What is a Carbon Footprint?
Your carbon footprint is the measure of your total impact on the environment
and, more specifically, climate change. Your footprint represents the amount of
greenhouse gases you produce through use of transportation, heat and electricity
(primary footprint), as well as the manufacturing emissions related to purchased
products (secondary footprint). The primary footprint is a direct measurement
of the amount of fossil fuels burned in day-to-day activities. The secondary
footprint is an indirect measure of the emissions related to the manufacture,
transportation, packaging, etc. involved in the production of your purchased
Carbon footprints are usually measured as total greenhouse gas emissions from an
individual or household. This is often represented as the "tons of CO2"
emitted, with one ton being roughly equivalent to 2,500 miles in a mid-size car,
5,000 miles in an airplane, or the process of cutting down and burning a 40-ft.
tree. Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, making up
over 80% of the total emissions (EIA).
By working to reduce your carbon footprint, you can help reduce the amount of CO2
in the atmosphere and decrease our impact on global warming.
Regardless of your opinions on global climate change, your carbon footprint is a
pretty good gauge of how intensively you are using resources. Less intense use
will help prevent many types of pollution and maintain or improve our
environment. Thinking about less intense uses will save surprising amounts of
money as well.
Many environmental programs offer ways to offset your carbon footprint. Usually
this consists of a monetary donation to a group focused on planting trees and
protecting land. To find out how you can offset your carbon footprint,
What is My Carbon Footprint?
for Carbon Fund's Carbon Footprint Calculator and to be guided through the
necessary steps to offset your footprint.
How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint:
Implement one or more of these simple tips into your lifestyle to help minimize
your environmental impact:
This can take multiple forms, from the traditional (taking cans, cardboard,
plastic, newspaper, etc. to recycling centers) to the practical (reusing plastic
bags, boxes, containers, etc.) to the creative (using recycled paper to make
stationary, turning cereal boxes into office containers, etc.). No matter what
form it takes, recycling is a free and easy way to minimize impact.
Use energy-efficient products in your home.
Look for the
label on appliances, electronics, office equipment, etc. as an indicator of high
energy efficiency and quality.
Minimize water waste.
By taking shorter showers, washing full loads of laundry and dishes, and only
heating the amount of water you need for coffee, tea, etc., you can decrease the
amount of energy used to heat water in your home.
Run all of your errands in one trip.
Make a once-a-week venture around town to run errands or try to stop on the way
home from work or school instead of taking a separate trip. This decreases your
vehicle's emissions by reducing driving time.
Turn off all lights and fans when you are not in the room. Fans do not
actually lower the temperature of the room, but rather are designed to create a
cool air flow resembling a breeze. Because of this, they only have an impact on
the apparent room temperature, not the actual room temperature. Turning them
off while you are out will reduce energy usage and you can always turn them back
on when you return to be instantly cooled down again.
Unplug electronic items when not in use.
Contrary to popular belief, most electronics still consume energy even when they
are turned off. By unplugging infrequently used items (toasters, fans, electric
can openers, coffee makers, etc.) after use, you can decrease the amount of
�hidden� energy your home consumes on a day-to-day basis.
Consider purchasing electricity from a green energy supplier. By utilizing
energy harvested using environmentally-friendly, non-polluting processes, you
can reduce your electricity footprint to zero. Green energy can come from wind
turbines, hydroelectric plants, geothermal systems, solar photovoltaic panels,
and other sources.
Insulate your home properly.
helps prevent heat loss from your home, thus reducing the amount of energy used
in heating and cooling.
Replace burned out light bulbs with energy-efficient
Buy organic, local products.
Purchasing products produced in your area reduces packing and transportation
emissions and can help contribute to your local economy.
Avoid excessive packaging.
Try to avoid purchasing products with unnecessary layers of packing. If you do
but something with excessive packaging, save it to reuse when sending birthday
or holiday presents instead of throwing it away. This minimizes the energy used
in producing cardboard, bubble wrap, etc.
Energy-proof your home.
Consult a professional to have a
home energy audit
performed on your home. This will tell you how energy-efficient your home is
and explain where improvements can be made. Implement as many improvements as
possible to maximize your homes energy efficiency and drastically reduce carbon
Use eco-friendly transportation whenever possible. Consider biking to work
if you live close to the office or ride buses, light-rails, subways, or trains.
If possible, carpool to work, school, or social events to minimize carbon
emissions caused by driving.
Take your car in for routine check-ups.
Make sure air filters are in good condition and stay up-to-date on emissions
Videos on This Topic:
How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint at Home (3:23) - The Green Guide - Find out
how to make a few changes around your home to reduce your carbon footprint.
How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
(2:32) - Howcast - Watch as you are guided through a multi-step process to
reducing your carbon footprint.
More Information on This Topic:
Carbon Footprint Calculator
EPA Households Emissions Calculator
EPA - Greenhouse Gas Emissions
U.S. Energy Information Administration - Greenhouse Gases