Week 11: defining carbon footprint

I’ve been talking about “carbon footprint” as if it were a well-defined concept, but it turns out that it can be hard to nail down. I read a report that delves into how to define carbon footprint: do we include methane? what about NO2? what about emissions that don’t come from burning fossil fuels? There’s also the question of what units to represent carbon footprint in (some have suggested that it be measured in the amount of area of forest required to sequester the emitted CO2). In the end the authors come up with this definition:

The carbon footprint is a measure of the exclusive total amount of carbon dioxide emissions that is directly and indirectly caused by an activity or is accumulated over the life stages of a product.

They also discuss the methods one can use to compute carbon footprints. Perhaps unsurprisingly, calculating something’s carbon footprint is difficult. For a product or process, a bottom-up approach is suggested, but this doesn’t capture all of the indirect emissions from the supply chain. The environmental input-output method can take into account all the higher-order impacts, but works best at the more macro level of a government or industry sector.

Per Philip’s suggestion, I created a separate CSDL tech report that I will use to take a snapshot of the literature review from my proposal at the end of the semester. This snapshot will be submitted as my final report for ICS 699 this semester, and also will make up a major portion of my research portfolio (to be submitted in January 2009). To accomplish this I removed the content of the literature review chapter from my proposal body LaTeX file and put it in its own file. I left the \chapter{} in the proposal body since I don’t want that included in the tech report. However, the \include{} command does not allow chaining and the body of the proposal is already included into the main document. This helpful page (why are most LaTeX FAQs and tutorials written by graduate students working on their dissertation?) explained that \input is the other way to insert content from another file, and it allows chaining and doesn’t create a new page, which is exactly what I wanted.

Using symbolic links, the tech report includes the content of the literature review from the proposal, and also the BibTeX file. When I make the snapshot at the end of the semester, I’ll “break” the symlinks and replace them with copies of the linked file to ensure that the tech report doesn’t keep changing as the proposal changes.

Planned items from last week:

  • Read 3 new papers from literature review list
    • [DONE] Learning Transportation Mode from Raw GPS Data for Geographic Applications on the Web
    • [NOT DONE] New Ways to Promote Proenvironmental Behavior: Expanding and Evaluating Motives for Environmentally Responsible Behavior
    • [DONE] A Definition of ‘Carbon Footprint’
  • [NOT DONE] Check out Dopplr’s carbon tracking for travel
  • Write up notes from papers read during PET paper lit review
    • [DONE] Motivating Environmentally Sustainable Behavior Changes with a Virtual Polar Bear
  • [DONE but not in table form] Start list of carbon footprint calculators, shown in table form in proposal document

Other accomplishments this week:

  • Created a separate CSDL tech report 08-03 to be submitted as my final report for ICS 699 this semester, and to include in my research portfolio. It uses the same underlying content as the literature review chapter from my proposal via symlinks. Isn’t LaTeX great?
  • Wrote quick script to backup my proposal (and tech report) directory to dasha via rsync

Hours worked: 15 (target: 15 hr)

Plans for coming week:

  • Read 2 new papers from literature review list
    • New Ways to Promote Proenvironmental Behavior: Expanding and Evaluating Motives for Environmentally Responsible Behavior
    • The effectiveness of feedback on energy consumption
  • Write up notes from papers read during PET paper lit review
    • Device-Level Power Consumption Monitoring
  • Put carbon footprint calculators in table form in LaTeX
  • Run through carbon footprint calculators with personal data
  • Check out Dopplr’s carbon tracking for travel

Pointers to work products:

Cool links:

  • Doodle is a super quick way to do informal surveys. The primary thing I use it for is coordinating a meeting time between a group of people. You select the set of days and time slots during those days, send the URL out to the people involved, and Doodle will compute which day and time works best. I especially like that you don’t have to create an account to make or participate in a poll, which makes it viable for scheduling with busy people.
  • DropSend is one of the many services designed to let you email large files to people. You send the email through their web interface, the large file (up to 1 GB) is uploaded to their server, and the recipient gets an email with the (temporary) URL to the file. Drop.io is another data storage service, which allows data input via a variety of methods but allows file storage without creating an account. The downside is that their free service only allows 100 MB, which was too small for my immediate needs.
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