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  1. #1
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Carbon footprint of cycling

    I just scored a copy of How Bad are Bananas at the library and have been completely engrossed.

    To my surprise, the author provides the following information about riding a bike 1 mile.

    If your cycling calories come from cheeseburgers, the emissions per mile are about the same as two people driving in an efficient car
    The good news is that cycling that mile under the influence of a banana has a footprint of about a quart of the cheeseburger. I believe powering with oatmeal calories emit even fewer grams of carbon dioxide.

    I guess I have been pretty smarmy about cycling vs motoring, but now will remind myself that it is only an efficient means of transportation if my diet is also not too wasteful of food resources.

  2. #2
    Senior Member enigmaT120's Avatar
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    The people in the car probably ate a cheese burger apiece. They are just storing the calories rather than burning them up.

    Is that an example of carbon sequestration?
    Ed Miller
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  3. #3
    Senior Member bluegoatwoods's Avatar
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    Never forget that sometimes people just make stuff up.

    This sounds like an example.

    Don't be too gullible.

  4. #4
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Roughly speaking, it takes about 40 calories to ride a bike one mile, and there are about 300 calories in a small cheeseburger.

    The carbon in the cheeseburger itself is more or less neutral, since it comes from the atmosphere and is quickly returned to the atmosphere. Of course, that doesn't take into account the petroleum required to produce the cheeseburger and deliver it to the consumer, which comes from the ground and is emitted into the atmosphere.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  5. #5
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    Roughly speaking, it takes about 40 calories to ride a bike one mile, and there are about 300 calories in a small cheeseburger.

    The carbon in the cheeseburger itself is more or less neutral, since it comes from the atmosphere and is quickly returned to the atmosphere. Of course, that doesn't take into account the petroleum required to produce the cheeseburger and deliver it to the consumer, which comes from the ground and is emitted into the atmosphere.
    The point is to consider the fuel itself along with the all the energy that goes into its manufacture. Of course, of all meat sources, beef consumes more energy and emits quite a large amount of methane which is the worst greenhouse gas. The author goes to some pains to explain the complexity of the calculation and admits it probably could be improved if more inputs were known. His technique is to attempt to apply all calculations equally across a number of common human activities, like eating a banana, washing dishes, getting to work, that sort of thing.

    My takeaway is that you should not pride yourself on being "green" even if you ride everywhere on bike and eat a vegetarian diet if, at the same time, you are taking a transatlantic airplane trip every year. Or, as stated, if you ride to work on cheeseburgers.

  6. #6
    cycleobsidian
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    The point is to consider the fuel itself along with the all the energy that goes into its manufacture. Of course, of all meat sources, beef consumes more energy and emits quite a large amount of methane which is the worst greenhouse gas. The author goes to some pains to explain the complexity of the calculation and admits it probably could be improved if more inputs were known. His technique is to attempt to apply all calculations equally across a number of common human activities, like eating a banana, washing dishes, getting to work, that sort of thing.

    My takeaway is that you should not pride yourself on being "green" even if you ride everywhere on bike and eat a vegetarian diet if, at the same time, you are taking a transatlantic airplane trip every year. Or, as stated, if you ride to work on cheeseburgers.
    Yes, beef in particular does require a lot of energy to produce. The manufacture of beef requires tremendous amount of energy from pesticides and fuel to grow the grains that the cows eat. It also requires a huge amount of antibiotics to keep the cows from dying due to living in overcrowded conditions. Cows need vast amounts of water, and not to forget the treatment of all that sewage. Many groundwater systems have been permanently contaminated by the feces of pigs and cows.

    It is better to get protein the same way that chimpanzees, elephants and cows do...from plants. This is a much more efficient way to get the energy we need. Just skip the middle man, er...animal....

  7. #7
    Senior Member Ziemas's Avatar
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    Why are so many threads in Living Car Free about cars?

  8. #8
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ziemas View Post
    Why are so many threads in Living Car Free about cars?
    There are some threads about cars, but this isn't one of them. This thread is about cheeseburgers.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  9. #9
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cycleobsidian View Post
    Yes, beef in particular does require a lot of energy to produce. The manufacture of beef requires tremendous amount of energy from pesticides and fuel to grow the grains that the cows eat. It also requires a huge amount of antibiotics to keep the cows from dying due to living in overcrowded conditions. Cows need vast amounts of water, and not to forget the treatment of all that sewage. Many groundwater systems have been permanently contaminated by the feces of pigs and cows.

    It is better to get protein the same way that chimpanzees, elephants and cows do...from plants. This is a much more efficient way to get the energy we need. Just skip the middle man, er...animal....
    The CO2 calculation by the author is also based on the fact that cows, like sheep, are ruminates. As they digest their food, they belch out methane... one of the worst greenhouse gases. This little quote describes it

    The FAO report [a 2006 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)] found that current production levels of meat contribute between 14 and 22 percent of the 36 billion tons of "CO2-equivalent" greenhouse gases the world produces every year. It turns out that producing half a pound of hamburger for someone's lunch a patty of meat the size of two decks of cards releases as much greenhouse gas into the atmosphere as driving a 3,000-pound car nearly 10 miles.
    from:http://www.scientificamerican.com/ar...ouse-hamburger

  10. #10
    My legs hurt
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    if you ride to work on cheeseburgers.
    I tried that once. The rolling resistance was terrible.

  11. #11
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by enigmaT120 View Post
    The people in the car probably ate a cheese burger apiece. They are just storing the calories rather than burning them up.

    Is that an example of carbon sequestration?
    This is my point...the US is effectively in the midst of an obesity epidemic, how they can figure that a transportation cyclist is going to have a carbon foot print larger than the overweight guy behind the wheel is beyond me. I don't ride enough, I have taken to walking 2-3 miles a day just to make sure I am getting enough exercise and to keep from gaining weight due to a job position change. I watch what I eat and lean towards the veggie side of things. Then get in a relatively efficient car and drive 1500 miles a week Damned if I do and Damned if I don't...

    Aaron
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  12. #12
    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    There are some threads about cars, but this isn't one of them. This thread is about cheeseburgers.
    But cheeseburgers and cars go well together.

    "He who serves all, best serves himself" Jack London

    Quote Originally Posted by Bjforrestal View Post
    I don't care if you are on a unicycle, as long as you're not using a motor to get places you get props from me. We're here to support each other. Share ideas, and motivate one another to actually keep doing it.

  13. #13
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    Since I'm down to 1-2x burger meals per week, and I ride 6, I'll declare that I'm OK.

    Which I would have done anyway.

    Since doing those 'carbon footprint' tests all over the www, I figured out that my carbon footprint is doubled just by having my family live with me; well, to hell with THAT, carbon will just have to build up. I've grown rather fond of my sister and our assorted kids.

  14. #14
    Senior Member JeanSeb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bendembroski View Post
    I tried that once. The rolling resistance was terrible.
    Studded tires maybe ?

  15. #15
    cycleobsidian
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    Quote Originally Posted by DX-MAN View Post
    Since I'm down to 1-2x burger meals per week, and I ride 6, I'll declare that I'm OK.

    Which I would have done anyway.

    Since doing those 'carbon footprint' tests all over the www, I figured out that my carbon footprint is doubled just by having my family live with me; well, to hell with THAT, carbon will just have to build up. I've grown rather fond of my sister and our assorted kids.
    Your carbon footprint may be higher by having your family live with you, but lower overall if everyone lived in their own homes. Your family's overall carbon footprint is reduced, I'm sure, by sharing resources.

    You can enjoy your family and have a lower family carbon footprint!

  16. #16
    My legs hurt
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeanSeb View Post
    Studded tires maybe ?
    If it's cheeseburgers, maybe a 'fatbike' would be more appropriate.

  17. #17
    Senior Member JeanSeb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bendembroski View Post
    If it's cheeseburgers, maybe a 'fatbike' would be more appropriate.
    Touché.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Smallwheels's Avatar
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    Fun With Figures

    So if someone went on a starvation diet could they drive a car and be carbon neutral?

    I like all of these carbon calculators. Each one is flawed in some way. They make me think.

    The problems with our environment are just relative. If you look at the Earth from the perspective of it being in a solar system and don't look deeper, the planet is doing fine and humans have no effect on its continuing to orbit the star. It is only when we delve into the aspect of humanity and how it is changing the planet that changes can be seen.

    If humanity had a goal with which we all agreed, there could be a standard for how we operate on Earth.

    All physical life forms need energy. Most get it from the sun. Some get it from other life forms. Who gets what and how much has never been figured out. As of now if you can get it you can have it.

    I don't feel it's necessary for me to compare my bicycle or moped usage to what I would use if I had a car. No matter what, I know my methods use less energy and resources. My method is better than owning and using a car in regards to energy used.

    Using a bicycle is much less expensive than walking. Bicycles save wear on shoes and use the food we eat more efficiently when that energy is put into locomotion.

    Knowing how much energy one gets out of a banana and how much carbon went into getting it to me is still interesting. I've eaten two of them today.
    Smallwheels

    Take my stuff, please. I have way too much. My current goal is to have all of my possessions fit onto a large bicycle trailer. Really.

  19. #19
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smallwheels View Post
    No matter what, I know my methods use less energy and resources. My method is better than owning and using a car in regards to energy used.
    You suspect your methods use less. And they probably do. The book points out that if you were say a big eater of asparagus flown in from Peru and maybe those tomatoes grown in Canada in greenhouses in the winter, you'd probably be wrong.

    But I'm guessing a lot of your fuel comes from oatmeal and bananas... both pretty reasonable food sources from a resource usage point of view. I find many of those high energy vegetables like tomatoes don't taste too good. And I'm not fond of cheeseburgers.

    The book also confirmed that my annual plane trip cross country is comparable to a short car commute in an efficient car over a whole year.

    Of course some of the computations are not accurate, mainly because there are just too many possible factors involved, but it's good to look at the big picture of our transportation, food, leisure, travels.... our whole lives.

    I feel better now knowing that there are smarmy Prius owners out there who may have a lower carbon footprint than myself.
    Last edited by gerv; 02-20-12 at 06:10 PM.

  20. #20
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    You suspect your methods use less. And they probably do. The book points out that if you were say a big eater of asparagus flown in from Peru and maybe those tomatoes grown in Canada in greenhouses in the winter, you'd probably be wrong.

    But I'm guessing a lot of your fuel comes from oatmeal and bananas... both pretty reasonable food sources from a resource usage point of view. I find many of those high energy vegetables like tomatoes don't taste too good. And I'm not fond of cheeseburgers.

    The book also confirmed that my annual plane trip cross country is comparable to a short car commute in an efficient car over a whole year.

    Of course some of the computations are not accurate, mainly because there are just too many possible factors involved, but it's good to look at the big picture of our transportation, food, leisure, travels.... our whole lives.

    I feel better now knowing that there are smarmy Prius owners out there who may have a lower carbon footprint than myself.
    I think your footprint would still be smaller if you ate asparagus and cheeseburgers, but rode a bike instead of a car.

    The consensus seems to be that the best ways to reduce your personal carbon footprint, in order from greatest reduction to least, are:

    1. Reduce energy consumption in your home through insulation, conservation and efficiency.
    2. Become a vegetarian or at least eat less meat.
    3. Quit driving a car, or at least drive a lot less..


    Home energy savings are expensive and a lot of work, and I would miss cheeseburgers a LOT if I gave up meat. But the great thing about Number 3 is that I get to do less of an activity that I don't like, and more of something I do enjoy.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  21. #21
    Senior Member ultimattfrisbee's Avatar
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    I haven't eaten two cheeseburgers in years. Cheeseburgers are a rare indulgence for me these days and I hate to think of the havoc two'd play on my middle-aged GI tract.

    Let's just say this: there'd be emissions issues (sorry!)!
    2009 Jamis Aurora
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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by cycleobsidian View Post
    Your carbon footprint may be higher by having your family live with you, but lower overall if everyone lived in their own homes. Your family's overall carbon footprint is reduced, I'm sure, by sharing resources.

    You can enjoy your family and have a lower family carbon footprint!
    I failed to mention that I did THEIR 'test', as well, and yep, it's lower with us being together; some members of my extended family are conspicuous consumers. They'd be OBSCENE on their own!

  23. #23
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post

    1. Reduce energy consumption in your home through insulation, conservation and efficiency.
    2. Become a vegetarian or at least eat less meat.
    3. Quit driving a car, or at least drive a lot less..
    This pretty much describes what needs to happen in G-20 countries.

  24. #24
    Vegan on a bicycle smasha's Avatar
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    the details and numbers can be debated until the earth crashes into the sun, but no one can argue the basics...

    A- riding a bicycle is greener than driving a car. in fact only walking is (arguably) greener.
    B- eating locally grown foods is greener than foods that are transported large distances.
    C- eating lower on the food chain is greener than eating higher on the food chain.

    so, being a vegan on a bicycle, I WIN

    seriously, though, i lose points for being in NZ. although i'm partial towards locally grown foods, i still eat a lot of imported stuff. some things just aren't grown in NZ.
    "When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race." - H.G. Wells

  25. #25
    Senior Member Suburban's Avatar
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    I have malabsorption syndrome, I can't eat meat anyway.

    I have rented an electric car before. I can't decide if that makes me evil or not.

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