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Carbon Footprint

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 goods.

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, click here.

What is My Carbon Footprint?
by Click here 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:

  • Recycle.  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 Energy Star 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 Proper insulation 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 CFLs or LEDs.

  • 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 emissions.

  • 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 tests.

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

Carbon Footprint

EPA - Greenhouse Gas Emissions

U.S. Energy Information Administration - Greenhouse Gases

Carbon Fund




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