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A Strict Carbon Diet

  • Posted 04.14.11
  • NOVA

Saul Griffith is an engineer in San Francisco and a MacArthur “genius” grant winner. He’s also on a mission to pinpoint all the ways in which his life consumes energy. “I really wanted to understand the individual side of climate change,” he says. “I can tell you my carbon footprint or energy footprint right down to my last pair of underwear.” Meet Griffith and his family in this video.

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Transcript

A Strict Carbon Diet

Posted: April 14, 2011

NARRATOR: Saul Griffith is an engineer in San Francisco and a MacArthur "genius" grant winner. He is also a bit excessive when it comes to trying to figure out all the ways in which his life consumes energy.

SAUL GRIFFITH: I really wanted to understand the individual side of climate change. So I quite literally counted the energy used in every single aspect of my life. In some significant sense, I can tell you my carbon footprint right down to my last pair of underwear.

NARRATOR: Griffith's excessive analysis not only has produced one of the most detailed understanding of the imbedded energy costs of our modern lives, but it also revealed to him possible solutions.

GRIFFITH: I have a son, who's 18 months old. I will spend my lifetime making my son's future better, and that will be by developing clean-energy generation technologies.

NARRATOR: In his invention lab, Griffith has set about building what he sees as the tools of a better life.

GRIFFITH: It's the ultimate job security. Everyone else is worried about their jobs, if you are an engineer you look at the world and say, "Wow, there is a lot of broken stuff to fix."

NARRATOR: Griffith has set his sites on the two biggest ticket items in most American's energy bills: insulation for heating and cooling our homes, and transportation.

GRIFFITH: The mechanism that we're developing is this tilting and steering mechanism. The purpose to make it tilt is so that when you go around corners you get that very nice bicycle feeling, but then you get the extra stability of a tricycle, and you have this large area to put the cargo.

NARRATOR: And you still have an electric boost to help get you around.

GRIFFITH: Part of the reason for having a car is to carry more than just a shoulder bag. But there are many better options than a 2- or 3-ton automobile for doing 2- or 3-mile trips

NARRATOR: Enter the cargo bike—test driver, Huxley Griffith. The average American car gets about 22 miles to the gallon, the latest hybrids about 60. Huxley in his cargo bike is getting the equivalent of 1,500 miles to a gallon.

Credits

Produced for NOVA by
Doug Hamilton
Associate Producer
Jessica Harrop
Edited and Narrated by
Rob Tinworth
Camera
Dan Krauss
Sound
Doug Dunderdale

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