A modest proposal ...
You will need to identify some activity or consumptive habit that you can alter to reduce its impact on the environment. There are a few things involved in this—you will need to demonstrate an understanding of what a ‘footprint’ is, and how it is calculated. You will also need to assess the impact of your change—current practice/habit compared to new practice/habit. This doesn’t have to be a bit change (e.g., purchasing an electric car). It could be quite small, because the idea is to understand what the footprint concept is all about, and how changes can affect it. So you could choose something you do in the kitchen, in the garage, at work, at play, etc. You will need to:
- Introduce your idea, and describe why you chose it;
- Calculate your carbon footprint using at least two different calculators. What’s the difference between a carbon and ecological footprint? Think critically about the ones you choose–look over the sites, whether they’re commercial, non-profit, educational, etc. Do they have advertising? Etc.
- Examine the environmental/carbon impact of what you currently do—and discuss it in the terms used for such subjects, whether it’s measurement in calories, pounds/tons of CO2, etc. (one measures energy, the other waste). What are the key categories/your key contributions to atmospheric carbon?
- Actually change your habits, for at least a couple of weeks, and assess what happens. You may over that time discover that there are things you needed to think about that you didn’t originally. For instance, let’s say you went from disposable diapers to cloth. You would need to assess many things to understand the differences in environmental impact beyond additions to the landfill—there’s water usage, electricity (assuming you’re washing these! And in a washing machine), waste water, the manufacturing process for the disposables, how the cloth was produced (cotton for instance is a very chemical-intensive crop), etc. Don’t gloss over these things—if you did it in the real world, you’d be giving bad advice, which sometimes happens (even plastic vs paper bag discussions can get heated …).
- Report on your findings, and extrapolate to the general population—not everyone, but for instance parents with infants in a given year, or whatever the population that might be affected by a change in its consumptive habits. Your paper should be 3-4 pages (no more than 4), and show that you understand the footprint concept (15 pts), have put some thought into your choice (10 pts), used high quality sources to inform your paper (15 pts)—at least five sources—and written it coherently and proofread it (10 pts).
50 pts possible, due Dec 8 in Blackboard.
Some footprint calculators to consider (you can find your own, but stick with ‘known’ quantities):