What's Your Footprint? (Carbon)

GSAstuto

Maximum Pace
Oct 11, 2009
945
242
103
tokyo
www.roadfixie.com
#1
As I was on one of my LSD trips the thought started circulating in my mind about determining the carbon footprint of cycling / cyclists. Much like any transportation , a vehicle, energy and support is required to sustain the activity. So what are the REAL effects, ecologically, in using a bike and say compared to using a car or bus or train? Or even just walking? Any ideas?

Some random thoughts on the frame ...

Steel - long life, low embedded carbon, can be machined and welded with readily available energy source (methane, natural gas, etc). Should be pretty low carbon footprint when calculated over the course of a frame's lifetime.

Aluminum - medium life, high embedded carbon, requires higher level technology (energy) to machine and assemble. Probably pretty high footprint over its lifetime.

Carbon - short life, high embedded carbon, exhaustive use of inorganics and areosols. Probably pretty high footprint over it's lifetime, if not the highest.

Titanium - long life, medium embedded carbon, requires higher level of technology (energy) to machine and assemble. Probably medium footprint over its lifetime - mainly due to longevity.

Bamboo - short life, low embedded carbon, low technology (energy) required for assembly. If you are using hemp fabric and polyester resins as opposed to epoxy and carbon, it's probably the lowest overall footprint.


Energy - Fuel:

1) Meat - highest.
2) Remote Vegetables and Fruits - high.
3) Local Vegetables and Fruits - low.

Result - eat from your own garden and / or consume only locally produced food. Airfreighted food must be one of the highest carbon footprints ever.

Anyone?
 

FarEast

Maximum Pace
May 25, 2009
5,528
538
193
Yokohama
#2
Aluminum - 100% recyclable and majority of modern frames are made from recycled soda cans. Feel good factor!

Titanium Alloy - All the benifits of Alu and Titanium, probably one of the best materials to buildbike out of. Feel very good factor!

Carbon - new technology so still way behind the processes of Alu, steel and Titanium so more costly. Is 100% recyle freindly, yet no process for this as of yet. give carbon a few more years and you'll see it strip metals in all areas regarding its carbon footprint.
 

AlanW

Maximum Pace
Jan 30, 2007
1,214
435
103
Tokyo
#3
Saw a study that said cycling has negative overall carbon balance because - and you'll like this one - cyclists in general live longer due to healthly lifestyle and thus generate more CO2.

At that point I rather lost interest.....
 

trad

Maximum Pace
Dec 4, 2006
393
30
48
Tokyo
#4
Alan - I read that too... Living longer means we eat/consume/drive/heat/cool/buy more. Not to mention the additional methane gas from our bodies and the food we consume.....

Bit off topic but I read somewhere about the amount of CO2 generated for the heat needed to build a bike frame. The worst culprit was carbon - which generates tons of CO2 to bake a frame. Anyone seen anything along these lines?
 

GSAstuto

Maximum Pace
Oct 11, 2009
945
242
103
tokyo
www.roadfixie.com
#5
All very interesting points. Perhaps humans were just meant to live to be about 35yo, eat fruit dropped from a tree above them, wait, isn't that how it was like 20,000 years ago? I'm highly suspicious of the whole 'carbon footprint' thing - but like the idea of non-renewables conservation and recycling. That just makes sense. And basically trying to spew less junk into the atmosphere.
 
#6
In a similar sort of thought, I think an argument can be made for buying from your LBS rather than online. Probably a smaller footprint because they ship in bulk but more importantly, supporting your local businesses is good--even if more expensive. Or at least something to consider.
 

FarEast

Maximum Pace
May 25, 2009
5,528
538
193
Yokohama
#7
Thats why I can shop at wiggle with a clear conscience. The've been my local bike store since I was a little kid and went by the name of Butler Cycles. :D
 

jdd

Maximum Pace
Hardest Crash
Jul 26, 2008
2,512
639
133
Kanazawa
#8
pool

Apart from the kanto-envy, I've been swimming lots of laps.

But, I gotta wonder about the carbon print of an indoor pool that's always 29 or 29.5 and the air temp a little warmer, in this slightly colder part of the country. It's wonderful, but...
 
#9
Personally, I also feel that eating 'real food' over gels and high performance/ highly processed foods will eventually make it more likely that I will survive the zombie apocalypse.

As in, real food will be available longer (until we all switch to braaaaiiiinnnnnsssszzzz) and my body will be used to it.

Lower carbon (and water) footprint also a bonus.
Tuna onigiri4eva.
 

Ludwig

Speeding Up
Oct 9, 2008
871
0
36
Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
#10
As many of you have shown, there is just no end to what one could theoretically do...

But is it relevant? How do all these small things compare to jumping into a car and heading for a day out of Tokyo? I think the answer is clear. Almost no matter what you do with and around cycling, relatively speaking you should have a good conscience. And so many others should have a bad one...
 

Sikochi

Maximum Pace
Sep 13, 2010
1,147
45
68
Kochi
#11
Energy - Fuel:

1) Meat - highest.
2) Remote Vegetables and Fruits - high.
3) Local Vegetables and Fruits - low.

Result - eat from your own garden and / or consume only locally produced food. Airfreighted food must be one of the highest carbon footprints ever.
This is not so simple as you can`t just judge the carbon footprint of food from the distance it has travelled. Do airfrieghted bananas from the caribbean which grow naturally have a higher footprint than locally produced ones grown in a greenhouse? Plus, what are the effects on the economy of such countries whose main source of jobs/foreign exchange earner are the export of food?

Plus, what about the carbon footprint of the vending machines that are so convenient for us cyclists for hot and cold drinks?

In a similar sort of thought, I think an argument can be made for buying from your LBS rather than online. Probably a smaller footprint because they ship in bulk but more importantly, supporting your local businesses is good--even if more expensive. Or at least something to consider.
Again, buying from the LBS seems a better option but what are the carbon footprints of many little LBS`s compared to one big online retailer? Anyway, I`d like to support my local businesses but at the prices they charge I can`t justify what amounts to charity.

As many of you have shown, there is just no end to what one could theoretically do...
Yes, that`s why I don`t bother and in addition, you have to factor in the purpose of a ride: riding a bicycle only reduces your carbon footprint if it is done to replace a journey by any other means than walking. For instance, spending an hour either on the turbo or on the roads and then getting in the car to go to the supermarket has no carbon benefit.
 

Badar

Warming-Up
Sep 24, 2010
88
1
0
Tokyo
#12
I don't understand the way people are doing the carbon footprint calculations here..

as far as I think, all the things we do apart from cycling are not too different from a car driving/train commuting person wrt carbon production. The only major difference is that we don't use highly inefficient means of transport where to carry an 80kg human a 1500kg machine is lugged around on an engine that is at best 25% efficient.

More so, however complicated the manufacturing and transport of bicycle be it'll always be greener than a motorbike or a car. As for the vending machines, they are not for cyclists only and probably they will be there even if we all leave cycling.