New Brunswick·Video

N.B math tutor calculates his personal carbon footprint

Adam Richard of Fredericton calculated his carbon footprint and is now trying to live carbon neutral and eliminate his lifetime carbon emissions.

Adam Richard has run the numbers on his life in an effort to go carbon negative

Adam Richard is a math tutor at the University of New Brunswick. (Lars Schwarz)

It might not be surprising that a math tutor at the University of New Brunswick has always looked at life from a mathematical perspective.

In high school, Adam Richard calculated the cost of a car throughout his lifetime and decided he wasn't going to drive. 

He still doesn't drive, but it's not just for economic reasons. He's also cutting back on carbon emissions.

In 2015, Richard decided to calculate his carbon footprint.

He wanted to know if it would still be sustainable for him to live a "normal" life. He thought maybe the average Canadian wasn't making an impact, and it was the large polluters who needed to cut back.

"So my thinking was if we take the total carbon footprint of humanity, which at the time I looked it up was 26.4 gigatons per year, divide that by 7 billion. Then if an ordinary life has a much lower carbon footprint, then that would mean it's the big polluters that are doing it," said Richard.

WATCH | Adam Richard, math tutor, calculates his carbon footprint

Math tutor puts a number on his carbon emissions

1 month ago
Duration 3:13
UNB math tutor Adam Richard has calculated his own carbon footprint. Now he’s trying to eliminate it.

But what he found was the average Canadian was having an effect on climate change, and even his own life was creating a footprint higher than his calculated global average.

Canadian life "not ethical"

"It's simply not ethical to live the average Canadian life."

 Richard decided he had to change if he wanted to stay under his emission limit. Today he walks or bikes everywhere, rarely eats meat and tries to buy a lot less.

To cut down on his power consumption, he moved out of his mini home, where he had been living alone, into a shared living space.

"I even considered, for example, moving to Latin America, where you don't need to heat your house, which is the biggest source of electricity usage," said Richard.

To eliminate his lifetime carbon footprint, Richard started planting trees. He said every tree he plants takes some carbon out of the atmosphere.

"I calculated that with about maybe ten times going tree planting, I could reduce my carbon footprint to zero for my lifetime. That was a big motivation for me, just earning the right to exist."

Richard volunteers to plant trees with the Nashwaak Watershed Association. Since 2020, he's gone a total of six times. 

Adam Richard tree planting with the Nashwaak Watershed Association. (Edwin Hunter)

Fighting climate change as individuals

Richard keeps track of his own negative impact, and does what he can to mitigate it.

"I think of things in terms of, 'If everyone was doing this action, would we have a good world?' So those are the actions I try to do. I guess I'm more of an idealist in that way. Even if not everyone ends up doing those actions, I still want to act the way I should," said Richard. 

He says calculating your own carbon footprint isn't too difficult and there are lots of online calculators that can give a rough estimate.

Louise Comeau, director of climate change and energy solutions at the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, said this is a good way to look at our impact. 

Comeau said  we do need to hold politicians and corporations accountable, but we also need to do our part as individual citizens.

Louise Comeau, director of climate change and energy solutions at the Conservation Council of New Brunswick. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

She agreed with Richard that the average Canadian's emissions are far more than they should be. She said they're  about nine times what they should be.

"We can't consume our way out of climate change."

Comeau said Canadians should know the large emitters in their lives and find ways to reduce them. A big part of this is consuming more climate conscious products, but also consuming less.

"We can't consume our way out of climate change," said Comeau, 

"We've come to a place, as humans, where we have to come to understand that we can love good quality lives when we are also consuming less."

By consuming less, driving less, and using less energy, Comeau said people can signal to corporations and governments that they want change.

Comeau said everyone can personally contribute to the fight against emissions.

"It's about finding your passion. You know what your contribution can be. If you're a math tutor, that's what you can do. You're an artist. That's your contribution," said Comeau. 

"There's many, many ways to contribute to solving climate change."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lars Schwarz is a journalist with CBC New Brunswick. He grew up in Fredericton. If you have any story tips, you can reach him at lars.schwarz@cbc.ca.

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