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Pounds of CO2 per pound of stuff

One pound of printer paper generates 4 pounds of CO2; one pound of newspaper produces 3 pounds of CO2; one pound of textbooks produces 5 pounds of CO2; one pound of 20oz plastic bottles creates 1 pound of carbon dioxide; and one pound of aluminum cans produces 5 pounds of carbon dioxide.

Case study: The Babcock School

We knew we needed to focus on the products that Babcock's used the most or else we would spend forever on this category. We narrowed it to printer paper, newspaper, textbooks, bottles, and cans. It's pretty tough to estimate the average life cycle carbon footprint of one product, but luckily the EPA had conducted a study to compare different disposal methods for different materials. We used that as a proxy.

- Jack Clayton

A quick note about EPA emissions factors

It's worth noting that we're using the EPA's life cycle emissions factors to estimate how much carbon dioxide is released by one pound of each material. The EPA's life cycle emissions factors were originally intended to help municipal solid waste managers compare different disposal methods for different materials. For example, using these factors, they could see what effect recycling aluminum cans had on the environment versus incenerating them. One of the disposal methods the EPA investigated was source reduction - or simply using less of the material. In our model, we compared doing nothing with reducing material consumption at the source. This is not the intended use of these factors, but it's the best we could find.

Also, you'll notice the math is a little bit circular for each of these. However, I figured it was best to work it all out for those of us who aren't all that familiar with flipping units around.

1. One pound of printer paper produces 4 pounds of carbon dioxide

to top | next step: 2. One pound of newspaper produces 3 pounds of carbon dioxide

1

Pound of printer and office paper (that's about 110 sheets) (1)

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4.36

Metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents saved by source reduction (2)

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4.36

Pounds of CO2 per pound of printer paper (3)

  1. Each piece of printer paper weighs about 0.009 pounds. 1 pound paper / 0.009 pounds per sheet = 111.1 sheets of paper
  2. U.S. EPA, 2006. Solid Waste Management and Greenhouse Gases: A Life-Cycle Assessment of Emissions and Sinks, EPA530-R-06-004
  3. 1 pound printer paper * 0.00045 metric tons printer paper / pound printer paper * 4.36 metric tons CO2 saved / 1 metric ton of printer paper source reduced * 2,200 pounds / metric ton = 4.36 pounds of CO2 saved by using 1 less pound of paper at the source

2. One pound of newspaper produces 3 pounds of carbon dioxide

to top | previous step: 1. One pound of printer paper produces 4 pounds of carbon dioxide| next step: 3. One pound of textbooks produces 5 pounds of carbon dioxide

1

Pound of newspaper (that's about half of one paper) (1)

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2.66

Metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents saved by source reduction (2)

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2.66

Pounds of CO2 per pound of newspaper (3)

  1. One newspaper weighs about 1.7 pounds; 85 pages / paper * 270 square inches / page * 80% the thickness of printer paper * 0.000096 pounds / square inch of printer paper = 1.7 pounds
  2. U.S. EPA, 2006. Solid Waste Management and Greenhouse Gases: A Life-Cycle Assessment of Emissions and Sinks, EPA530-R-06-004
  3. 1 pound newspaper * 0.00045 metric tons newspaper / pound newspaper * 2.66 metric tons CO2 saved / 1 metric ton of newspaper source reduced * 2,200 pounds / metric ton = 2.66 pounds of CO2 saved by using 1 less pound of newspaper at the source

3. One pound of textbooks produces 5 pounds of carbon dioxide

to top | previous step: 2. One pound of newspaper produces 3 pounds of carbon dioxide| next step: 4. One pound of 20oz plastic bottles produces 1 pound of carbon dioxide

1

Pound of textbooks (that's only a fraction of most books)

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5.00

Metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents saved by source reduction (1)

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5.00

Pounds of CO2 per pound of textbooks (2)

  1. U.S. EPA, 2006. Solid Waste Management and Greenhouse Gases: A Life-Cycle Assessment of Emissions and Sinks, EPA530-R-06-004
  2. 1 pound textbooks * 0.00045 metric tons textbooks / pound textbooks * 5.00 metric tons CO2 saved / 1 metric ton of textbooks source reduced * 2,200 pounds / metric ton = 5.00 pounds of CO2 saved by using 1 less pound of textbooks at the source

4. One pound of 20oz plastic bottles produces 1 pound of carbon dioxide

to top | previous step: 3. One pound of textbooks produces 5 pounds of carbon dioxide| next step: 5. One pound of aluminum cans produces 1 pound of carbon dioxide

1

Pound of empty 20oz plastic bottles (that's about 15 bottles)

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1.14

Metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents saved by source reduction (1)

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1.14

Pounds of CO2 per pound of 20oz plastic bottles (2)

  1. U.S. EPA, 2006. Solid Waste Management and Greenhouse Gases: A Life-Cycle Assessment of Emissions and Sinks, EPA530-R-06-004
  2. 1 pound plastic bottles * 0.00045 metric tons plastic bottles / pound plastic bottles * 1.14 metric tons CO2 saved / 1 metric ton of plastic bottles source reduced * 2,200 pounds / metric ton = 1.14 pounds of CO2 saved by using 1 less pound of plastic bottles at the source

5. One pound of aluminum cans produces 5 pounds of carbon dioxide

to top | previous step: 4. One pound of 20oz plastic bottles produces 1 pound of carbon dioxide | next step: case study

1

Pound of empty 12oz aluminum cans (that's about 32 cans)

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4.49

Metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents saved by source reduction (1)

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4.49

Pounds of CO2 produced per pound of aluminum cans (2)

  1. U.S. EPA, 2006. Solid Waste Management and Greenhouse Gases: A Life-Cycle Assessment of Emissions and Sinks, EPA530-R-06-004
  2. 1 pound aluminum cans * 0.00045 metric tons aluminum cans / pound aluminum cans * 4.49 metric tons CO2 saved / 1 metric ton of aluminum cans source reduced * 2,200 pounds / metric ton = 4.49 pounds of CO2 saved by using 1 less pound of aluminum cans at the source

Case Study: Babcock Graduate School of Management

to top | previous: 5. One pound of aluminum cans produces 5 pounds of carbon dioxide

We all consume a lot of stuff - coffee cups, pens, toilet paper, printer paper, staples, paper towels, to-go boxes, and much more. When you try to estimate the carbon footprint of all that stuff, it's important to stick to your heavy hitters. When we looked at Babcock, we knew newspapers, printer paper, and textbooks would be biggies. With so many late nights, we knew plastic and aluminum bottles would also be big components too. Here's the rundown for our different categories of stuff.

Newspaper

57,310

Pounds of newspaper purchased each year (1)

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2.66

Pounds of CO2 per pound of newspaper (2)

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152,446

Pounds of CO2 produced from Babcock's newspaper purchases (76 tons)

  1. (1 paper * 160 full-time students + 20 papers for faculty and staff) / 1 day * 6 days / week * 32 weeks / year = 34,560 papers delivered * 1.7 pounds

Printer paper

32,749

Pounds of printer paper purchased each year (1)

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4.36

Pounds of CO2 per pound of printer paper (2)

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142,785

Pounds of CO2 produced from Babcock's paper purchases (72 tons)

  1. We calculated an average price for one box of paper based on the school's spending, and we divided it into the total paper spending for Babcock's printer, copiers, and copy center. That gave us how many boxes of paper we'd purchased in a year. We then multiplied the number of boxes times 45 pounds, the average weight of a paper box according to the shelving clerks at Office Depot to get the total weight of paper purchased by Babcock.

Textbooks

18,144

Pounds of textbooks purchased each year (1)

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5.00

Pounds of CO2 per pound of textbooks (2)

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90,720

Pounds of CO2 produced from Babcock's textbook purchases (45 tons)

  1. (2 year * 80 fulltime students + 4 programs * 2 years * 50 working professional students) * 8 classes each year / 1 student * 2 textbooks / class * 300 letter-sized pages / textbook * 0.009 pounds / page = 18,144 pounds of textbooks purchased

Plastic bottles

941

Pounds of plastic bottles purchased each year (1)

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1.14

Pounds of CO2 per pound of textbooks (2)

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1,073

Pounds of CO2 produced from Babcock's plastic bottle purchases (0.5 tons)

  1. 1,186 cases sold (from Connie C)* 50% Babcock's share * 24 bottles / 1 case * 30 grams of PET / 1 bottle * 0.00220462262 pounds / gram = 941 pounds of bottles purchased

Aluminum cans

38

Pounds of aluminum cans purchased each year (1)

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4.49

Pounds of CO2 per pound of textbooks (2)

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170

Pounds of CO2 produced from Babcock's aluminum can purchases (0.09 tons)

  1. 1,212 cans * 1 oz aluminum / can * 1 pound / 16 ounces = 38 pounds of aluminum cans purchased