Every action we take impacts the world around us. When we drive, fly, buy a can of soda, or even just take out the trash we are affecting the Earth. You may have heard the term “carbon footprint” to describe our environmental behavior. Carbon footprints are a way of measuring our individual and collective environmental harm caused everyday.   Entire companies have been founded on this idea, such as those that offer carbon offset credits. You can even calculate your own or household’s carbon footprint online and see how you match up with the US and rest of the world.

Although we love how informative carbon footprints are, it can be a little overwhelming. The idea of a carbon footprint only looks at the negative ways in which we impact the planet rather than focusing on the positive. That’s exactly what Gregory Norris thought when he decided to found Handprinter.org. The site looks at what Norris calls handprints rather than footprints. Handprints include all the positive things we do everyday that make a difference.

 

Norris, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, thought of the idea after realizing his students were feeling pessimistic about their effect on the world, even stating that “the planet would be better off if they had not been born.”  Norris felt his students and others looking at only their footprints were concentrating on detrimental actions. “…Something was missing-that we can also benefit the planet,” Norris explained, “I needed to name those benefits to make them as tangible as footprints.”

And that he did. He took his handprints and turned them into a website that not only lets you calculate your own handprint, but encourages others to follow suit. The website promotes spreading one’s positive impact via social media, which in turn increases your handprint the more you share. He hopes to take this idea one step further where organizations, schools, and maybe even cities will compete among each other for larger handprints.

Norris’ handprints are already having the positive effect he was hoping for, as they ended up on Time Magazine’s list of “10 Ideas that are Changing Your Life.”  We love the encouraging message handprints bring, because focusing on the bad news often overwhelms and depresses us, but this idea gives us hope. It introduces a way to look at our actions  in a bright light. Next time someone asks about carbon footprints, make sure to tell them about your handprints. Will you be using handprinter?

We went to the beach Photo By SanyamStudioWe are now in the middle of July and summer is finally here! Summer is the time for vacations, and in this modern era most of us tend to travel via jet plane. So you may be wondering with all the air travel, is this really environmentally sound? Ok, so we love to travel all over the world and take great pleasure in riding the skies, so we don’t want to sound anti-travel. But the truth is jet fuel is extremely toxic for the environment and puts off a tremendous amount of carbon emissions. So much so that it has been shown that going vegan or vegetarian for an entire year cuts as much carbon as skipping a 5 hour flight!!! As Planet Green reports “5 hours on a place going across the country has roughly the same impact as 8,765 hours of making green food decisions.”

Airplane over the Autobahn Photo By poolieThat being said it is really important to understand how much emissions your summer flight plans will cause. There are a few easy ways to do this including CNN’s Carbon Calculator that simply allows you to plug in your airport origin and destination. It will then spit out 3 facts for you: distance traveled, how many tons of CO2 produced, and how much of the rainforest it would take to absorb this pollution. For instance if you took a roundtrip flight from New York to San Francisco, you will have traveled 8310 km, produced 1.001 tons of CO2, and it would require 1.001 hectares of the rainforest a year to consume the CO2!  Although this calculator is very simple and does not take into account the size of plane, amount of people on board, and exact flight route: it is a quick and simple way to get an estimate of your impact when traveling. 

Corbett national park forest Photo by netlancer2006Now that you know how much you are polluting due to your travel plans, there is a couple things you can do about it! Purchasing carbon offsets is a great way to go, as they put your money towards funding a reduction in greenhouse gases. There are several companies that will do this for you including Climate Friendly, Atmofair, and Native Energy. If you want a breakdown of several companies comparing price and projects, check out this Carbon Emissions Survey. Be sure that you also consider radiative forcing when purchasing your carbon offset. Carbon offsets are a great way to make an impact while globetrotting, but are there alternatives to plane travel? You can choose to take a bus or train across the country, however these require time and patience. And you could carpool with several friends in an alternative fuel car or ride a bicycle! But if you are traveling overseas, besides sailing across the oceans there isn’t really an alternative at this moment. 

Enjoy the summer and all your globetrotting you may have planned. Just remember that every time you fly, you are adding to a rise in greenhouse gases. Be conscious of this factor and please do something about it! Either fly less (which we know is difficult) or purchase those carbon offsets, or better yet do both. Bon Voyage!

What's in your mouth?

What's in your consuming?

You take public transit to work. You opt for the fan over the air conditioner. You separate your papers from your plastics from your glass. You’re conscious of your impact on the environment. Or are you?

A new online exam featured recently on National Public Radio called Consumer Consequences looks at this question in a fun but insightful way. The site’s headlining question, “What would the world look like if everyone lived like me?” arguably raises the curiosity of anyone with a few moments to spare. For some, it might be a chance to finally realize the finite resources that surround them, regardless of whether they’ve figured out that climate change might do more than just increase their vacation opportunities.

On the other hand, it might be a chance for all you hardcore environmentalists out there to finally have irrefutable data supporting all those times you opted for the bike over the car. Well, give your environmental ego one last moment of ignorant bliss – your footprint might be much bigger that you think!

So, what's it gonna take?

So, what's it gonna take?

A part of American Public Media’s special series Consumed (which is a truly engaging exploration of the long term sustainability of the all-American lifestyle), Consumer Consequences is a fun and educational interactive game with the mission to help you figure out your daily environmental impact.

First, pick an avatar. Then pick your location: farm, suburb, town or city. Then follow the icons from your home, to your transportation, to your food, to your trash habits and watch as the number of “earths” required to support your level of consumption grows bigger!

Try as one might, even in the most meager of circumstances by American standards, getting below the “1 Earth” mark is a difficult challenge. Particularly since your environmentally religious approach to recycling is outdone by all those trips to the local café. Not to despair though! Don’t forget that we ARE using standards set by a country that, if everyone lived like it, consumes on average “8 Earths” worth of resources.

hey, it's up to you...

hey, it's up to you...

So here’s your chance: the game provides a challenge, or an opportunity we’ll say, to improve your “score” and learn where you can most effectively begin cutting out wasteful and unsustainable practices in your everyday life….which is important. Because this may just be the first exam that you really can’t afford to fail!

...time to get cramming...

...time to get cramming...

This year, Autonomie Project has been approved as a vendor for the 2008 Lollapalooza concert event August 1st-3rd in Chicago’s Grant Park. Our booth will be located on the “Green Street” section of the festival, which is going to be filled with like-minded, eco-friendly companies!

We are really honored and psyched to be a part of this year’s festival, especially since they are making a huge effort to lessen their environmental impact through an initiative called Green Lolla. The Green portion of their website explains, “Lollapalooza is committed to lightening our load on the earth, and using our giant ‘microphone’ to communicate the green message.” They have promised to do this by focusing on making the entire production of the event eco-friendly, as well as spreading the ‘go green’ message to fans and engaging the artists who play! Read more about Green Lolla and all of the great eco initiatives at Eco-Palooza.

Along with the Green movement, there will be other fun activities including a Rock the Vote voter registration area and a battle of the bands dubbed Last Band Standing. And, like every year, there are a ton of great artists including: Radiohead, Rage Against the Machine, Mason Jennings, Mates of State, Kanye West, Bloc Party, Broken Social Scene, and Explosions in the Sky, just to name a few. For a full list of the lineup, check the Lollapalooza website frequently as its updated constantly with new artists.

So if you are coming to this year’s festivities, please make sure to stop by the Green Street and check out our booth and make sure to buy your carbon offsets for the trip. Hope to see you there and more updates to come!

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