and work on the three things I noted above; but also keep in mind that I am not completely to blame for my not so great score.
If you take the quiz, I’d love to hear what score you got, leave a comment down below!