I have been called many things in my life. But “Earth Raper” really takes the cake.
I was waiting at a light one beautiful Summer day in NW Portland. The Jeep had no doors or top on. A “hipstery” guy crossed the street in front of me, staring condescendingly. He then shouted at me, calling me an Earth Raper.
It stands as one of my favorite titles ever.
So I always wanted to dive into the question of how my vegan diet offsets the CO2 emissions of my “earth-raping” Jeep.
Michael Pollan addressed this issue a long time ago, tracing the carbon footprint from the oil needed to create fertilizer to grow grain for cattle, all the way to the trucks backing up to the grocery, delivering the meat for purchase.
He also compared the average Prius to a Hummer, to determine if a vegan in the Hummer could equal a meat eater in the Prius. I would never drive a Hummer, so let’s sub that for a Jeep Wrangler.
Taking a look at the website fueleconomy.gov, I was able to determine that the 2013 Jeep Wrangler emits 6.9 metric tons of CO2 per year on average. I then pulled equal stats for a Prius of the same year – 2.7 metric tons.
I then checked out shrinkthatfootprint.com to see the different emissions for different diets. I found a “meat lover” was responsible for 3.3 tons of CO2, while a vegan owned 1.5 tons.
Next step was to assemble all this data into a simple table showing all the possible outcomes:
So based on the above data, a meat lover in a Prius is still slightly better than a vegan in a Jeep. But, a meat lover in a Jeep is still much worse than a vegan. I am still removing 2.8 metric tons of CO2 each year, with a vegan diet. However, this leaves me with an overhead of 2.4 tons per year.
This doesn’t sit well with me, so I need to dig a little deeper.
According to an in-depth study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, hybrid cars do, in fact, require more energy to produce than conventional cars, emitting more greenhouse gases and burning more fossil fuels during the manufacturing process.
This report is unbelievably detailed (take a look if you want to check it out). But in the end, I found some interesting statistics:
- Conventional vehicles contain 56% – 65% steel, while lightweight hybrids contain 21%-31%. This means more plastics (aka petroleum products) are used.
- Hybrids contain many more metals in their fabrication of the batteries, where conventional vehicles contain mostly steel, aluminum and copper:
In conclusion, the report summarizes that there are, in fact, more emissions in the manufacturing of hybrids and Fuel Cell Vehicles than conventional (ICEVs – Internal Combustion Engine Vehicle) vehicles.
Unfortunately, the report stops there and does not provide actual estimations of the CO2 impacts.
I am content knowing this: I recycle. I am vegan. I drive a GAS HOG and I love it. While I may still be emitting more than I am saving, at least my diet offsets some of my impact.
But for now, I am going to keep the “Earth Raper” name.
And I am okay with that.