Alex Goldmark is the senior producer of Note to Self, a storytelling show about how technology is changing society. Subscribe here to get Note to Self shows delivered right to your devices. Follow him on Twitter @alexgoldmark.
Federal Agency Ratchets Up Transit Push: Calculate Your Carbon Savings
Sunday, April 22, 2012 - 06:35 AM
As we reported earlier in the week, more than 80 percent of Americans drive to work alone. Now the Federal Transit Agency is ratcheting up its push to get more people out of cars and into buses (and trains too -- but that would have made for a tougher conceptual photo shoot to pull off).
In preparation for Earth Day, the FTA has released a carbon calculator that tells you how much carbon you emit in a round trip to work. The FTA calculator assumes a commuter causes zero carbon emissions by joining on to existing public transit, which in a sense, is correct. A more accurate measure would be to evaluate the journey's pollution by emissions per passenger mile -- something a calculator on a widget couldn't easily do without knowing your own individual transit system's fuel efficiency.
Rest assured, if you drive to work your car is likely a major source of your environmental footprint, as the FTA points out:
"The average American produces 20 tons of CO2 per year, or 121 pounds per day. So, by taking existing transit rather than driving alone, for a daily commute of 10 miles each way, a person would save 4,600 pounds of CO2 per year (based on 240 working days per year). That is 2.1 metric tons, or about a 10% reduction in carbon footprint. By comparison, weatherizing their home and adjusting their thermostat would save a person about 2,800 pounds of CO2 per year."