Bigfoot has arrived in town, and an enthusiastic group of more than 180 local citizens have joined forces to tame the beast.
OK, it’s not the actual Sasquatch itself.
The elusive denizen of the Northwest forests has been adopted as the avatar for the Taming Bigfoot movement, a grassroots effort to learn about, study and take action to reduce our individual carbon footprint and hence our individual impact on climate change (footprint…bigfoot…get it?).
Or more accurately, our carbon dioxide, CO2, footprint. For example, a gallon of regular ethanol-enriched gasoline is a cocktail of hydrocarbons, but as long as it stays in liquid form it doesn’t affect our climate. But according to the US Energy Information Administration, when you burn it going from point A to B in your car that gallon of gas becomes 18.9 pounds of CO2 released into the atmosphere, and ka-thunk, your carbon footprint just gained almost 19 pounds. You have a diesel car? A gallon of diesel turns into a whopping 22.4 pounds of CO2.
And that’s where the trouble starts. Scientists have identified CO2 as the primary “greenhouse gas” responsible for our accelerating rate of global climate change.
CO2 in the atmosphere acts like the rolled-up glass windows in your automobile on a hot, sunny day. Just as the glass windows allow solar energy to freely pass inside the car where it strikes surfaces and is converted to heat, CO2 in the atmosphere allows solar energy to freely pass, where it heats the earth’s surface. And just like how the glass in your car traps the heat inside and won’t let it back out, the CO2 traps the heat next to the earth, and does not allow it to radiate back into space.
It’s like a one-way door allowing solar energy to freely enter, but not allowing the heat it creates to escape. According to scientists, this is what’s behind the measured rise in average global temperatures over the past century, and a major contributor to recent extreme weather events around the globe.
The Taming Bigfoot competition is designed to help participants become aware of how their individual actions add carbon to the atmosphere, and that by becoming aware, motivate them to lower their own “carbon footprint,” help slow the rate of climate change, and at the same time inspire others to do the same.
The goal is to make it a fun competition combined with a potent learning experience, organizers say.
Taming Bigfoot Edmonds kicked off on Jan. 1, as more than 20 teams of seven people each sharpened their pencils, logged in to the competition website, and began tracking their many everyday actions, tasks and activities that either directly or indirectly contribute carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. The goal of this friendly competition is to increase awareness of the impact that our lifestyles have upon carbon emissions.
A steering committee leads this community effort under the aegis of the Mayor’s Climate Protection Committee and the Interfaith Climate Action Group, and many sponsors and endorsers have signed on to support the competition and participants.
The Edmonds Taming Bigfoot competition was patterned after the successful 2016 effort by Jefferson County. Last November, the Edmonds City Council heard a presentation by retired NASA climate scientist Bob Birdschadler, one of the driving forces behind the Jefferson County competition. According to Birdschadler, the insights, lessons and lifestyle changes in the competition really stick, with participants reporting that they’re still practicing carbon-reducing behaviors a year after the contest ended. Edmonds organizers hope to match Jefferson County’s success in reducing its carbon footprint.
During the month of January, participants established their “carbon baseline” by tracking such things as miles driven, pounds of garbage produced, foods eaten, gasoline burned, use of heat, water and electricity, and even food purchased and prepared.
“We aren’t looking for any changes in activities during January,” said Stan Gent, who administers the website, oversees data input and takes care of all the “below decks” machinery that keeps the competition humming along. “The real fun begins in February, when teams will start taking positive actions like driving less, lowering thermostats, and cutting back on water and power use. The goal is to show improvement. So ideally, I’d want someone on my team who generates carbon with abandon during the baseline month, so future months will show significant reductions in their carbon footprint.”
Gent himself is kept hopping, working the Taming Bigfoot back office functions. “I’m not on a team myself,” he laughed. “I’ve got enough work to do just stoking the competition machinery and keeping it running smoothly.”
And many of the participants are finding it more work than they imagined.
“Yes, it’s definitely more of an effort than I expected,” said Anne Wermus, a team member who also serves on the Taming Bigfoot steering committee. “I find myself inputting data several times each day, and more than that, I’m thoughtfully examining every action I take, thinking about how much carbon I’m generating. It always seems to be top-of-mind these days!”
Wermus also confessed that it’s tempting to ruin her baseline by taking positive actions now.
“I’m thinking more about my choices at the grocery store, and concentrating on produce and other items that are produced close to home and without chemical fertilizers or additives,” she added. “The less they have to travel to get to me, the less carbon is added to the atmosphere in transporting them.”
For others, the competition provides an expression of deeply-held personal values.
“I’ve always been a dyed-in-the-wool environmentalist,” said team member Gayla Shoemake. “I honestly feel that the global climate change situation is at the point where time is fast running out. If everyone could reduce their carbon footprint by even ten percent, it would slow this down significantly.
“I see what we’re doing with Taming Bigfoot as a catalyst to get the conversation going, and once it starts I see it spreading,” she added. “The first hurdle is simply helping people to become aware. We can do this by serving as an example of how much can be accomplished on a personal level with really very little effort.”
Expect to hear more about Edmonds Taming Bigfoot in the coming weeks. The next event is the Taming Bigfoot Team Rally on Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. in the Edmonds Library Plaza Room. All are welcome to attend!
Learn more at the Edmonds Taming Bigfoot website.
— By Larry Vogel