Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Reindeer Math

While putting up our LED lights last night, I was joking around with Michael that it would be really funny if one could calculate the emissions of reindeer. Lo and behold, about ten minutes of searching on Google later and someone already has. According to articles published on Christmas Eve 2005, Santa’s reindeer potentially emit 40,667 metric tons of carbon dioxide during their 122 million mile trip around the world. (Technically, I think the calculators were assuming the majority of it was methane, which has 23 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide.)

Maybe it’s the fact that I am a science teacher and can’t resist such a plum learning opportunity utilizing a “’real’ world” example. Or, that I’m just an EcoGeek at heart. But, I couldn’t resist trying to run the numbers for myself. How much carbon dioxide would Santa’s team emit during the trip from the North Pole to my chimney? And, what would it take to offset the trip?
  1. First, I typed my address into Google maps and identified my latitude. (42.991068 N)
  2. I subtracted my l latitude from 90 to calculate the distance to the North Pole. (47.008932 degrees)
  3. Another Google search yielded the approximate number of miles per degree of latitude: 69. Multiplying my number of degrees by this gave me my distance to the north pole. (3,243.62 miles)
  4. The articles said 122 million miles of travel produced 40,667 tones of carbon dioxide, so that is 0.000333 tons of carbon dioxide/mile. Multiply that by the number of miles. (1.08 tons of Carbon Dioxide)
  5. The RECs that Choose Renewables sells are produced in North Dakota at a rate of 1,092 kWh eliminates 1.2 metric tons of carbon dioxide, or 1.10 tons offset for 1 MWh produced. Dividing the amount created by the visit to my rooftop by the 1.10 conversion factor yields the number of MWh (0.98 MWh)
  6. Since 1 REC is roughly equivalent to 1 MWh, I would need to purchase 0.98 MWh to offset Rudolph’s journey.

Granted, this doesn’t take into account that the sleigh stops at thousands and thousands of homes before and after ours, etc., but I don’t think Santa would want us to take this TOO seriously. And, it WOULD be a great idea for practicing unit conversion with chemistry students!

I convinced Michael that he had to put something in the ChooseRenewables product line to help green Santa's Ride. Its for a generic middle-latitude, but if you want to run the numbers and buy one specific for your chimney, let us know! I know what Michael is getting in his stocking this year. Perhaps this is a new holiday tradition? Coal for the bad girls and boys, and RECs for the good ones in the Ford household.


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