Whole-ier Than Thou

The carbon benefits of a hermit lifestyle

| | According to safeclimate.net, Nicole is an enviro angel|

Dear Mega Carbon Emitter... I mean, Megan: I love a challenge, especially one that's impossible to lose. See, here's the thing—it's not that I'm more environmentally savvy than you (hemp? ew!); it's just that I never leave New York City. I rarely travel. I'm practically a hermit. And hermits have tiny, tiny carbon footprints. Like baby shoes.

To prove it, I logged on to Al Gore's Web site (www.climatecrisis.net) and calculated my carbon impact. I spent two minutes answering simple questions about the type of car I own (a 1996 GTI with 82,000 miles on it), how often I fly (about four times a year), how much I spend monthly on utilities ($65, max.) and how many people live in my little apartment (uno). The results: I emit 5.1 tons of carbon dioxide a year. (Presumably this calculation does not take into account the amount I produce by breathing, which brings up an interesting trivia question: How much carbon could we keep out of the atmosphere if humanity held its collective breath for 20 seconds?) Anyway, the average person, according to Al Gore and friends, emits 7.5 tons of carbon each year—a conservative estimate compared with Environmental Defense's calculator (www.fightglobalwarming.com), which says I emit 9.3 tons. Either way, though, I'm better for the planet than you.

Granted, I'm a loser: I seldom leave home, I'm single, and I read in the dark. I ride public transportation, and I rarely shop online (think of all those carbon-emitting FedEx planes!). But these things are beside the point. When cities flood and deserts dry up and plagues spread like kudzu—all the fun promised by global warming—I will feel better knowing that it's your fault and not mine.

Which isn't to say I have no plans for making my already petite carbon footprint even more petite. Since you're buying your way to a cleaner, greener conscience, I'll definitely need to take action to maintain my competitive edge. This weekend's project is to replace my incandescent lightbulbs with energy-saving compact fluorescents and hope they're compatible with the awesome dimmer switches that I recently installed in my kitchen and bedroom (CF bulbs typically have narrow dimming ranges). It would be a huge bummer to sacrifice mood lighting for the sake of this competition and the environment, but I'll do it if push comes to shove. And if things get really nasty, I'll even consider running my compact GE dishwasher less and switching to one of those dreadful eco-toilet-paper brands and pray I don't get a rash. So those are my modest but doable carbon-saving plans for the weekend. What about you, Megan? Oh, wait, you're flying to New Mexico... —Nicole Dyer