ballroom carbon footprint

The Carbon Footprint of Ballroom

After my recent trip to Thailand, where I studied tiger conservation and related issues, I became interested in conservation as it relates to ballroom. Global overcrowding and demand for resources increasingly push people into marginal land areas, while poachers and poor hunters continue to over-exploit the few resources tigers have left. Though seemingly far removed from Minnesota, we, too, have a global effect. The goods we buy, the causes we support, and the way we live all affect things on the other side of the world. I wanted to know what ballroom specifically had to offer to the mix.

So how large of a carbon footprint does ballroom leave? To get at that, let’s track three different ballroom types; call them social, competitive, and professional. I’ve made up numbers for them so we can use these generalizations to make some broad statements about each category. For ease of measurement, everyone lives ten miles from their studio and drives an average car.

Social Dancer:

  • Attends four events per month (about one a week) – 840 pounds
  • Buys one pair of dance shoes per year – 20 pounds

Total: 860 pounds

Competitive Dancer:

  • Takes lessons twice a week – 1,680 pounds
  • Competes once every three months
    • Two local competitions – 44 pounds
    • One including extended travel by car (200 miles) – 175 pounds
    • One including travel by plane (500 – 1,000 miles) – 1,140 pounds
  • Mid-range dress, 1 new per year – 40 pounds
  • Mid-range men’s clothes – 40 pounds
  • Buys three pairs of dance shoes per year – 60 pounds

Total: 3,179 pounds

Professional Dancer:

  • Teaches lessons six days a week (70% of year) – 3,800 pounds
  • Performs in four local showcases about 20 miles away – 60 pounds
  • Attends two guest lessons/lectures about 60 miles away – 110 pounds
  • Competes once every two months
    • Two local competitions – 44 pounds
    • Two including extended travel by car – 175 pounds
    • Two including travel by plane – 2,280 pounds
  • Expensive performance attire, one new per year – 120 pounds
  • Practice attire, two new per year – 80 pounds
  • Buys four pairs of dance shoes per year – 80 pounds

Total: 6,749 pounds

These are not perfect metrics, just estimates, but they should give you some idea of what it takes to make ballroom possible. It’s also worth mentioning that at the professional level, individuals make a living through dance, so some of their everyday carbon impact is included in this as well.

To provide some context, the global average for an entire year’s worth of living for an individual is around 8,000 pounds of carbon. Our social dancer is just under 11% of that, the competitor at 40%, and the professional nearing 85%. The average for the United States is significantly higher, around 40,000 pounds of carbon per capita, making the percentages 2%, 8%, and 17% respectively. Keep in mind that none of these totals take into account the electricity needed to heat and light the venue itself nor the food needed to fuel the dancing; the totals reflect specifically dance-related things only.

With the reality of global climate change at hand, it is always appropriate to pause and reflect on how we as a species and a community are affecting the world around us and what we can do to minimize our negative effects and perform more behaviors that benefit the global ecosystem.

There are several easy ways you could potentially lower your ballroom (and general) carbon footprint. Consider purchasing used costumes and other goods, as this minimizes the demand for new, high-carbon replacements. Carpool or choose alternative transportation methods, as transit-related carbon is usually the largest component of any individual’s carbon budget. And even though you’ve heard it a million times before, shutting off the lights and turning off the faucet really do help.

Be mindful. Dance green.

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