Professor continues conservation effort on Web

A professor is creating a Web site that will enable users around the world to calculate their cars’ carbon emissions. “The purpose of envirofootprint.org is to raise awareness about sustainability issues on campus, in our community and around the world,” said Keith Whitworth, a sociology professor and the creator of the Purple Bike Program.

The Web site, which will be ready in three weeks, will use a calculator designed to determine carbon emissions from automobiles and provide an opportunity to offset those emissions with monetary donations, Whitworth said.

Donations will go toward purchasing trees both in the community and in Costa Rica, and toward the Purple Bike Program, which enables the TCU community to rent out bikes, Whitworth said.

Unlike other similar sites, Whitworth said, his will show where donations are being utilized. A percentage will appear as to how much money will go toward a bike or tree, which both cost about $500, Whitworth said.

Donations will be taken from the Web site by credit card and money will go directly to the programs, Whitworth said.

Michael Slattery, director of the Institute for Environmental Studies, said the Web site will allow people to see what their own ecological impacts are.

Slattery said Whitworth’s site will be similar to myfootprint.org, which shows how much of an environmental ‘footprint’ users will leave and how many planets would be needed to support their lifestyles.

“People do not really think about what it takes to sustain our lifestyle,” Slattery said.

The majority of citizens live a consumptive lifestyle and do not understand what the carbon cycle is, Slattery said. It is a natural, biogeochemical cycle, which goes well beyond driving cars that do not get enough miles per gallon, he said.

“We’re adding to that cycle in a very disproportionate way since we have such an expensive lifestyle,” Slattery said.

Slattery said carbon is released into the atmosphere through homes, waste and public transport, which is all built into a fairly complex equation.

The money from myfootprint.org is taken to reinvest in renewable energy, such as envirofootprint.org will do for the Purple Bike Program and the rainforest, Slattery said.

Slattery said, knowing Whitworth, the Web site will be efficient and user-friendly.

Whitworth said there is a team of nine students currently working on the Web site.

Jamie Phelps, a TCU graduate, did the initial design for the Web site, and said he taught Whitworth how to take over the site’s content, once the program progresses.

The cost to host the Web site is funded by the Vision In Action grant Whitworth received for the Purple Bike Program.

Whitworth said, in the future, he would like the carbon-offset program to also show how many bags of charcoal users are emitting into the air and how many trees will need to be planted to offset the emissions.