Environmental Trivia

Where can you cut down on your energy use?


First, the assumptions:

  • Xcel in Colorado produces 1.3 lb of CO2 per kWH generated (Source: Excel)
  • A car gets 25 mpg. (This is the current average in the US. Source: Wikipedia )
  • Burning a gallon of gas releases 20 lb of CO2 ( Source: Fuel


1. What percent of food produced for human consumption is wasted?

1. 33%.  Sources: Nat. Geographic and World Wildlife and FAO


2. How much water does the average American household use every day?

1. 300 gallons.  Source: EPA

2. This figure includes only direct uses, such as showering, washing, flushing, landscaping, etc. It does not include the water used to produce all the things we consume. For example, the average US diet takes 1320 gallons of water daily to produce.  Sources: Water Footprint and Nat. Geographic,


3. Eating 1 lb of beef instead of plants has the same carbon footprint as driving how many miles?

1. 30 miles. (In a Prius, which gets 50mpg, it would be 60 miles!)

2. The average american eats more than a pound of beef each week.

3. Beef production produces the equivalent of 27 lb of CO2 in greenhouse gases to raise, process, transport, etc.  Source:

4. A pound of beef has 1135 calories. To get those same calories and equivalent nutrition from plant based foods would take 1.5 lb of grains, beans and vegetables which would produce the equivalent of 3 lb of CO2. Much less than 27lb!

5. So eating a pound of beef instead of plant foods produces an extra 24 lb of CO2 which is the same as burning 1.2 gallons of gas which moves the average car 30 miles.

6. Of course there are other costs to meat consumption including the impact of animal waste on water supplies, water consumption (1800 gallons for one lb of beef) increased land use, and animal suffering.


4. Drying a load of laundry has the same carbon footprint as driving how many miles?

1. About 4 miles.

2. Drying clothing takes a lot of power. A typical dryer uses 3000W and runs for an hour.

3. An Energy Star dryer will use between 20% and 40% less power by running at a lower heat setting for a longer time.

4. So drying a load of laundry takes between 1.8 and 3 kWH. Multiply by xcel’s CO2/kWh to get 2.3 - 3.9 lb CO2. Divide by 20 lb CO2/gallon to get 0.12 - 0.2 gal gas or 3-4.9 miles


5. How many plastic grocery bags does the average American household throw away each year?

1. 775. (100 billion in US divided among 128 million households).  Source: Biologic Diversity

2. This is about 50 lb of CO2 or 64 miles. (A bag weights 5g and producing a gram of plastic takes 2 grams of oil and emits 6 g of CO2)  Source: Time For

3. When a 6 cent per bag charge was instituted in the UK, bag use dropped 80%. A similar policy in the US could save 80 billion bags or over 5 BILLION lb of CO2 per year. (80 billion bags at 5g each is 88 million lb of plastic)  Source:


6. How much plastic ends up in the ocean each year?

1. 8M tons.  Sources: and


7. What percent of US oil consumption is plastic production?

1. 5%. This is difficult to calculate and estimates range from 4-10%.  Sources and


8. What is the carbon footprint of producing an iPhone?

1. Producing the model X emits the equivalent of 140lb of CO2. (360x the weight of the phone or 7 gallons of gas)  Source: Apple

2. Let this question remind us that other types of pollution are not included, such as heavy metal extraction/contamination, which is a major environmental and health issue.

3. Daily use of a smartphone (50% of a charge) for a year produces another 4.7lb CO2.

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