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Carbon Footprint of an Argon gas cylinder

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Increasingly I'm finding my clients/buyers are asking about my carbon footprint (in the art world green is very cool at the minute) I can't find out the carbon footprint of my argon gas cylinders, or even the energy (KJ) needed to produce them. Can anyone help?

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Pretty esoteric question but you could start by determining how much an empty cylinder costs and then work your way backwards. Obviously, there is steel involved in the tank but whether it was recycled or virgin ore may never be known. Recycling steel is more common these days so you may get a point for that. Fabbing the tank took even more energy - was that a green process (probably not).

I haven't been much help but that's where I would start. Good luck.

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I'd take a piece of paper and put it on the shop floor and place a sheet of carbon paper on top of it and then mush the tank down on it and tell folks that *that* was the carbon footprint of the tank---and remark that the time and energy it takes to research the real answer is all *wasted* *energy* (and carbon), as the carbon has aready been spent to make the tank!

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That's a much better reply than I came up withThomas.

My first thought went along the lines of, "a lot less wasted carbon and energy over it's lifespan than YOU." Unfortunately that'd be impolitic. Probably why my place isn't overrun by artsy types eh?

Heck, I was planning on ignoring the thread till I saw you'd responded and thought, this might be interesting.


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I used to think I was pretty 'hip' to what are called 'green' issues.......I mean........I used to read the Mother Earth News........

I have to admit the carbon footprint is a new one on me.
(guess I need to get out more)

I'd heard the term a few times on the news........Maybe once or twice on this site.
It must be the new 'green' buzzword.

Believe it or not, there's a website....www.carbonfootprint.com/ which has a calculator for your personal co2 emissions and what to do about it.

Unfortunately, the calculator I saw was geared toward homeowners.......(miles driven and electricity used in the home)

I took their test and flunked miserably, by the way.

My guess is that calculating the 'footprint' of an argon gas cylinder would be like asking how many trees in a forest........or how many grains of sand on a beach.
In other words.......impossible.

Then again, I could be wrong ( I frequently am).

I hope someone can answer this.....it would be interesting to know.......

Edited by jayco
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I run into that same kind of question a lot and it's usually delivered by practitioners of "eco-ethics of convienience". They love to question others about their impact while turning a selectively blind eye to their own. I especially like it when they're asking it with a cup o' "corporate-coffee" in their hands.

What I'd like to say . . .
It's an argon bottle dopey, it was reused many times and contributed to the production of many other goods and products - can you say the same of the carbon footprint of your designer running shoes?

What I'd end up saying . . .
The "carbon debt" for that tank was paid through it's life performing it's intended purpose and what's done for it's next life has less impact than if it gets sent back through the recycle process.

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eambo, I'm curious where you are from? Could you go up to the CP and enter your location. I have heard some things about the carbon foot print and such but it is usually from those same people who have a problem with my eating meat and wearing leather... so I haven't had the need to answer such a question.

As I looked at how to answer your question, a couple questions came up... are you having the tanks refilled? and how are you using the argon?

If you take the tank in for refill, the only energy expended will be the transport of the tank and the energy required to capture, transport and transfer the gas into the tank. Each time the tank is refilled you earn "points" as you are re-using (one step better than recycling). Another issue is how you are using the gas, if you are keeping your usage monitored and reduce waste, your once again on the right track.

I think I would ask your supplier if they have any documentation on the carbon footprint issue? If your in California or similar cultural areas this may well not be a shocker of a question for them... another thought is an idea of offsetting, (warning some groups don't believe that this is a valid method) the idea is that to help alleviate and reduce the effect we have, we can take action that will help bring our activities to zero. Things such as reforestation and in some cases even protecting forested and other green areas from harm can classify as offsetting.


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it was a random thread i guess. When you've got an interview for a 30,000 sculpture in a nature reserve every little bit of knowledge is a weapon. thank you in particular ironrosefarms, the tone to that answer is probably the best answer I'll be able to give.

I feel I need to clarify my position and hopefully spur on more debate. I am not a global warming or green cynic and I do not subscribe to the various conspiracy theories that poo poo global warming and man's place within it. However I do respect people's opinion even if the differ to mine. Unfortunately I find that the skills I practice within the visual arts (blacksmithing and metal fabrication) are not 'conveniently' carbon neutral. I do not take kindly to being nannyed/guilted into anything, but with this subject I have taken an educated decision to try the best I can to make my practice as green as possible.
For example all my raw materials recycled and tend to be metal that is just left at my door (ie kitchen sinks cookers dishwashers etc) I achieved this by running several workshops locally and open studios showing how I recycle sinks etc into art. Since then I've never been short of materials. I realise this is not easy to practice for some fabricators/blacksmiths but it suits me well.
As much as I can I source my consumables from second or unwanted sources ebay pick up only is a great resource for this.
I have invested in solar panels and I plan to construct a windmill to generate a chunk of my electricity with my next paycheck.
I am debating using bio diesel in my van.
All these things as well as being green also make financial sense for my workshop I guess for any cynic to be turned this may be my strongest argument. I would love to hear everyones opinion?

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If you really want to get someones attention ask how much a gallon of milk is responsible for.
Starting from their glass of milk sitting on their kitchen table and going back thru the trip to the store to get it and start calculating the energy consumed by all of the factories to make the plastic jugs / trucks/tires/tractors /milking parlors/stainless steel tanks/feed/oil /gas /diesel/batteries/alternators/starters/fertiziler and on and on and on.
When they realize the amount of pollution that each and every one of us are responsible for in just buying a gallon of milk and start calculating it for everything they do they will probally just shoot theirselves but then you have to calculate the cost of the funeral and the burrying starting with the hole digging and going thru everything that the milk cost.
Oh and dont forget that these factories require employees and these employes drive back and forth to work so you must calculate the impact of each employees livelyhood in all of the figures too

That should confuse them enough to stop asking STUPID questions
Well probally not for after all didnt you say that they were artist and most of them seem to be from another planet anyway

End of Rant

Mike Tanner

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Hi. I work on sustainability projects, and this is a serious question. Unfortunately, most of the people who ask and answer this question are not serious. That is too bad. Carbon accounting is much more difficult than cost accounting, and that makes people's eyes glaze over. No need to get touchy about it though.

Here's a very quick calculation. This should set an upper bound on the footprint. The bottle will be amortized to negligibility, because of its long life. It is silly to ask about the carbon footprint of an object which may have been around since the 1920's. The refill costs about $30 per 200 cu ft. Of course, smaller fills cost more per unit, but that is overhead, which presumably does not generate carbon emissions. PGE quotes .524 lbs CO2 per kWh and 11.5 cents per kWh. Assuming all the cost is electrical energy (PSA, liquefaction, etc., which is an overestimate), pounds = 30/.115*.524 = 137 lbs. Note that this does not account for profit, hazmat, pouring beer into LWS folks' guts, etc. But, this is a lot better of an estimate than a circular outline of the bottom of a bottle :).

The real reason that this calculation is silly is it does not account for what the argon is used for. For example, I goofed the forge welding of my tong reins. There was an annoying little flap sitting there. It takes only a few cu ft and less than one kWh to tuck that flap in. A purist would say that the tongs were junk and you had better learn right on the next pair. I would say that we are living in different times. Salvage this pair, and learn on the next pair. I am not averse to answering questions, but if these questions lead to silly applications of a real cost carbon tax, that would be tragic.

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I produce my work and run my business in the exact same way - reclaimed materials only, buying equipment and various supplies and tools where available on the second-hand market. It's a practical approach to my that allows me to run with a very low overhead and has nothing to do with "saving the planet".

I live in a county (Washington State - USA) that used to be predominantly farm and timberland but has been completely over-run by development in the last 30 years. Most of my metal comes from the old-boys who have rusting hulks of farming and harvesting equipment in their back lots. With each piece I make, I include a card that gives the provenance of the material - "This piece was forged from the hood of a 1946 Oliver bulldozer, etc.". My clients take great delight in having that information.

When it comes to the "green" movement I don't claim to be cynic or zealot - I'm just motivated by the idea that not "fouling the den" is a makes-sense way to approach life and when presented with folk who are posing to be green while living completely outside those ideals, a certain level of cynicism creeps in. Building a 5000 Sq. Ft. house for two people is not being green no matter how many reclaimed or recycled materials you use . . .

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just explain to them that you only use one tank that gets refilled every time (so your not responsible for the production of more) and that they fill the tanks with electric engine compressors (which do not release use any fuels as such) and that the electric power from the facility that you use is solar generated (which again uses no fuels as such)!! :) And make it sound really good. As long as it makes them happy......


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