I recently bought my TerraPass carbon offsets for the year. As I completed my individual carbon footprint estimate, I was struck at both how much lower my total footprint was compared to the US average, and how differently it was distributed. I’ve been flying to the US and Europe quite often since moving to Kenya to visit family and attend academic conferences, so I assumed that my total footprint would be higher than average. Here’s what I’m noticing about each category of emissions.
- Because the commercial districts of Nairobi are very compact, I rarely take trips more than 4 or 5 miles from my house. I drive a relatively fuel-efficient motorcycle if I’m on my own, or take a taxi if I’m with someone else. My neighborhood is also unusually walkable, so lots of activities like trips to the grocery store or the dentist can be done on foot or by bike.
- Taxi travel accounts for most of the “public transit” category, since Nairobi hasn’t got a public bus system or commuter rail. However, I suspect emissions for this category are underestimated, since taxi travel here does frequently entail long periods idling in traffic.
- My air travel emissions are still far too high in both relative and absolute terms. This is a tough one, since I’m flying a lot for academic conferences, Mawazo fundraising, and visits to my family and my partner’s. Video calls can partially but not completely substitute for these in-person connections. Not quite sure what to do about this.
- Because of Nairobi’s beautiful climate, I don’t have any costs to heat or cool my apartment. The emissions in the “home energy” category come from my fairly low spending on electricity and cooking gas. However, I also think that these are overstated, because the electricity estimate was done with US power generation in mind, and the Kenyan power sector uses 70% renewable resources, compared to only 18% in the US.