Your “carbon footprint” represents the effect that you (or your family, organization, or business) have on the climate in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases you produce (usually measured in units of carbon dioxide).
Taking a carbon inventory is very important, because solving the global warming crisis first requires you to know how you are contributing to
accelerating climate change.
Armed with this information you can more readily take effective action to shrink or neutralize your carbon footprint and minimize your personal impact on global warming.
Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce the size of your footprint, as well as a number of worthy organizations that can help you to offset it.
Most likely, every day you are creating carbon emissions by using energy generated from non-renewable resources such as coal, oil, and natural gas. Common daily examples include heating and cooling your home and office, turning on lights, using electrical appliances, watching television, and driving. Even when you go to the gym or hair salon, you are leaving a carbon footprint.
You also generate carbon emissions indirectly when you purchase consumer products such as food, clothing, cosmetics, and household products.
Carbon dioxide is created in the production of most manufactured goods, and when products are imported or transported long distances, their carbon contribution is
Deforestation also increases levels of carbon dioxide in the
atmosphere, because there are fewer trees to convert the carbon dioxide into oxygen.
Therefore, when you purchase wood or paper products from non sustainable forests, or when you buy food that was grown where forests were
cleared to make room for crops or grazing, this adds to your carbon footprint as well.
According to calculations based on data from the U.S. Department of Energy, the EPA, and the Energy Information Administration, an average American 2- person household generates about 41,500 pounds of carbon dioxide each year.
It’s probably no surprise that Americans account for almost one quarter of all of the world’s energy use! While we are behind several countries in per capita emissions, the U.S. far surpasses most of the rest of the world.
Now that we are aware of this, we can reverse this pattern and join with other nations that have been more conscientious about their national footprint.
The easiest way to determine your personal carbon emissions count is to use one of the online carbon calculators found on carbon offset sites such as safeclimate.net and carbonfund.org.
You will need your energy bills and knowledge of your approximate annual mileage for ground and air transportation.
These sites will calculate your carbon footprint in terms of your home energy use and transportation, which are the easiest areas to measure.
You can expect to be asked for information regarding
Annual ground travel miles (car, bus, train)
Annual air travel miles
Number in your household
Green power usage
Natural gas usage
Heating oil usage
While this will give you a good approximate total, determining your actual carbon footprint in terms of the products you purchase is certainly more
According to SafeClimate.net, the monthly average footprint per person in the United States is about 1,521 pounds, resulting from transportation and home
However, this calculation represents only about 40 percent of a person’s total emissions, so you can multiply this by 2.5 to determine your
approximate total carbon footprint.
Indeed, the choices you make when shopping for food, cosmetics, household
products, and cleaning supplies, as well as your lifestyle choices are also as critical as the car you drive and your energy-use choices at home.
Some organizations such as Carbon Counted in Canada and The Carbon Trust in the UK are helping businesses to communicate their carbon impact to consumers by including a carbon product label, which quantifies the carbon emissions created from the processing of each particular product.
CarbonFund in the U.S. has created a CarbonFree™ Certified Product label that will help consumers identify products that have been balanced with energy offsets.
Once you’ve estimated your own carbon footprint, there are a lot of easy things you can do to reduce or offset its impact.
For many great ideas about how to do this, we recommend that you read our other blog posts.