When we think about the impact of climate change, we can easily feel overwhelmed by the information, research, and discoveries that emerge almost daily. Additionally, the science behind global warming is complex and difficult for the average person to understand.
Although the most impactful solutions to climate change require large-scale global cooperation, that doesn't mean you can't do your part to help. There are personal choices in our everyday lives that can help us to limit our environmental impacts. Calculating your personal carbon footprint is a great first step (pun intended) toward reducing your carbon output.
What is a Carbon Footprint?
Undoubtedly you've heard this buzzword before. A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions a person, organization, or product produces. Greenhouse gases are chemicals within the atmosphere that absorb infrared radiation from the sun in the form of heat, creating a “greenhouse” effect, and they contribute directly to global warming and climate change.
Essentially, your carbon footprint is a way to measure the impact your lifestyle can have on the environment. This footprint can be determined by your daily activities, how much electricity you use, the car you drive, and even the foods you consume.
How Do You Calculate Your Carbon Footprint?
Your carbon footprint can be calculated by summing up all the emissions that result from your regular activities.
There are a number of online calculators available to help you take stock of your personal carbon footprint. Prior to using one of these calculators, you'll need to have some information handy:
Approximate miles traveled by car, plane, or public transportation
Approximate home energy usage (you can use your utility bills for this)
Total cost of personal shopping
The contents of your diet
How you dispose of waste and recycling
Click here to calculate your own carbon footprint.
I've Calculated My Carbon Footprint, Now What?
Knowing your carbon footprint is only half of the equation. Next, it's time to examine what parts of your lifestyle may contribute the most to it, and finally, come up with some solutions to help reduce your footprint. For instance:
Travel - Rather than drive your car, you could opt for public transportation, carpool, or biking. If you can't completely give up your vehicle, there are a few things you can do while driving to help minimize your impact. Regularly keeping your car serviced, easing on braking and accelerating, and using cruise control on long drives are simple ways to reduce your impact.
Diet - Although a vegan diet may be best for the environment, it's not a lifestyle that works for everyone. Smaller changes, such as having a “meatless” day during the week, can cut down your impact. Lowering your food waste, skipping disposable plates and cups, and planning your meals in advance can also help lower your impact.
Home - There are so many things you can do within your home to reduce your carbon footprint, and the majority of them are incredibly quick and simple to execute. Replacing your lights with LED bulbs, considering Energy Star appliances when looking to upgrade, and turning down the heat and water heater can all have a significant impact on your energy usage. Additionally, incorporating a recycling or composting routine can cut down on plastic waste and put your food waste to good use. Even if you don't have a home garden, you can sign up for a composting service that collects your compostables each week and delivers them to local farms.
Shopping Habits - To minimize your impact while shopping, you can do simple things such as bringing a reusable shopping bag with you, shopping vintage or resale, and avoiding “fast fashion.” Instead, choose to invest in quality items that will stand the test of time. It's always a good idea to do your research before making a purchase. Ensure that your favorite brands are doing their part to reduce waste by working with sustainable materials, using natural resources like water and fossil fuels efficiently, and opting for renewable energy sources when possible.
Although the concept of global warming can be overwhelming, there are so many things we can do as individuals to help mitigate its effects. Have you calculated your carbon footprint? What's one thing you can do to offset your carbon impact?
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