Carbon Impacts of West Coast Swing Socials

West coast swing dancing is a huge part of my life, and I usually attend at least one dance social a week. To quantify the impacts of social dance on my environmental footprint and to follow up on my January 15 post about ASDC preparation, I decided to examine the impacts of social dancing, specifically regarding attending the AggieWesties social at Texas A&M in College Station last night.

So that I don’t double-count energy usage over the course of the year, I decided to look specifically at how attending a dance social increases (or decreases) my environmental impact when compared to a base case: working, watching a movie, browsing the internet, etc. on my laptop in my room on campus (let’s be real, this is probably where I would be if I weren’t dancing). I considered separately three main ways in which dance socials impact my energy consumption: building conditioning, direct electricity use, and transportation.

Building Conditioning

This was easily the trickiest of the three categories, since I have no real information on the types of lights and sound equipment used or about the building air conditioning equipment either at Rice or Texas A&M. Since my actions don’t affect environmental loads, I considered only internal thermal loads.

First, I estimated air conditioning loads from occupant heat gain (850 Btu/h/person for moderate dancing at the social, and 450 Btu/h/person for sedentary activity at home). I then estimated how much cooling would be required to offset heat from power consumption for the devices I would be using (lights and speakers at the social, laptop and desk lamp at home); I assumed that all of the energy used to power these devices would eventually be transferred to the space, and I divided the energy consumption at the social by the number of people who attended. In sum, internal loads at the social were 940 Btu/h/person, while internal loads at home were 670 Btu/h/person.

In gross estimation, I assumed that the HVAC systems in both locations consumed about 1.1 kWh electricity per ton of cooling required. Since I assumed equivalent building HVAC efficiencies, I can use subtraction to calculate that by attending the social, I contributed 270 Btu/h/ (0.02 tons cooling) more heat to the internal load of the A&M recreation center than I would have contributed to the internal load of Martel College at Rice University. This increase in internal load then equates to 0.11 kWh of electricity over the 4.5 hour social dance. Using the weighted average carbon footprint of ERCOT calculated previously, this is 0.05 kgCO2eq.

Direct Electricity Use

From the same equipment assumptions discussed previously (lights and speakers at the social divided among the number of dancers, laptop and desk lamp at home), I found that I actually directly consumed 0.22 kWh electricity LESS at the social than I would have at home. Thus, my carbon impact from attending the social related to direct electricity use was actually -0.1 kgCO2eq.


The social was in College Station, Texas, and I drove 195 miles round trip to attend. Assuming my 2001 Honda CRV gets about 20 mpg, and splitting emissions among the three people in my car, this equates to 28 kgCO2eq.


The sum total of the carbon emissions due to energy use for the social were essentially 28 kgCO2eq, and this results one key result regarding the carbon impacts of dance socials: I think building energy use can be justifiably ignored in future calculations for the impacts of dance socials. In terms of electricity use, the increase in internal load on the building’s HVAC system was essentially offset by the decrease in direct electricity use. Even though I made a large number of gross assumptions in the calculation, they were at least of the same approximate order of magnitude. In addition, the net impact of electricity use paled in comparison to the impact of traveling to the social. Thus, to analyze socials (and competitions such as ASDC) in the future, I will consider only travel for primary and secondary carbon emissions.

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