Trying to leave no carbon footprints

Dec 27, 2022, 6:55 PM | Updated: 7:10 pm

PARK CITY, Utah — Making a new year’s resolution to shrink your carbon footprint in 2023? According to two people who’ve kept track of their contributions to greenhouse gases, you can make it smaller without spending more money.

How small may depend upon how you count your carbon.

As one of two state coordinators for the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Tom Moyer figured if he was going to advocate for a cleaner Utah, he’d better put his carbon footprint where his mouth was.

“What does it look like to truly live a zero emissions life?” the robotics engineer said. “Okay, let’s work on it one step at a time.”

Using hard numbers and estimates, he now keeps an annual accounting of his major sources of greenhouse gases: his house, cars, heaters, leaked refrigerants, food waste, and flights.

In recent years, Moyer and his family built a new home and used that opportunity to design it with energy efficiency in mind. It includes a heat pump, solar cells, and a lot of insulation.

He drives an electric car.

To compensate for air travel, he buys credits from companies that actually take carbon dioxide out of the air.

The final tally, he says, is zero – a net zero carbon footprint.


Moyer said the house and solar cells, when you consider their bigger mortgage but lower energy bills, costs about the same as their old house. Their electric car, he said, when you consider the gasoline they don’t buy, is cheaper.

“Not all environmentalism has to be unpleasant. You can improve people’s lives and save them money in some cases,” he said.

He admitted the carbon credits, though, are expensive.

“It’s insanely expensive. I would not recommend it,” he said.

Tom Moyer is a state coordinator for the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. (KSL TV) Tom Moyer is a state coordinator for the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. His green home and electric car helped him get his carbon footprint to zero. (Tom Moyer) Architect Lloyd Alter, author of "Living the 1.5 Degree Lifestyle," attempted to limit his annual footprint to 2.5 metric tons of CO2. (KSL TV)

Moyer does not count embedded carbon, the greenhouse gases it takes to make something get it to you, maintain it and dispose of it because he said those things are out of his control.

Lloyd Alter, author of “Living the 1.5 Degree Lifestyle,” did. The Toronto architect attempted to limit his annual footprint to 2.5 metric tons of CO2. According to the 2015 Paris Accord, if everyone kept to that, it would limit global warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade.

Alter said he made it work only with the help of public transportation and an e-bike.

“Driving is the one thing that will kill you on this thing, if you have to drive a car, you can’t do it,” he said. “It’s a lifestyle that’s much easier if you’re a nice moderately wealthy middle-class person living in a streetcar suburb who works from home.”

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Trying to leave no carbon footprints