You’ve probably heard the term carbon footprint recently, but you might not have a good idea of what it means, or of what yours is. Your carbon footprint is a measurement of the effects you have on the climate, based on the amount of greenhouse gas you produce in your life.
There are lots of everyday activities that produce these gases, from riding in a vehicle to turning on the furnace. Even using the stove is a tiny addition to the problem of global warming. Each year, the average American produces twenty tons of carbon dioxide, or about forty thousand pounds.
If you want to cut down on your personal emissions, you’ll need to know how much you’re producing. It’s been estimated that we all need to reduce our emissions by sixty to eight percent to stabilize the concentrations of greenhouse gases. There are a few ways to do it, and not all the changes are actually that big. Here are a few examples.
If you drive a car that gets poor mileage, upgrade to one that’s better. You could reduce a lot of your emissions by upping your car’s mileage. Leave your car at home two days out of the week, and you’d cut about fifteen hundred pounds of your personal emissions per year. For changing one incandescent bulb to a CFL – two hundred and sixty pounds saved per year.
You may be surprised by how large your carbon footprint really is too. If you want to know what you put into the atmosphere, consider using one of the many online calculators to determine your personal contribution. However, not all calculators are created equal. Some are more accurate than others, or consider more factors.
The Cool Climate calculator at the University of California at Berkeley is one of the better ones available. This is a free, web based tool that takes not only daily driving, but also electricity expenses, groceries, and other factors into account, giving you a carbon score.
You then get to compare your score to other households in the twenty-eight biggest urban areas in the country. You may be surprised by some of the results, since San Francisco – generally considered ecologically aware – often has a higher footprint than Tampa. It’s because San Francisco’s cost of living is higher and its winters are colder and wetter.
The calculator at earthlab.com is another one that works well. Take a three minute survey, get your score back, then save and update it as you make changes. You’ll get a series of lifestyle suggestions that could help, too. Just hanging your clothes to dry instead of putting them through the dryer could make a big difference.
Photo by: Suprijono Suharjoto -