Measure Your Energy Use—in Burritos

The U.S. Department of Energy substitutes food for fuel to show what energy hogs we are.
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Feb 9, 2015· 0 MIN READ
Todd Woody is TakePart's editorial director, environment.

Forget the British thermal unit (Btu), that impenetrable measurement of energy use.

Let’s talk burritos.

Daniel Wood, a data integration specialist at the United States Department of Energy, has come up with a more appetizing way to illustrate just how much energy our homes and cars consume.

Energy Use in Burritos

“We assume that a large burrito with all the fixings is about 1,200 kilocalories,” Wood and Sarah Gerrity, a multimedia editor at the DOE, wrote in a blog post on the department’s site. “Since we can convert between kilocalories (kcal) and Btu...we know that the average American consumes 149 million Btu—or 37 million kcal—a year in residential and transportation-related energy.”

How many burritos does that energy consumption represent? A lot. About 31,000 burritos a year per person annually. Now consider that to maintain your weight, you need to eat only 600 burritos a year.

Energy Use in Burritos

“This means that every day, transportation and residential energy needs are 50 times as energy-demanding as your body’s energy needs (also known as your metabolism),” Wood and Gerrity wrote.

That’s just the average. Residents of frigid Alaska are more than twice as burrito-intensive—at 77,228 per person—as the national average. The most burrito-miserly residents live in Washington, D.C., consuming the equivalent of just 18,114 burritos of energy a year. (To find out where your state stands, check out this interactive graphic.)

In general, warmer, densely populated states are the most burrito-efficient. New Yorkers scarf down the energy equivalent of 22,275 burritos per person a year, while Californians eat 24,418 and Hawaiians 27,024.

Hungry yet?