Natural Living Blog Carnival: Green Confessions.
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Natural Living Blog Carnival hosted by Happy Mothering and The Pistachio Project through the Green Moms Network. This month our members have written posts about areas of their life where they aren't as "green" as they may want to be.
I'm in this culture clash, and it's entirely internal.
Here I am, a proponent of simple living and an advocate of the low-carbon lifestyle: I've got my bike, my high-MPG car, my near-vegetarian cooking, my wind-powered electricty, my steadily dwindling amount of household waste, blah blah.
And there I went jetting off across the Atlantic to get married. Although we weren't high school sweethearts, we had gone to the same high school in the beautiful city of Delft, in the Netherlands. We had both been living in the US for years and years, but I had never got around to un-registering myself from the city, which entitled us to a wedding in its city hall dating from the middle ages.
We had a glorious time at the party, with our families from both sides, some Dutch high school friends, and a few American ones who had found research or postdoc positions around Europe.
But the carbon footprint of this wedding!
Not that it was extravagant in any way: it was on the whole a sober Dutch wedding. After the civil ceremony, our good high school friend (whose car served as the bridal car) took us on an informal photo session along the canals. Then we went for lunch at our favourite café, our former high school hangout, where they parked my bridal bouquet on top of the beverage fridge while we shared a relaxed meal of crepes with a few more good friends. In the evening, just fifty people could fit in the restaurant where we had an excellent wedding dinner. So the wedding itself was reasonably carbon-frugal.185 g CO2 per passenger-kilometer, so for the two of us the round trip carbon emissions was 4763 kg CO2.
And that isn't the last of it: Once the children were born, of course everyone in both families wanted to see them, and the most frugal way to do that was for us to go over there. Every year. Because children grow so quickly.
And now my dad, well into his eighties, refuses to come here to the US. This was after one horrific winter that saw us snowed in; it was too cold to even go outside to light a cigarette (he didn't even try to ask me if he could smoke in the house, bless his heart!). And because he's generally slowing down, but still intensely enjoys seeing his grandchildren, we just have to go to Delft to visit him.
I had hoped, vaguely, that the plane ride would be offset in part by the fact that for most of the summer, at least while we are in the Netherlands, we generally get around by bike or by public transport. It is - but the offset is puny.
So the dirt on me is that every summer the four of us together put nearly ten tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions on our tabs. It's staggering.
There really is nothing like doing the math for putting reality into sharp focus - and for the occasional ice-cold dose of humility! To tell the truth, after going through the numbers, I hesitated to actually put this post online. Ten tonnes of CO2.
To put that in perspective, our one car, a VW Golf running on clean diesel, does 38 mpg average - because I drive like a mom not a jackrabbit - so our 8000 annual car miles amount to 2100 kg CO2 emissions per year.
That's quite a bit less than the 12 tonne carbon footprint from driving cars in a typical US household. On the other hand, the 10 tonnes from our air travel is quite a bit more than the average (about 2 tonnes). It's a good thing I don't travel for work any more. Total typical household emissions: 48 short tons = 43 tonnes carbon.
It's the environmental Achilles' heel of living far away from your relatives. So it's the more important to me that we keep the rest of our emissions in check: from our car, our home heating, our diet, the stuff we buy.
Visit Happy Mothering and The Pistachio Project to learn more about participating in next month’s Natural Living Blog Carnival!
Please take some time to enjoy the posts our other carnival participants have contributed: