Measuring our carbon footprint

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By Nolie Templeton, planning analyst II and CAP ECOTeam member

It’s part of the plan. . .

A carbon footprint is the total greenhouse gas emissions caused directly and indirectly by an individual, organization, event or product. It’s calculated by summing the emissions resulting from every stage of a product or service’s lifetime. The average carbon footprint for a person in the United States is 16 tons per year, one of the highest rates in the world, largely due to transportation and consumer patterns. Globally, the average carbon footprint is closer to four tons.

Greenhouse gas inventory (measuring carbon footprint) is an important analysis for water providers. In fact, the CAWCD Board of Directors has listed minimizing CAP’s carbon footprint as a key issue in its current strategic plan, in keeping with our mission to “reliably manage and deliver Colorado River water to Maricopa, Pinal and Pima counties.”

 CAP has a unique challenge due to the amount of energy it takes to deliver water. We move water more than 336 miles, pumping it uphill nearly 3,000 feet along its journey. An expansive system requires manpower across the state and water is heavy, so it takes a lot of power.  

CAP has taken significant steps to reduce our carbon footprint:

  • Switching to a 4-day work week for the past decade
  • Incorporating a hybrid workplace
  • Adding an electric vehicle to our fleet
  • Using solar power for pumping and at remote sites
  • Installing LED light bulbs
  • Enhancing our energy portfolio with renewable options

Now, we’ve turned our attention to data gathering and quantifying our overall emissions.

Measure your own carbon footprint

You can take steps to minimize your own carbon footprint. First, begin by gathering data – just like CAP is doing. The Environmental Protection Agency can help you determining your carbon footprint: Carbon Footprint Calculator (US EPA).

This calculator takes into account your location, habits and personal choices so you can really understand your carbon footprint and learn about specific ways to reduce it.

Reduce your footprint at home

Next, CAP’s employee-run ECO Team recommends the following simple things you can do at home:

Got all that covered? Move on to advanced measures:

  • Reduce food waste by planning meals ahead of time, freezing excess and reusing leftovers
  • Set up home composting (Arizona has the highest share of food wasted and the lowest share recycled)
  • Eat a diet that’s more plant-based (even giving Meatless Mondays a try) – this reduces emissions associated with transportation and livestock
  • Consume local and seasonal products – reducing transportation
  • Purchase Energy Star appliances
  • Install solar panels

And don’t forget. . .water conservation can also reduce global energy use. By reducing water use, you can contribute to reducing energy costs for the pumping and treating of water.

Bonus points

  • In the market for a car? Consider an electric vehicle. 

Reducing your footprint at work

  • Turn computers off when leaving for an extended period of time and at the end of the day (monitors too)
  • Use reusable coffee mugs and water bottles and pack plastic-free lunches
  • Only print when necessary and print double-sided
  • Use public transportation, carpool, telework, bike or walk, when possible
  • If your work has an electric vehicle (CAP does!) – book it next time you need a fleet vehicle

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