Keelan: Carbon emissions & recycled toilet paper

toilet paper rolls inside tote bag
Photo by Vie Studio on

by Don Keelan

I am pleased to report that my Arlington office greenhouse gas emissions, for the year ending August 31, 2021, emit just a few metric tons with heating and electricity usage making close to 80% of the total.  That’s a significant reduction over the last several years.  

Don Keelan

While I am not required to report my findings to any government agency, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, I believe it is essential to stay on top of the data using the Carbon Footprint Calculator.

Collecting the data for carbon emissions reporting is no easy task; the data collection system lacks standardization and accuracy.

In my case, I calculated what carbon emissions are produced and included the estimated emissions of those automobiles that bring visitors to my office. It does not end there. I also had to derive the impact of the Staples, USPS, Fed Ex, and UPS deliveries, although deliveries have diminished since my retirement two years ago. However, I continue to drive my car each day, the one mile to the office. 

I can’t imagine how much work and cost it must be for a publicly-traded company to extract its carbon emissions. 

For example, in a recent Wall Street Journal article, Microsoft Corp. reported that its 2017 carbon emissions were 22 million metric tons (later reduced to 11 million). Interestingly, only 3% of the emissions came from the company’s manufacturing. The balance, referred to as Scope 3 emissions, came from employees driving to work, suppliers producing products for the company, and if you can believe this, users producing carbon emissions while playing with a Microsoft product, such as Xbox.

Just how accurate are these numbers that are being reported to shareholders, lenders, and the SEC? For many corporate filers, the data is compiled by the companies’ outside auditors or consultants. 

Back to my carbon output: it has come down significantly after replacing all of the office windows and bringing in a new oil-fired furnace that operates at 91% efficiency, not in the high 60’s as was the case of the old furnace. 

The office went from consuming 1,400 gallons of oil annually to 400; the make-over wasn’t inexpensive, about $25,000 several years ago. 

I was looking forward to additional improvements by having my next-door neighbor, who does the landscaping on my small plot, forgo his gas-fired lawn mower, hedge trimmer, leaf blower, and weed wacker. Unfortunately, he declined my suggestion of using a rotary mower, bellows, sickle, and hand-held hedge cutter.

It was wise of me to have done the window and furnace work when I did. Because if I interpret the latest publication from the Vermont Legislative Climate Solutions Cases correctly, what were once “statute aspirational targets” will now be “mandates.”

The VLCS and the Vermont Climate Council are reportedly developing the “roadmap” to reduce Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions by 26% below 2005 levels by the year 2025. Suppose these mandates are forced upon Vermonters– home, business, nonprofits, municipalities, schools, and rental apartment owners. The outcry and divisiveness will be far greater than Vermont experienced when Act 60 or Civil Unions came into existence. 

Asking a company to calculate how much a product end-user is churning out in carbon emissions is ludicrous.

I hope to do even better by adopting what was reported in the WSJ piece concerning the National Resource Defense Council’s suggestion: we should all convert our toilet paper usage to recycled paper. In my case, I can go from being responsible for producing 839 annual pounds of carbon to 260 pounds.  

Meanwhile, I have written enough. I am going home now to maintain the 36 deciduous trees recently planted along my Battenkill River frontage by 350VT, Trout Unlimited, Battenkill Watershed Alliance, and Bennington County Regional Planning. The trees are to provide riparian support for the river’s fish 50 years from now.   

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