So, what exactly is a carbon footprint and how big is mine? These are questions I asked myself at the beginning of my sustainability rotation at UMD dining. I found out that a carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds emitted due to the consumption of fossil fuels by a particular person, group. I thought to myself, I couldn’t be using that much fossil fuel, right? This, however, was not the case. Thinking about how big my carbon footprint could be led me to explore if I’m doing what I can to preserve our resources. This exploration sparked a new passion for contributing to the effort of reducing our societal carbon footprint.
With these thoughts in mind, I turned to the carbon footprint calculator online at footprintcalculator.org to find out just how big my carbon footprint is. I went through the questions- How big is your household size, do you carpool to work, do you eat meat often? I quickly realized that I was having a larger carbon impact than I wanted to. When I finished the questions and saw my results, I was definitely disappointed. It turns out, if everyone lived like I live, we would use 5.2 earths worth of resources. We don’t have 5.2 earths! I knew I needed to find new ways to reduce the impact I was having.
With nutrition being my main area of focus, I wondered if I could find ways to use nutrition to become more sustainable. After completing a carbon footprint analysis on food as one of my projects, it was clear that nutrition does have a place in sustainability. The project focused on which food had a larger carbon footprint- sloppy joes, or a vegetable and grain bowl. I found out that the footprint of the sloppy joe was over 4 times the footprint of a vegetable bowl! Which means that the vegetable bowl has a lower environmental impact than the sloppy joe. Since the vegetable bowl also provides many more nutrients than a sloppy joe, it showed how healthful eating can be more sustainable too! How cool!
I’m continuing to explore different foods and lifestyles that will be more environmentally friendly. But, for now, in an effort to hold myself accountable to becoming more sustainable, I took the Small Footprint Pledge through the Sustainability department at UMD. I pledged my support by committing to taking shorter showers, participating in Meatless Mondays, and using reusable bags while shopping! If you feel like you want to join the pledge with me, just follow this link!