Sarah Edwards: [00:00:00] Nearly everything we do and consume has a corresponding carbon footprint. The food we eat, the clothes we wear, the transportation we use, the apps we download, and even the charitable donations that we make have some kind of an impact on the amount of carbon dioxide we’re missing. When you put money into the economy, when you buy manufactured goods, or when you pay for a service, you’re emitting carbon dioxide when you plant a tree, you’re absorbing it. I’m Sarah Edwards and this is talk policy to me.
The average American household emits nearly forty-eight tons of carbon dioxide equivalent every year. To give you a sense of scale, imagine a massive balloon that’s 10 yards in diameter. That balloon holds the volume of one ton of carbon dioxide. So that’s forty-eight balloons per household per year in the US alone. For some more local contact in Berkeley, the average household emits about 35 tons. And in Oakland it’s about thirty-six. We all know the basic science of why this matter. Carbon dioxide is actually a crucial part of our atmosphere. But when we have it in excess, the layer gets thicker and it traps energy from the sun and it heats up the Earth’s surface temperature which causes the natural disasters, the ecological degradation, the extreme weather events, and the corresponding health issues that climate scientists are talking about every single day. Here at Talk Policy To Me, our team wanted to better understand our own contribution to global carbon emissions. How many tons of carbon dioxide do Reem, Spencer, and I put out into the world? To find out we turned to the Cool Climate Calculator, which is an online tool that estimates your personal carbon footprint. So it told each of us the annual tonnes of CO2 that were responsible for it takes information about our lifestyles, our diet, our modes of transportation, our homes, our neighborhoods, and our consumptions to come up with this estimate. Reem sat down with one of the creators of the calculator, Chris Jones to better understand this. Why does personal carbon accounting matter? Can individual actions actually make a difference for the global climate? And should the burden of mitigating climate change fall on individuals at all?
Chris Jones: [00:03:24] When I first came to Berkeley I got freaked out about climate change. I hadn’t learned a lot about climate change in my other work, which is more in human rights, and the first thing I ask myself is: what’s my own impact on the planet? And I figured I could go out and find a calculator and it turned out they didn’t exist back then, this was back in 2002. And so for my master’s project at ERG (Energy & Resources Group), my first project, my project ended up being creating the first carbon footprint calculator that looked at all household consumption so food, goods, services, home construction as well as transportation energy, you know really wanted to do the whole thing.
Reem Rayef: [00:04:02] Gotcha. What was it that freaked you out do you remember?
Chris Jones: [00:04:05] Well it’s just the scale of this climate crisis and how short of time we have to solve it. I never really expected to experience climate change in my lifetime. And here we are 15 years later and I feel like you know it’s here. I mean we’re starting to experience it much faster than than we ever anticipated, certainly than I anticipated, and so I’m even more freaked out about it now.
Reem Rayef: [00:04:26] Totally. We’re trying to freak our listeners out.
Chris Jones: [00:04:28] Ok
Reem Rayef: [00:04:30] What exactly goes into the calculator?
Chris Jones: [00:04:33] So the smart part of our tool is its benchmarking capacity and that you mentioned you know you compare yourself to a similar household of the same size, same income level in the same city or even zip code. And so we draw on everything that we can, we know about those locations to come up with these estimates. So demographic information, population density, energy prices, the size and structure of the homes, how many vehicles they own, everything that we can find out about those locations, we use that to develop econometric models or statistical models of household consumption and then estimate and multiply that by emission factors of greenhouse gases. So that smart benchmarking is is really important to give you that comparison but also to help you populate the tool in a way that is kind of if you don’t know the answer it’ll give you a smart estimate.
Reem Rayef: [00:05:25] So Chris made this tool while he was a PhD at Berkeley’s Energy and Resources Group because he wanted to understand his own role in creating the climate crisis that scientists and environmentalists were talking about long before he started his doctorate. He was filling a knowledge gap that no one had really attempted to address before. After finishing his tool, here’s the gist of what he found.
Chris Jones: [00:05:47] The four biggest areas of emissions are cars, coal, cows, and consumption. Kind of in that order. So, you know, if you don’t if you don’t have a car and your electricity is not powered by coal, which it isn’t here, then you’ve got to think about the cows and the consumption right. So you know, how you spend your money matters. Think about your diet, that’s gonna have huge health benefits and then you know how am I spending my money my spending on entertainment and services? Well good and if I’m, am I my buying a lot of stuff? Probably you aren’t anyway, if you’re a student, but so spend it on services and information and reduce meat consumption.
Reem Rayef: [00:06:29] Let’s break that down a little bit. Cars. I don’t drive one. But for those who do. Transportation is obviously going to be a big part of your footprint. Some of the recommendations given by the Cool Climate Calculator to alleviate fuel consumption range from exploring public transit options to buying an electric vehicle to moving closer to your place of work or study. So you don’t need to travel so much. Coal. As Chris noted, here in California almost none of our electricity comes from coal and very little comes from gas, which means that our grid is actually really clean. In a follow up conversation after our interview, Chris told me that electricity only accounts for 5 percent of total carbon emissions in California, 2 percent in the Bay Area, and 1 percent here in the East Bay. It doesn’t mean we should be leaving our lights on left and right but it does mean that we can’t really impact our footprints here by trying to curtail our electricity use. This is a key benefit of the cool climate calculator. It directs us to behaviors that will help us make the biggest impact on our footprint. Cows and consumption. This is where things get a little more interesting for personal carbon accounting. These are the categories where we have the most agency, our diets and our money. The cool climate calculator told me I emit sixteen tons of carbon per year, which was 3 percent better than other individuals at my income level who live in Berkeley, California. Of those 16 tons, a pretty massive chunk was attributed to flights, because my family’s on the East Coast. A slightly smaller chunk was attributed to energy use because I live in a large pretty poorly insulated group house, and nearly two tons were from food. I already don’t eat a lot of meat or dairy. So what does a low carbon grocery cart actually have in it?
Chris Jones: [00:08:13] Well there’s not much in it. First of all you know people eat on average in the United States about 25 percent more calories than they need, and we waste about 25 percent of the food that we actually buy. So thinking about purchasing only what you really need and you know purchasing less than than you probably are consuming in the first place. And I can cut out of few things of my diet for sure, some frivolous stuff. Those with the first strategies and then you want to start thinking about you know reducing meat and dairy consumption because those contribute a lot of greenhouse gases in the form of methane, and then from there you can start thinking about buying local organic and you know other solutions that have many other benefits, not necessarily greenhouse gas benefits, there’s a lot of reasons to buy local and organic and that are not just greenhouse gas related.
Reem Rayef: [00:09:08] So that’s food. Reduce meat and dairy and waste as little as possible. But looking at my footprint report there’s also this big chunk, nearly three tons of CO2 total allocated to emissions from my spending on quote unquote goods and services. Maybe we should consider that the simple act of spending money increases your carbon footprint, no matter what you’re spending it on.
Chris Jones: [00:09:29] Well really it’s hard to avoid it. Every dollar on average is a kilogram of CO2, on average. But food is more and energy and transportation are even much more. And so however consumption of services and information has far less emissions associated with it. So it’s like you know 200 grams of CO2 as opposed to you know a thousand grams of CO2, which would be on average. So yeah every dollar you spend is about 150 gallons worth of CO2.
Reem Rayef: [00:10:05] Wow. That’s crazy. But if so I think somebody going through that kind of Cool Climate Calculator might be confused because you ask about like entertainment and services that like my Netflix subscription has a kind of carbon impact. Is that, what does that from?
Chris Jones: [00:10:23] Well data servers and all the computers and we even look at you know if they the office paper that the Netflix employees purchase and then take that office paper company and they are purchasing you know food for their employees and it’s just like an infinite supply chain. So it’s really you have to look at the whole economy.
Reem Rayef: [00:10:44] That holistic perspective is crucial to really absorbing the magnitude of your footprint. The Cool Climate Calculator doesn’t just take into account the stuff you buy. It also takes into account the emissions from the factories where that stuff was made, the fuel from the truck that it was delivered in, the lights in the store you bought it in, and the plastic bag you took it home in. Ultimately, Chris studies personal carbon emissions because he believes they’re an accessible way to get people to begin thinking about the climate, but not the end of the story. In California, we have an ambitious statewide goal of reducing carbon emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and then 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
Chris Jones: [00:11:23] It’s a 5 percent per year economy wide reductions. So the only time we’ve ever achieved 5 percent per year greenhouse gas reductions is during the Great Recession. So we need the equivalent impact of a Great Recession.
Reem Rayef: [00:11:38] Right, hopefully without a great recession.
Chris Jones: [00:11:40] Every year compounded upon itself for 30 years. That’s the scale of the emission reduction that we need in order to meet our climate targets.
Reem Rayef: [00:11:48] And with every reduction it gets harder and harder because like once you’ve cut out the easy stuff, which I would probably argue California has already done.
Chris Jones: [00:11:55] It’s like pushing down on a spring. So it’s easy at first and for how far further and further you get go the harder and harder it gets and so yeah it’s this is a huge challenge. This is why students and you think about way beyond their personal carbon footprint. You need to be thinking about what you can do to impact this planet to mobilize people to use their career in ways that are gonna be effective. There’s this huge potential right now for data science students, for example to use their skills, or learning the skills, and put those to good use providing good information and good policy tools and make those available to change behavior at all scales, individual, organizational, communities, city scales, state level scales, you know national and planetary scales. And so really think about you know how you can make an impact on the world.
Reem Rayef: [00:12:45] Chris is optimistic that taking individual actions to reduce personal carbon footprints can have positive spillover effects with huge impacts. Just knowing your carbon footprint means that you’re a part of the conversation and it might make you more inclined to take collective action that pushes for progressive climate policy.
Chris Jones: [00:13:02] The biggest barrier preventing people is their own belief in their ability to create change to solve the problem so they know that just reducing my carbon footprint is not going to solve this problem. So we need to do it together. It has to be a collective activity. We found that we can empower people that their solutions do make a difference if you do it like at the entire university level or your entire workplace or at your co housing because that’s a problem that you can solve. You can make your campus you know lower carbon and even carbon neutral. You can do that with your community. So really working together, making programs that are simple, fun, and social, as the way we design programs like the cool Campus Challenge. This is an opportunity that all University of California students staff and faculty are going to have a chance to do this coming April. In 2015 we engaged 20,000 staff, students, and faculty, across all 10 campuses and on average they took six actions. So we had something like a hundred and twenty, hundred thirty thousand actions that people took, they wrote a little story about what they did. So, they’re sharing what they’re doing, and then they’re collectively joining teams and helping their campus you know reduce emissions collectively and that’s empowering.
Reem Rayef: [00:14:16] What was the impact in 2015?
Chris Jones: [00:14:19] We reduced just new actions that people pledged to take and continue to take through that year and we, discounting for the people who probably wouldn’t follow through, we saved the University of California system a million dollars per year in energy costs.
Reem Rayef: [00:14:35] Wow.
Chris Jones: [00:14:36] That’s with an investment of a hundred thousand dollars.
Reem Rayef: [00:14:38] That’s unbelievable.
Chris Jones: [00:14:38] So this the behavior benefits are really powerful if you’re smart about how you go about doing it.
Reem Rayef: [00:14:46] My conversation with Chris convinced me that personal carbon accounting is a constructive exercise, so long as it inspires direct and collective action. And it is in that spirit that the podcast team undertook an ambitious challenge.
Spencer Bowen: [00:15:11] We’re calling it the live your values challenge. If we care about climate change and support the progressive policies that protect our environment, our lifestyles should probably reflect those values. For two weeks Sarah, Reem, and I made some substantial changes in our lives all with the goal of shrinking our carbon footprints. To establish our baseline, Reem guided Sarah and me through the calculator.
Reem Rayef: [00:15:36] All right let’s start filling out your quiz.
Spencer Bowen: [00:15:38] Let’s go through it, yeah.
Reem Rayef: [00:15:38] So we’re on a cool climate network, or sorry, coolclimate.berkley.edu, and we’re going to see what Spencer’s carbon footprint is.
Spencer Bowen: [00:15:46] How do you find this again?
Reem Rayef: [00:15:47] This was a, this was a part of a problem set that I did last semester.
Spencer Bowen: [00:15:51] Ooh, ok.
Reem Rayef: [00:15:52] It is a former Berkeley PhD who made this tool to help individuals figure out exactly how much carbon you’re putting out into the atmosphere every year.
Spencer Bowen: [00:16:01] All right I’m ready.
Reem Rayef: [00:16:02] All right.
Spencer Bowen: [00:16:03] For context we all live in different types of spaces: Reem lives in a group house with some roommates in Berkeley, Sarah shares an apartment in Oakland with her partner Johan and their dog Kiwi, and I live in international house on Berkeley’s campus and its dorm style housing. To start we all logged our modes of transportation.
Reem Rayef: [00:16:22] All right. So you live in Oakland.
Sarah Edwards: [00:16:24] Yes.
Reem Rayef: [00:16:25] How do you get around, Sarah?
Sarah Edwards: [00:16:27] So this was a tricky one. I’m always like Oh yeah, you know I don’t have a car. So like, my carbon footprint must be so low. And then I think about the fact that Johan has a car and he drives us to get groceries and to go hiking and when we take road trips. So I took a lot of this as like OK, yeah like I quote unquote have a car, I guess.
Reem Rayef: [00:16:53] So how many miles a year do you think you are traveling?
Sarah Edwards: [00:16:57] So, I did a lot of a lot of math and a lot of estimating. I think around the like six thousand maybe. Not too much.
Reem Rayef: [00:17:07] Alright, so trips to Whole Foods, driving to Tahoe.
Sarah Edwards: [00:17:10] I don’t have Whole Foods money. Sprouts, lets be real.
Reem Rayef: [00:17:11] Just to Sprouts, just to Berkeley Bowl, do you know your mileage per gallon?
Sarah Edwards: [00:17:20] Yes. So it’s it’s a hybrid. So it’s 42 city, 38 highway. So I don’t know where we want to
Reem Rayef: [00:17:30] You said 42 city, 38 highway. Let’s do the average of 40.
Sarah Edwards: [00:17:34] Sounds good.
Reem Rayef: [00:17:35] What about your public transit?
Sarah Edwards: [00:17:37] So I mostly, I take the bus to campus. I sometimes take BART home, but I mostly try and take the bus round trip.
Reem Rayef: [00:17:46] Yeah, it’s free for Berkeley students.
Sarah Edwards: [00:17:48] Yeah, its perfect.
Reem Rayef: [00:17:48] I mean it will drop into our tuition for Berkeley students.
Sarah Edwards: [00:17:50] Yes, it is money I have already spent. So, like overestimating, I think around 6000 miles a year.
Reem Rayef: [00:18:00] What about the BART which we are counting as transit rail?
Sarah Edwards: [00:18:03] Yeah, so BART, I figured around eight hundred miles a year, some of my friends live over in the city. Sometimes I have to go to the city for errands or whatever.
Reem Rayef: [00:18:13] What about air travel?
Sarah Edwards: [00:18:15] So I went into this thinking like oh I don’t fly very much, and then I definitely realized like I fly a medium amount. So I think one short trip a year.
Reem Rayef: [00:18:25] OK.
Sarah Edwards: [00:18:26] And maybe one like medium trip a year.
Reem Rayef: [00:18:29] And those are both round trips so it’ll need two flights per thing.
Reem Rayef: [00:18:35] Let’s talk about your vehicles. How do you get around?
Spencer Bowen: [00:18:37] I get around multiple different ways. How does this work? Do I, is this just the, oh I see-
Reem Rayef: [00:18:42] So you have a gasoline-
Spencer Bowen: [00:18:42] I have a car.
Reem Rayef: [00:18:46] How many miles a year would you say you travel?
Spencer Bowen: [00:18:48] In my current like student life, I estimated eighteen hundred miles a year. Very few. It’s mostly trips to my family lives near Sacramento. It’s mostly a trip there and back, a couple a couple times. Yeah yeah.
Reem Rayef: [00:19:02] Gotcha. Do you know your mileage?
Spencer Bowen: [00:19:04] My mileage is twenty two miles per gallon, unfortunately.
Reem Rayef: [00:19:06] Great. You also have a scooter though.
Spencer Bowen: [00:19:09] I do have a scooter.
Reem Rayef: [00:19:10] OK. And that also runs on gasoline.
Spencer Bowen: [00:19:12] Runs on gasoline, premium.
Reem Rayef: [00:19:15] Only the finest, for Spencer’s scooter.
Spencer Bowen: [00:19:20] Sorry. And that gets one hundred and fifteen miles per gallon.
Reem Rayef: [00:19:25] Woah, what?
Spencer Bowen: [00:19:26] Yeah.
Reem Rayef: [00:19:27] Are you serious?
Spencer Bowen: [00:19:27] I am serious.
Reem Rayef: [00:19:28] Wow.
Spencer Bowen: [00:19:29] So the tank is only a gallon, and I fill up, depending on how much you use. I use my change to fill up so I’m like I have 275 please and I just
Reem Rayef: [00:19:39] Hey now, so that’s your personal vehicles. Public transit.
Spencer Bowen: [00:19:44] Yes.
Reem Rayef: [00:19:44] Do you use the Berkeley buses?
Spencer Bowen: [00:19:46] I do use the buses. I have a rough estimate of 500 miles per year in AC Transit. Transit rail would be BART.
Reem Rayef: [00:19:53] Exactly.
Spencer Bowen: [00:19:54] I’m estimating that at 600.
Reem Rayef: [00:19:56] Okay.
Spencer Bowen: [00:19:57] Roughly 50 miles a month was my ballpark. That’s like, my idea there was two trips to the city plus some change per month. So I think thats about right.
Reem Rayef: [00:20:04] Right yeah, thats how I did it as well.
Spencer Bowen: [00:20:07] And then I don’t, I used to commute via Amtrak, but not anymore.
Reem Rayef: [00:20:11] Okay.
Spencer Bowen: [00:20:11] So I don’t think I’ve either one of those. Yeah.
Reem Rayef: [00:20:15] Air travel?
Spencer Bowen: [00:20:16] Yeah. So in the past year I had one long trip to Chicago. Then we dug into our energy bills.
Reem Rayef: [00:20:22] All right. So your electricity bill, how much would you say you spend per year, Or per month? Or you can give me the kilowatt hours.
Sarah Edwards: [00:20:29] I don’t have that for you but I added up how much it’s costing me per year. And it’s 900 total. So I don’t know if we wanted to divide that by two and say it’s 450 for my portion of it.
Reem Rayef: [00:20:41] Yes. Do you buy energy-
Sarah Edwards: [00:20:45] From PG&E.
Reem Rayef: [00:20:47] For PG&E. Do you, are you signed up for their like clean energy program? You can say like oh I want my power to come from solar panels, which isn’t necessarily true but
Sarah Edwards: [00:20:56] I honestly don’t know. I try to look and see if I could find it.
Reem Rayef: [00:20:59] OK.
Sarah Edwards: [00:21:00] I’ve no idea. So probably not.
Spencer Bowen: [00:21:03] I revealed some shocking information about my diet.
Reem Rayef: [00:21:06] OK now on to food. Poultry and egg.
Spencer Bowen: [00:21:12] Well above average.
Reem Rayef: [00:21:15] What did, can you elaborate?
Spencer Bowen: [00:21:15] I eat so many eggs.
Reem Rayef: [00:21:17] Oh God, how many?
Spencer Bowen: [00:21:19] My breakfast is like I’m gonna die of cholesterol related, so I don’t.
Reem Rayef: [00:21:23] Is that like eight eggs?
Spencer Bowen: [00:21:23] Think that translates to, like say let’s say double. Well its like, I’m presented with I’m like, well like, I care about my body. Am I gonna have like six pancakes? Or am I gonna have some eggs? You know, usually I go
Reem Rayef: [00:21:36] It seems like you’re having more than some eggs.
Spencer Bowen: [00:21:40] Some eggs, a little toast. And then we try to figure out how Sarah’s dog Kiwi factors into her footprint.
Sarah Edwards: [00:21:44] Is there a spot your account for pets?
Reem Rayef: [00:21:46] No actually, that’s an interesting thing that’s missing from from the calculator. What do you think Kiwis footprint looks like?
Sarah Edwards: [00:21:54] Like not small. She is, both of you have met her, She is a pretty big German shepherd. She eats a lot of food now, but she also brings a lot of joy. So I’m not sure.
Spencer Bowen: [00:22:08] At the end of a pretty detailed questionnaire, we received our results.
Reem Rayef: [00:22:13] So we have your results, Spencer.
Spencer Bowen: [00:22:15] Wow. Okay. I’m excited.
Reem Rayef: [00:22:17] According to the cool climate calculators, you emit 14 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Spencer Bowen: [00:22:24] Holy moly.
Reem Rayef: [00:22:25] Which is 38 percent better than average, so that’s pretty good.
Spencer Bowen: [00:22:27] Really?
Reem Rayef: [00:22:27] Yeah. I think this compares you to other people in Berkeley, so you’re doing pretty well.
Spencer Bowen: [00:22:32] That just seems high though.
Reem Rayef: [00:22:33] Okay. Are you ready for your results. Woah, what! OK. So, you’re at 12 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Sarah Edwards: [00:22:48] Oh, hey!
Spencer Bowen: [00:22:48] What?
Reem Rayef: [00:22:48] I really don’t know.
Sarah Edwards: [00:22:50] AIts probably because my driving is so low.
Spencer Bowen: [00:22:52] I’m questioning this tool.
Reem Rayef: [00:22:55] Oh no, you’re 50 percent better than the average Oakland-ite, Oaklander.
Sarah Edwards: [00:22:59] Oaklander.
Reem Rayef: [00:22:59] Oaklander, sorry. Yeah, how did that happen?
Sarah Edwards: [00:23:05] I’m feeling so proud of myself.
Reem Rayef: [00:23:06] That’s really confusing.
Spencer Bowen: [00:23:08] So to recap: Reem’s footprint is sixteen tonnes per year, mine is fourteen, and Sarah’s is a lean twelve, all well above the global average of about six tonnes per capita. After reviewing our results and taking a look at the recommendations from the calculator, we each decided on the rules we would live by for the next two weeks. Sarah pledged to eat a vegetarian diet, take only the stairs rather than elevators, avoid using electric powered machines at the gym like the treadmill, and extend the battery life of her phone and laptop. I also went veggie, tried to unplug my electronics to avoid what’s called vampire power use, and limited myself to five minute showers to reduce my water consumption. Reem’s challenge was going vegan for two weeks, taking five minute showers, unplugging her electronics, taking the stairs, and reducing her consumption of processed and packaged foods. Hey this is Spencer from talk policy to me with a really cool upcoming event about homeland security. On Tuesday April 2nd, you can join U.C. President, former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, and former governor of Arizona Janet Napolitano for a lunchtime talk at the Goldman School on what we should do differently to get homeland security on track in a new era. President Napolitano will discuss climate change, cybersecurity, natural disasters, immigration policy, and more. Reach out to us on social media at Goldman school to learn more or to register. See you there.
Reem Rayef: [00:25:03] Before I leave I want to unplug all of my electronics that I can at least in my own bedroom and then I’ll head over and catch the bus.
Sarah Edwards: [00:25:39] So I’m taking the stairs at the office which, I didn’t know where they were. I had to get our supervisor to come show me where they are and how to get into them. It’s four flights of stairs and yeah, here we are. I’m doing it. All right. So I just got home from the grocery store. I think I did pretty well. My boyfriend’s out of town still so I went to the closer grocery store. Usually we’ll drive over to the sprouts. I just walked up to this Korean market near me and I think I remembered my usable bag and everything I got was like no packaging except for the coffee because I’m just not going to cave on that one. And I tried to get things specifically that would be in season. So I got some kale, I got some leeks, which I haven’t cooked within a while so I’m excited about that. I got an onion and I got coffee and I got some pears. I usually eat bananas and like some kind of a protein bar in the morning. So instead I’m going to try and use pears because I figure more likely that they’re local and they’re in season, so smaller carbon footprint on those. And I’m going to try and do nuts instead of a protein bar, but I have a good amount of bulk nuts here. I’m definitely going to end up needing to shop more this week. I figured this was a pretty good start. I’ll make some lunches with like quinoa and beans, which have some packaging but at least it’s no meat products in them. And we’ll go from there.
Reem Rayef: [00:27:19] So now we are. This is Thursday and we started on Monday. So we’re four days into the challenge. How’s everyone doing?
Spencer Bowen: [00:27:27] Emotionally? Physically? Spiritually?
Reem Rayef: [00:27:30] All three, start with spiritually.
Spencer Bowen: [00:27:33] I’m doing well. Gosh what do I, I am finding, Okay so my, how should I start this. I’m basically, my endeavor is to walk and bike everywhere and eat vegetarian and unplug stuff basically. The unplugging and like responsible use of power strips and like charging it better times has been surprisingly easy. And I’m loving that. It’s great. I intend to keep doing that after this. Like it just makes a lot of sense it’s part of my routine now. I have mostly held true to the vegetarian thing except for two slips. Sarah caught me in class eating a turkey sandwich.
Sarah Edwards: [00:28:22] It was like Spencer, is that like a fake turkey?
Spencer Bowen: [00:28:26] No know it was Monday, Mondays I’m here from 8:00 til 7:00 and I just wasn’t gonna make it without a little something something. And then on Tuesday, I had sushi, so I had fish. But that was like a long planned sushi outing that happened to fall during our live our values weeks. So yeah I’m feeling great. What about y’all.
Reem Rayef: [00:28:50] What. Well what was your carbon footprint going into it? Do you remember your number?
Spencer Bowen: [00:28:55] High.
Reem Rayef: [00:28:55] Do you remember it?
Spencer Bowen: [00:28:57] I think it was fourteen.
Reem Rayef: [00:28:59] Somewhere around there. low teens
Spencer Bowen: [00:29:00] Yeah yeah because I think Sarah’s was 13 something and mine was higher, by a little bit.
Reem Rayef: [00:29:04] A little bit that was surprising. OK, Sarah what were your rules?
Sarah Edwards: [00:29:08] Well mine were like maybe a little more squishy than precise. One of my big rules was to not take the elevator because I feel like that’s an unnecessary waste. Like it’s very easy to take the elevator but if I can take the stairs then I’m using energy for basically no good reason. I was going to try and be basically vegetarian, but not working very well for me. I have like some weird food things and apparently just replacing meat with beans just like makes my stomach hurt. So I’mma pass on that one for the rest of the time. I’m still trying to eat less meat but I think I can’t draw a hard line, which is interesting. I didn’t really expect that. And as a former vegetarian I’m very anti tofu. Like I think tofu can be delicious but I think as like replacing all of your meats with tofu it seems like just really it’s like very produced. So I’ve always wondered about the efficiency of that.
Spencer Bowen: [00:30:11] I’m basically doing that currently.
Reem Rayef: [00:30:13] I was gonna say I just got really scared because I’m trying to be vegan this week and I have replaced everything with tofu.
Spencer Bowen: [00:30:21] Theres tofu coursing through my veins right now.
Reem Rayef: [00:30:23] Which is basically estrogen.
Spencer Bowen: [00:30:25] I am 80 percent tofu. So I’m concerned. Reem, how is going, are you successfully going vegan?
Reem Rayef: [00:30:38] I am successfully going vegan except, yesterday, I realized that the I realized that the hot chocolate that I had been having with not vegan.
Spencer Bowen: [00:30:47] Was there a milk product in there, somewhere?
Reem Rayef: [00:30:49] Yeah there is milk product. My other rules, other than being vegan, which I actually had experience and I did it for a summer just to see what it was all about. And it was fine because my two favorite foods Oreo and guacamole are vegan Oreos and guacamole are vegan.
Spencer Bowen: [00:31:05] Sorry, your two favorite foods are what?
Reem Rayef: [00:31:07] Oreos and guacamole.
Spencer Bowen: [00:31:08] Together or seperate?
Reem Rayef: [00:31:09] Not together.
Spencer Bowen: [00:31:10] Oh OK.
Sarah Edwards: [00:31:10] Oh OK. that makes more sense.
Reem Rayef: [00:31:10] One for breakfast and one for dinner. So I am vegan. I am also trying to do the stairs thing, so our butts look amazing. I’m also doing the unplugging stuff, that’s actually been hard for me to remember.
Spencer Bowen: [00:31:22] Oh really.
Reem Rayef: [00:31:22] Yeah.
Spencer Bowen: [00:31:23] How so, like, like, as you’re going out the door kind of or?
Reem Rayef: [00:31:26] Yeah I’ll be like past my door. I am already like halfway to school and I’m like oh darn it, my chargers still plugged in.Spencer Bowen: [00:31:32] The benefit of having like my 100 square feet of space is almost everything is on the same power strip.
Reem Rayef: [00:31:37] Okay, so you can just turn it off.
Spencer Bowen: [00:31:38] I can just pop it on and off, yeah, its pretty good.
Reem Rayef: [00:31:40] And that was one of the recommendations that we got from the Cool Climate Calculator was get a power strip.
Spencer Bowen: [00:31:43] Yeah. So I had that but I wasn’t doing it effectively and I was charging stuff overnight. So I’m getting it all charged before then turning off the power strip at night and when I leave. It’s been great right.
Sarah Edwards: [00:31:52] Yeah. That’s something I was going to do, but it’s honestly just not happened.
Spencer Bowen: [00:32:00] I feel like you have like a smart home too, like everything is wired.
Sarah Edwards: [00:32:04] Yeah like not because I’m smart.
Spencer Bowen: [00:32:07] You are very smart, but I know what you’re saying.
Sarah Edwards: [00:32:11] My boyfriend has like smart homed our home. So there’s a lot of things that are wired. I think it would be very easy to do it via the power strip, but honestly I’ve just forgotten that I said I was going to do that. So goals for next week.
Spencer Bowen: [00:32:25] Pitfalls.
Reem Rayef: [00:32:27] Pitfalls, our simple brains. Also let us remind ourselves that you don’t turn on the heat in your house and it’s been totally freezing this week.
Sarah Edwards: [00:32:36] Yeah. I mean I still wouldn’t have turned on the heat because it costs way more. Like it’s just it’s it’s a lot. There’s just a lot of cubic feet in my apartment because the ceilings are so tall so I just haven’t, we don’t ever, but there has been more electric blanket use. But I wasn’t going to not do that. Have you all been not turning on your heaters in this week still?
Reem Rayef: [00:33:04] No I have turned my heat on extra. It’s so so cold in my home, which is poorly insulated.
Sarah Edwards: [00:33:08] You can’t not.
Reem Rayef: [00:33:08] Right, yeah, I’ll die.
Spencer Bowen: [00:33:09] I too never use the heat.
Reem Rayef: [00:33:13] Are you able to control it?
Spencer Bowen: [00:33:14] Yeah. We have a heater in our room.
Reem Rayef: [00:33:16] But there’s no central heating?
Spencer Bowen: [00:33:18] I think there is central heating but it doesn’t, it’s like shared spaces, it’s not, yeah. It’s a pretty antiquated building. It was built in like 1930 I think so, it’s like a radiator heater by my window that I could turn on but I haven’t this whole time.
Reem Rayef: [00:33:33] I’ve also been doing five minute showers which has been same less challenging than I thought.
Spencer Bowen: [00:33:38] Oh so easy. Yeah. Tell me about your shower experience. Walk me through it.
Reem Rayef: [00:33:42] Its good.
Spencer Bowen: [00:33:42] What techniques are you using in order to achieve this goal?
Reem Rayef: [00:33:47] Well normally I would like try to accomplish a lot of things in the shower like I’ll try and sometimes brush my teeth.
Spencer Bowen: [00:33:52] Same, I’ll cop.
Reem Rayef: [00:33:53] Sometimes I’ll like wash my face in the shower, but now I’m just like I’m scrubbing my body and I’m getting in and out and I am a fairly small person so I like the square footage is low. So I think I have an advantage over Spencer.
Spencer Bowen: [00:34:06] We’re the same height.
Reem Rayef: [00:34:10] True.
Spencer Bowen: [00:34:10] Yeah, as I mentioned last time, there are these nifty little timers on the lights in my glorified dorm. So, I set it to five every time and I’ve been I’ve been in and out of there before it turns out on me. So, yeah. Sarah, you almost got on a treadmill, but then thought better of it? Is this is this correct?
Sarah Edwards: [00:34:29] Yeah. Our text thread from this week has been a lot.
Spencer Bowen: [00:34:31] It and put it in, you know, energy terms.
Sarah Edwards: [00:34:34] Yeah, so true stories, I did use the treadmill once, on, I must have used it on Tuesday and then Wednesday I was like Oh my God I used the treadmill like yesterday I wasn’t going to do that, but then because I did remember I used the rowing machine which I figure is self powered and so I don’t feel bad about that.
Reem Rayef: [00:34:53] Okay so you’ve done, we’ve mostly confessed our sins but I want to do like a a formal enter the confession booth. Sarah, what have you done this week?
Sarah Edwards: [00:35:03] Like I felt terrible about this one. One of my things was to not use disposable mugs because I feel like that should be like the frickin easiest thing in the world, righ? I try not to do a lot of afternoon coffees just in general in life because anxiety and coffee are like boo! But today, I just completely forgot and went and got myself a snack and got myself a coffee and left and was like No.
Spencer Bowen: [00:35:37] How the coffee?
Sarah Edwards: [00:35:39] It was good.
Spencer Bowen: [00:35:39] Strada?
Sarah Edwards: [00:35:39] No, I-house.
Spencer Bowen: [00:35:39] Ok. good choice.
Reem Rayef: [00:35:46] But we’re only on day four, Sarah.
Spencer Bowen: [00:35:47] Did it taste like betrayal?
Sarah Edwards: [00:35:52] Tasted like carbon.
Spencer Bowen: [00:35:55] It tastes like global warming
Reem Rayef: [00:35:57] It tasted like coral reef dying.
Sarah Edwards: [00:36:00] It tasted like caffeination, which tastes like happiness, which tastes productivity, which tastes like solving problems in other ways. Mic drop.
Spencer Bowen: [00:36:07] Well done.
Reem Rayef: [00:36:10] Spencer hit us with your confessions.
Spencer Bowen: [00:36:13] Already, I mean I confessed to my my slip ups on the meat thing. I may have I think, so there’s like this, in the mornings there is kind of this like peppers and sausage thing they put out because again I eat in the cafeteria and I might have gotten a couple of pieces of sausage there, but that was not my intent. I don’t feel bad about that it’s just kind of like a logistical scooping situation. It’s like oh no now its inside it, but I’ve been mostly lentil and tofu guy in the mornings. Lot of oatmeal. Heavy on the oatmeal, vats of oatmeal. No I actually have a really excitng, I don’t know this is the time, you might have a question, but I discovered that there is a public bike pump and like bike tuning station at Soda Hall right down here, in the little like courtyard and I was gonna go to a bike shop but I discovered it kind of on my way and since I’ve been riding my bike so much I kind of realized like my back tire needs some air and it’s super cool. It like worked really well and it’s a great resource and it’s across the street from the Goldman School so.
Reem Rayef: [00:37:17] We’re so conveniently located, so central to campus.
Spencer Bowen: [00:37:18] Yes. Well, somewhat disagree, since we’re on top of Mt. Doom. Besides that, yeah we’re central.
Reem Rayef: [00:37:29] So wait, have you been biking to campus?
Spencer Bowen: [00:37:31] I’ve been walking mostly. Tuesday night, I went to my sushi dinner, where I ate fish.
Reem Rayef: [00:37:38] Was it a date?
Spencer Bowen: [00:37:43] It wasn’t a date. It was a friend date.
Reem Rayef: [00:37:44] Tell the truth.
Spencer Bowen: [00:37:44] With three friends, so it would have been an awkward date. Anywho, so I biked over to the Rockridge area and College and then I biked down. After that, I met up with old colleagues from work at Raleigh’s, biked down there. So that was a nice little example of a really easy and just like reminding myself how bikeable Berkeley is how if you know you know which streets have the good bike lanes and you have your proper lighting and stuff, it’s pretty easy. So I hope to continue this habit even more so even after this this thing, because you know to rep my hometown of Davis, California, home of the nation’s first bike lane, I really should ride my bike more. It’s too easy.
Reem Rayef: [00:38:25] That’s awesome. Oh the other challenge I wanted to bring up was, I know that you were trying to do this at the beginning, Sarah, but I wanted to try and eat less processed and packaged foods and that is really hard, especially when you’re vegan because then you’ve like really cut like like soyrizo from Trader Joes out because that’s in a package and also a lot of Trader Joe’s produce is in a package for no real reason.
Sarah Edwards: [00:38:50] Like literally all of Trader Joe’s things, in packages for no reasons. I love me a Trader Joe’s thing, but like why, why don’t they have anything in bulk?
Spencer Bowen: [00:38:59] I had a protein bar during class today and it’s packaged individually, but what can you do? You know, you’re hungry.
Reem Rayef: [00:39:06] You’ve gotta make the gains.
Spencer Bowen: [00:39:09] Well its not about gains, it’s like, it’s like, you know it’s 10:30 and it’s the bewitching hour, it’s like ooh, hunger hits.
Reem Rayef: [00:39:17] Yeah. That’s real.
Spencer Bowen: [00:39:18] But I agree it’s been hard to avoid those, it kind of pervades like everything around us.
Sarah Edwards: [00:39:23] And I think some of it is comes down to planning. I think we’re all very busy grad students that like yeah in an ideal world, I would only ever like go to places with bulk things with my own mason jar and like get all my nuts and like bulk snacks. But but yeah. But that’s just not not reasonable and also not how my week went like I expected to go to Sprouts and get a bunch of bulk stuff and that just like didn’t fit into my week and so yeah I ate all the nuts that I had at my house and then ate Clif bars and like it’s not ideal but like I have some kind of a protein based item every morning for breakfast and like I’m not gonna not eat.
Spencer Bowen: [00:40:07] Reem, is there a big confession we haven’t heard from you yet, or are you pretty much perfect?
Reem Rayef: [00:40:12] Yeah I think the latter. Next question.
Spencer Bowen: [00:40:16] What we already knew.
Reem Rayef: [00:40:20] No, I did, I like did not succeed at not eating processed food.
Spencer Bowen: [00:40:23] Yes.
Sarah Edwards: [00:40:24] So my question, I think for Reem as our leader and I guess, for all of us is what, we’re doing this for a second week, what is our plan going into the second week? Like what, what are we doing different, Is there anything that anyone wants to pick up that they haven’t done, or anything of that nature?
Reem Rayef: [00:40:44] That’s a great question. I think I’m, I think I’m going to try and continue with the vegan thing. I’m gonna keep taking, I haven’t taken any Ubers this week, which is good. I sometimes take Ubers.
Spencer Bowen: [00:40:57] I’m more of a Lyft guy myself but it’s fine.
Reem Rayef: [00:40:59] Yeah well, alright, Ethical Edward over there.
Spencer Bowen: [00:41:03] Ethical Edward says the lesser of two evils is better. Different podcast.
Reem Rayef: [00:41:09] I don’t know I wasn’t gonna add anything, I was gonna try and keep on keeping on. What were you thinking?
Sarah Edwards: [00:41:16] I mean I think yesterday I came to terms with the fact that I have to adjust the food situation. And so, I think, I guess that’s mostly just dropping it. But I think I’m going to try, I’m going to try to double down on less things that include waste, so I think I am going to do like a really big bulk shopping and try to not use protein bars. I’m doing pretty well taking the stairs. So, will continue to do that. Yeah I think one of the things that I didn’t do was the like power strip thing and so I think a little bit more like home related things, I think will be good. My partner was out of town until Tuesday night so I think there’s some things that kind of felt like would be a good activity to do together. So he doesn’t just come home and is like why is nothing working?
Spencer Bowen: [00:42:04] Yeah I think I’m gonna keep on keepin on, climate wise. I’ve been pretty proud of myself at the vegetarian thing. I’ve never really done this and it’s going pretty well, except for a sushi here or there.
Sarah Edwards: [00:42:15] In part two of this episode we’ll check back in at the end of our live your values challenge. Sarah, Spencer, and I will discuss what was hard, what was easy, what was surprising, what was expensive, and most importantly what new low carbon habits we might stick with. I’ll also be speaking with two really exciting guests: Dan Kammen, an awesome professor at the Energy and Resources Group and the Goldman School, a climate advocate, a former Science Envoy to the State Department during the Obama administration, and one of the other contributors to the making of the cool climate calculator. And Bob Epstein, a current board director of the Goldman School and co-founder of environmental entrepreneurs, a coalition of business leaders who advocate for smart climate policy. Stay tuned.
Reem Rayef: [00:43:04] You’re a big nut person now.
Sarah Edwards: [00:43:04] I am, I am a very big nut person. Well, I mean take it.
Reem Rayef: [00:43:11] Can a nut eat nuts?