Footprints to Nowhere: How Do You Calculate Your Carbon Footprint?
We’ve talked a lot about different ways to help the environment and reduce your carbon footprint, but we probably should take a few steps back for a minute – what exactly is a carbon footprint anyways? And why is it so big? And does that mean that Bigfoot’s carbon footprint is enormous?
Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.
What even is a carbon footprint?
According to an article from the New York Times, a carbon footprint is “the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions that come from the production, use, and end-of-life of a product or service.” Carbon dioxide is humanity’s biggest contributor to that total, but the footprint also includes other gases, like methane, fluorinated gases, and nitrous oxide. These greenhouse gases all do the nasty work of trapping heat in Earth’s atmosphere which leads to…you guessed it, global warming. Not good.
These gases are emitted into the atmosphere through a variety of methods: agricultural activities (especially keeping livestock), industrial processes, burning trees and solid waste, and burning fossil fuels ( like natural gas, oil, coal).
Basically, many of our daily activities release greenhouse gases into the air. These emissions thicken the Earth’s atmosphere, making it difficult for heat to escape, which in turn makes the entire planet hotter.
How do you figure out the size of your own carbon footprint?
For companies (like us), carbon footprints are a bit tricky to calculate. We have to factor in transportation, manufacturing, packaging, facilities, the companies we do business with, etc.etc.. But, for an individual, it’s a bit simpler to figure out your contribution.
Your carbon footprint is essentially a combination of how you live, how you get around, what you eat, and what you buy. You have to take into consideration a whole host of data from your life – how many miles you drive per year, how many miles you fly, what kind of food your purchase, how much money you spend on electricity per year, what kind of electricity you use, and so on.
This may sound like a lot of calculating, but you don’t have to do all that work by yourself. The Nature Conservancy created a really cool Carbon Footprint Calculator that will tell you how many tons of carbon dioxide you use per year. They base it on your household, but you can calculate it individually as well.
How does your footprint stack up against other people’s? And what do you do now?
According to The Nature Conservancy, the average carbon footprint for someone in the United States is 16 tons. To put that into perspective, the average footprint globally is only 4 tons, and the ideal carbon footprint to avoid further global warming is under 2 tons per person.
Of course, lowering your footprint to less than 2 tons won’t happen overnight (unless you’re already an environmental superstar). But, if everyone develops a few habits that would decrease their footprint just by a bit, the global impact would be impressive.
In some of our previous blogs, we’ve included tips for living greener and decreasing your consumption of greenhouse gases – but we haven’t even mentioned the half of it. From taking public transportation when you can to eating less meat and more veggies, there are so many lifestyle and habit changes that can be made.
Check out this New York Times article for more ideas.