By Jennifer Gallus
HOWARD LAKE, MN - Carbon footprint. Definition: “a measure of the impact human activities have on the environment, and in particular climate change. It relates to the amount of greenhouse gases produced in day-to-day life through burning fossil fuels for electricity, heating and transportation, etc.,” according to www.carbonfootprint.com.
For three days recently, from sunup until sundown, the Lange family of Howard Lake’s carbon footprints were followed by a public television crew.
All aspects of the family’s life was recorded from waking up to an alarm clock, to driving to school and work, to going to bed.
No, they will not be the newest reality show on television, rather the family of four was chosen by Prairie Public television to represent a typical US middle-class family’s impact on the environment and the carbon footprint trail the family leaves.
Prairie Public broadcasting is based in Fargo.
Troy, Susie, CJ, 12, and Chase, 9, didn’t hesitate when approached for the project by one of Susie’s friends from the University of North Dakota.
Susie was a mass communications major in college, although she now is a flight attendant for Northwest/Delta Airlines.
“I said ‘Sure, sounds like a kick,’” Susie said.
“Prairie Public production staff will be literally circling the globe this spring,” explained Prairie Public Producer Bob Damback in a recent blog, “as we explore how the world can transition to life with lower CO2 emissions. As you can imagine, the answers to how we can reduce greenhouse gases are not the same for everyone. We’ll be following that story in our upcoming documentary, ‘Reducing Our Carbon Footprint One Size Does Not Fit All.’”
The production crew will also follow a family in India and one in Africa, and will be documenting a “typical” family’s impact on the environment, as well as assess workable strategies the families can employ to reduce their carbon footprints.
“As we visit each family,” Damback continued, “we will assess their energy use, current carbon footprint, and what the future could be for energy use and CO2 emissions.”
“And we’ll be looking at more than just the electricity meter. We’ll be examining all aspects of household life: communications, cooking, heating, cooling, lighting, transportation, education, work environment, and the local energy infrastructure. The family experience will be put into the greater context of how energy is created, supplied, and used in each country,” he added.
The Langes were filmed doing everyday tasks such as doing their hair, playing video games, and even followed around while at work and school.
“The kids got to be big shots with their pals at school,” Susie laughed.
“It was fun,” CJ said. “It was cool when they came to school with us.”
Chase agreed that it was fun, but also thought it was a bit awkward.
“The crew wanted a portrait of what a family does for power usage,” Susie said.
She also explained that one of the families the crew is following abroad just got power in the last six months for the first time ever.
“It should be really interesting,” Susie said.
The program is scheduled to air in January 2010.
More information about the documentary can be found at www.prairiepublic.org/television/. On the home page, click on “On the Road with Prairie Public,” then scroll down and click, “Our family had fun” to view some photos from the Langes’ filming.
The Lange family was paid a nice compliment by Damback, who wrote, “If we had gone to central casting in Hollywood, we could not have found a better family for the project than the Langes of Howard Lake, MN. They were hospitable, agreeable, engaging and even cute when the situation called for it.”