Which superhero has the best carbon footprint? Well, it depends on the assumptions and estimates:
The “best” carbon footprint probably belongs to Superman or Swamp Thing. Superman’s footprint is equal to zero. Swamp Thing might actually have a negative carbon footprint; he’s taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
The title of “worst carbon footprint” probably goes to Oracle/Barbara Gordon, who uses a LOT of electricity to power her computers. The only other serious contender is the Flash, who requires tens-of-billions of calories per second to run at his absurd speeds.
Yet, these analyses only look at total CO2e emissions. A more helpful metric might be the amount of CO2e released per unit of justice dispensed. Taking the total CO2e emissions per year and dividing by the number of yearly adventures, some of the names move around a little:
Oracle/Barbara Gordon still seems to have the worst carbon footprint while Superman and Swamp Thing still battle it out for the best carbon footprint. Notably Spiderman, the Flash, Firebird, and Oracle/Barbara Gordon each release more CO2e per adventure than an average American releases per year.
And what about those superpowers? Surprisingly (to me anyway), the superpower with the worst carbon footprint wasn’t burning exotic fuels or constructing miraculous gadgets or eating all of the eggs. The worst carbon footprint for our superheroes was associated with electricity consumption — something that we can actually influence, even for superheroes! Imagine if we just converted our coal power plants to solar or wind or even nuclear! Superheroes ranging from Batman to Jessica Jones to Spiderman could significantly reduce their carbon footprints.
The most important thing is that we’ve identified all the best places for our superheroes to improve their global impact. We can help them better protect the planet. And we’ll simultaneously better protect ourselves.
What was the carbon footprint of this project?
I spent an estimated 1,500 hours creating the Carbon Footprint of Superheroes. Approximately 90% of that time was spent on my laptop and 10% of that time was spent on my phone. I ate approximately 180 meals while researching and calculating the carbon footprints. Let’s also add another 170 hours of time for Emily’s help with lifecycle assessments for all of the super-costumes and gadgets and Ryan’s incredible fact-checking an analogy inventing contributions, plus another 21 meals eaten. That brings the total carbon footprint of this project to:
Emissions for CFSH = 981 lb CO2e
Which is approximately 0.02% of Batman’s footprint, 0.001% of the Flash’s, 0.000003% of Oracle/Barbara Gordon’s, 2.3% of Jessica Jones’, 0.14% of Ironman’s, 0.002% of Spiderman’s, and 0.002% of Firebird’s. So in summary, taking the average of all of these numbers, I’m pretty sure this means that I’m 0.35% superhero.
Hope you enjoyed!