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Rob Jenkins - 09/13/09
Living an environmentally-friendly lifestyle is harder than it sounds

If you're wondering who's been hogging all the Earth's resources, well ... that would be me.

I didn't even realize it until a few weeks ago, when I helped my sixth-grader with his science homework. We went to a Web site called MyFootprint.org and entered a bunch of information about our family: the number of people in our home, the size of our house, our annual income, how much we recycle, the average MPG of our big honking SUV.

Then we waited while the site made its calculations, anxious to find out whether or not we're living an environmentally-friendly lifestyle. In our case, the answer was (drum roll, please) ... definitely not.

In fact, according to the site, if everyone in the world lived exactly as my family does, we would need 7.5 Earths to sustain us all.

My first thought was that the site's creators have obviously never been to Gwinnett County, where everyone pretty much does live exactly as we do. But then I realized what they're saying: that my family and I consume 7.5 times our fair share of the planet's resources.

That struck me as a little strange, for a couple of reasons. For one thing, I don't think we live all that extravagantly compared to, say, the "Real Housewives of Atlanta." I think those ladies probably use up 25 or 30 Earths apiece. Every week.

I also wonder about the "fair share" part. What exactly is each person's fair share of resources, and who decides? Other than President Obama and his constellation of czars, I mean.

Out of curiosity, my son and I played around with the site for a while, trying to figure out what would constitute more environmentally-friendly living. (Maybe he'll get extra credit.) But no matter how much we decreased the size of our home, increased our mythical gas mileage, and exaggerated our recycling efforts, it seemed like we were always using up more Earths than we should.

Finally, we hit on what appears to be the perfect eco-formula: a family of one, living in an 8-foot-square grass hut in Papua, New Guinea. No car, no electricity, no appliances. That's when the program rewarded us with the following message: "Congratulations! You're living an environmentally-friendly lifestyle! Of course, you'll probably die of malaria before you're 35, but at least you won't have consumed more than your share of resources."

OK, I made up that last part. But at least I know now what it takes to be eco-friendly. And since Papua, New Guinea, isn't even in the Southeastern Conference, my family and I have decided to do the next best thing: we're moving to a remote part of Morgan County - which is to say, anywhere in Morgan County - building a log cabin, and raising goats.

Maybe then we'll only need two or three Earths.