Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Calculate Your Carbon Footprint

What is a Carbon Footprint?
Your Carbon Footprint is a measurement of how your actions affect the earth and the environment, through measuring how many tons of greenhouse gasses your lifestyle produces. (CO2 (Carbon dioxide) is used as a measurement because it is a common byproduct of our actions, and is one of the main greenhouse gasses.) Your carbon footprint is based on things you can directly control, like how much you drive and travel, and is also based on things you can't directly control, like how much greenhouse gas was produced in order to manufacture the products you buy. All of these things contribute toward your carbon footprint.

Where to Calculate your Carbon Footprint
Your carbon footprint can be calculated for free on many websites. I checked out many of these and the calculator from The Nature Conservatory is my favorite because it is the easiest to use. I would also recommend the calculator at the US Environmental Protection Agency because it is very detailed and also suggests solutions for lessening your footprint size.

My Carbon Footprint
Here is what we scored (household of 5): 110 tons of greenhouse gasses emitted each year. The average carbon footprint for a family of 5 living in the United States is 130 tons/year. For the whole world the average for a family of 5 is 28 tons/year. (The average per person is 27 tons/year in the US and 5.5 tons/year for the world average.) Why is my carbon footprint so high? Looking at the pie chart they've made for me, it looks like driving and flying makes up a huge part of our carbon footprint. We live in the East, with family in the West, so travel is a big part of what we do. 

Offsetting your Carbon Emissions
Next time we fly "home," I plan on offsetting my carbon emissions by buying trees. Many airlines now offer carbon offset packages as add-ons to your ticket purchase. Delta, for example, gives travelers the option to contribute $5.50 (domestic roundtrip flight) or $11 (international roundtrip flight) to buy trees to help offset carbon emissions. 

You can also offset your emissions through donations to the Nature Conservatory. These donations protect land and are also used to plant trees. The recommended donation is $20 per ton of CO2 you would like to offset. You can donate to The Nature Conservatory here in order to offset your carbon emissions.

What is your footprint size? Will you set a goal with me to reduce and/or offset our carbon emissions?

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