When I first started posting about Project Nowaste, I said that I would give you calculations as to how much your extra weight translated into carbon costs. Now, this is rather difficult to calculate but I can give some ballpark figures to give you an idea of the damage. For clarification, I'm basing these calculations off of calorie expenditures for a sedentary person (an active person will require more calories).
In this example, I'm using a person who is 6'0" tall and 20 pounds overweight (that would be me)*. Those twenty pounds equals roughly an extra 100 calories per day to maintain that weight. That's assuming I'm just lumping around all day and not exercising, which is, in fact, what's been happening.
This equals an annual total of about 36,000 extra calories per year. Now, that's a lot of butter and candied orange peels.
Now, how does 36,000 extra calories translate into CO2 emissions**?
134.4 pounds of CO2 emitted per year if you eat the average American diet
71.68 pounds of CO2 emitted per year if you eat a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet
11.2 pounds of CO2 emitted per year if you eat a vegan diet
Since I eat mostly a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet with a little organic meat thrown in occasionally, it's probably about 90 pounds of CO2 emitted per year. Of course, if you grow your own food, this throws the numbers off (reducing them as a percentage of the total food calories you eat from your backyard). But for the sake of this calculation, let's assume I get all my calories from the store.
What does 90 pounds really compare to? Well, the average fridge emits 448 pounds of CO2 per year. So, it doesn't seem like a significant amount. Until you start adding up all the overweight people. Why is it that no one ever takes into consideration obesity or being overweight when calculating a person's carbon footprint? Because it's too hard to calculate?
In any case, it would appear that we are completely underestimating the carbon costs of, what, over 66% of the population.
If there are 230 million adults in the U.S., then there are about 152 million overweight adults. If, on average, those overweight adults consume 100 extra calories per day (although I suspect the average is higher), then that's about 13.7 billion pounds of CO2 emitted every year. Or 6.1 million tons*** (someone check my math, I'm getting punchy). And that's only if they eat like me (mostly vegetarian).
Clearly, this isn't the most scientific of studies. I'm not including the impact of overweight kids and I'm taking a lot of liberties with numbers and averages. Either way, this is definitely something that needs to be addressed.
Do these numbers surprise you?
*You can use the following for a calculation of your personal basal metabolic rate (or what you burn if you are just lolling about). To get the difference in calories you require for being overweight, calculate using your current weight and then using what you should weigh:
655 + (4.3 x weight in lbs) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age) = ____ calories
**These calculations are based on the fact that there are:
1.382 kg of CO2 emitted per 180 calories for beef
.02 kg of CO2 emitted per 180 calories for corn syrup
.5kg of CO2 emitted per 180 calories CO2 for milk
If you ate an extra 2,000 calories a day to support your weight, this would lead to extra annual emissions of 1.2 tonnes of CO2 if you ate the average American diet, .65 tonnes on a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet and .1 tonnes on a vegan diet.
***There are 2,240 lb in one ton.