Meet the Percapitas: we’re greener than you are


We're the Percapitas. And we're making suburbia one green place to raise a family.

Hi there! We’re the Percapitas.

We’ve cut per capita consumption and our per capita waste. We compost, we conserve, we re-use and we recycle. And we’re going to teach our three carbon footprints — Mark, David and Robert — to do the same.

Carbon-neutral cul de sac

Yes, we know that each of us will require more than 38,000 pounds of mined resources each and every year to maintain our cosmetically green American lifestyle, or 2.96 million pounds in our average lifetime of 77.9 years. That’s 8,509 lbs. of stone, 5,599 lbs. of sand and gravel, 496 lbs. of cement, 357 lbs. of iron ore, 421 lbs. of salt, 217 lbs. of phosphate rock, 164 lbs. of clay, 65 lbs. of aluminum, 12 lbs. of copper, 11 lbs. of lead, 6 lbs. of zinc, 36 lbs. of soda ash, 5 lbs. of manganese, 332 lbs. of other non-metals for making glass, chemicals, soaps, paper, computers and cell phones, 24 lbs. of other metals for the same uses plus electronics, TV and video equipment and more.

Not to mention 951 gallons of petroleum, 6,792 lbs. of coal, 80,905 cubic feet of natural gas and 1/4 lb. of uranium to generate the energy each of us uses in one year.

And we also know that our typical suburban house — the one with the Prius in the driveway — was constructed with a million pounds of minerals and metals as were 130 million other homes across the country. Ours needed insulation (using silica, feldspar, and trona), roofing (silica sands, limestone and petroleum) and hardware (iron, zinc, copper, steel, brass), as well as windows made from trona, silica sand, limestone and feldspar, and concrete foundations made from sand, gravel. And don’t forget cement, made of limestone, bauxite, clay, shale and gypsum and is reenforced by steel rods.

The secret is in the de-coupling

We expect that another 70 million such homes will need to be built by mid-century to accommodate the next 150 million additional people who will make America their home, making us even more vibrant, diverse and strong than we already are now.  People are our greatest resource — and besides, our local Sierra Club group assures us that we can “de-couple” population and economic growth from environmental degradation. We can’t wait until they de-couple eating ice cream from gaining weight and thirst from the desire for fluid.

Now, some doomsayers like analyst Chris Clugston have warned us that 69 metals and minerals vital to our industrial economy have peaked and will soon be priced out of reach. But we both majored in classical economics at Northwestern and so we know that substitutes will be always be found if the price is right. You can never discount human ingenuity and there is a technological fix for everything. We can have “green growth.” What we can’t have though, is pessimism. We need hope to get us through the night. Cassandras need not apply.

OK, it’s true. We could have done better. By not having three kids we could have saved the atmosphere from an extra 28,223 metric tons of C02 each year — or 58 times the amount that we have saved by switching to a fuel efficient car, driving less, recycling, installing CFLs, replacing our inefficient refrigerator and old windows.  And by adopting rather than conceiving, we would not have added to the 350,000 children who are born every day to a planet now burdened with 7 billion humans, and braced for more.

But we thought that it was vitally necessary that the world have our genes and that our children have the same pair of eyes or ears that we have. And besides, if educated, responsible and morally superior people like us don’t have children, then “they” will overwhelm us. So let the breeding war begin!

Oh, and by the way, our procreative choices are NOYB. Pushing other people and other species off the plate is our sacred personal right.

We’re the Percapitas. We’re green, we’re progressive, we read Utne and Mother Jones, we listen to NPR, vote Democratic and we are much more aware and responsible than you are.

(Does anybody have a cream pie handy?)

Cross-posted from Wit’s End.

— Tim Murray, Transition Voice

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  1. Auntiegrav says

    So….are you saying that we shouldn’t emulate the PerCapitas family?
    What could be wrong with such a beautiful family in a beautiful house living such a beautiful life?

    They’re only human.


  2. says

    I guess my take-away is that we need to avoid self-satisfaction and the feeling that we have done enough or all we can do. The transition to a post peak oil, beyond growth world is not a “change of lifestyle,” it’s the creation of new ways of life, whole new societies. We have to start down the path and KEEP MOVING — even if we’re only taking baby steps, the key is to get started and then keep moving.

  3. says

    Our North American societies do need to make a change! Read this article, just a little resourcefulness, reusing, and recycling will have a huge impact on landfills but also all the energy and resources it takes to actually get all the products on the shelves that we love to buy everyday. Buying a new dishwasher because it is more energy efficient is worse for the environment than if you modified your current one instead. All these manufactures of green products are telling us it is what we need to buy, and it works because it fuels consumerism. It is not the most healthy option!

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