(Photos and Video by Jenny Hernandez)
-By Arianne Bakelmun
Recently, the celebrity use of private jets for flights as short as twelve minutes has created an uproar across social media (Gollan). The discussion has brought the idea of personal carbon footprint to the forefront. According to the New York Times:
A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions that come from the production, use and end-of-life of a product or service. It includes carbon dioxide…and others, including methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases, which trap heat in the atmosphere, causing global warming. Usually, the bulk of an individual’s carbon footprint will come from transportation, housing and food. (Albeck-Ripka)
As Part of the Urban Scholars for Climate Change grant at Passaic County Community College, beginning in March 2022 and concluding in August 2022, Professor Mark Yuschak advised student Franklin Sami while he created a carbon footprint calculator. Sami coded this program while working in the STEM Makerspace Lab at PCCC. With this tool, an individual can gauge how their consumption adds to the emission of greenhouse gases and global warming. While other such calculators exist, Sami tailored his data to reflect consumers in New Jersey. Therefore, locals can use this tool to understand how their choices affect their home. It is available at http://cre8tivefranklin.github.io/CFP_Simplified/.
According to Sami, who takes data from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Our World in Data, New Jersey serves as a rich hub of imports and exports. Its location near water provides a valuable function as goods pass through the Ambrose anchorage. In addition, trucks, buses, trains, and personal cars play an important role in the transportation of both these goods and people. Yet, the state will also bear the brunt of the consequences of the increased carbon footprint from all this activity. As transportation increases the carbon footprint, this contributes to global warming and rising sea levels, and New Jersey’s asset as a coastal state turns into a vulnerability to climate-based disasters like floods and storms.
Sami’s calculator empowers New Jersey locals to understand how even their individual choices can increase their carbon footprint and contribute to climate change. His goal is not to induce guilt but to arm consumers with more information and give some control back in an area where many feel out of control. Individuals simply use sliding scales to input their consumption of vegetables and fruits, meats, clothing, private and public transportation, and energy in the form of appliances and electronics. Sami provides explanations to help users understand what each level of the sliding scale means. Users conclude by clicking the blue bar at the bottom of the calculator.
After this, they are taken to a breakdown of their carbon footprint. Rated on a scale of zero (no footprint) to five (the highest footprint), New Jersey consumers see the impact of their choices on an easily legible chart. Additionally, Sami includes suggestions with descriptions to reduce the resulting footprint in each category. People can eat less beef and more fruits and vegetables (especially locally grown), participate in thrifting clothing, mindfully use devices and electronics, and reduce transportation by private automobile.
Sami is hopeful that his carbon footprint calculator can be a tool in the fight against climate change. It has even brought his attention to his own footprint. He explains, “I never really thought about how much of the food I eat is imported. So, naturally, I start to see how high it is as I build the app.” By bringing such awareness, people are empowered to make more informed choices. He aspires to continue developing this resource, stating that, “Even after the project is over I’m going to keep adding…ideas to the app.”
Albeck-Ripka, Livia. “How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint.” The New York Times, The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/guides/year-of-living-better/how-to-reduce-your-
Gollan, Doug. “The Truth about Kylie Jenner's 12-Minute Private Jet Flights.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 25 July 2022, https://www.forbes.com/sites/douggollan/2022/07/22/the- truth-about-kylie-jenners-12-minute-private-jet-flights/?sh=614412913fa1.