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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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The homeless carbon footprint

May 21 2009
The carbon footprint of Americans who eat in a soup kitchen and sleep in homeless shelters is still twice the world average, according to MIT research A class of American MIT (Massachussets Institute of Technology) mechanical engineering students has estimated the carbon footprints of people with different lifestyles ranging from the homeless and Buddhist monks to multimillionaires, and then compared them to those of people from other nations. On average, annual carbon dioxide emissions per person in the US was 20 metric tons, compared with the world average of four tons. While it is not surprising that emissions rose as income increased, with people like Microsoft co-founder and multibillionaire Bill Gates' impact put at about 10,000 times the average, students found that someone homeless who ate in a soup kitchen and slept in homeless shelters had a footprint of 8.5 tons. These results were seen as controversial because the study assumed that everyone in the US is equally using government services, including police, roads, libraries, court system and so on. One reader commented, saying: "Sure, the homeless rely on soup kitchens for some of their food needs but isn't that food donated by supermarkets who would otherwise send it to landfill? Doesn't this count as a reduction in the carbon footprint of the homeless?" "I would also contend that there are many more homeless than there are hostel beds. Those that are condemned to sleep on the streets regularly supplement their energy needs by further reducing the amount of surplus food destined for landfill, feeding themselves from dusters," he added.