Calculating your carbon footprint

Your carbon footprint called, and asked to be reduced.

What is carbon footprint?

It is the amount of total emissions (carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases such as methane) emitted to support human activities.  Carbon footprints measure direct emissions of gases into the atmosphere that cause climate change.  It is measured in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).

What causes the output of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions?  One example is driving a car.  The engine burns fuel which creates CO2.  Another is heating your house.  If you heat with oil, gas or coal, that generates CO2.  Production of food and other products also emits quantities of CO2 as does using electricity.  Many people do not realize that one third of all emissions in the U.S. come from the production of red meat and dairy products.  Chicken and vegetables can have up to10 times smaller footprints per serving.

Calculate your carbon footprint:

There are several websites that will help you get a rough estimate of your personal carbon footprint based on your lifestyle.  They ask about your car, miles driven, use of public transportation, travel, size of your house, how your residence is heated, what you eat, how much food you throw away and much more. The carbon footprint calculators I like are Carbon Independent and Cool Climate.

carbon emissions sources


Actions to reduce your carbon footprint:

If you are not happy with your carbon footprint, here are easy first steps toward a more sustainable life;

  • Carpool as often as possible.
  • Increase use of public transportation.
  • Plant trees.
  • Line dry washed items (they’ll smell wonderful!).
  • Print double sided.
  • Ride your bike rather than drive.
  • Maintain your car to keep emissions as clean as possible.
  • Eat less meat and dairy (raising cattle requires 28 times more land to produce than pork and chicken and results in five times more greenhouse gas emissions).
  • Keep your thermostat as low as is comfortable in winter, and set your thermostat timer to reduce heating or air conditioning when you are not at home.
  • Drive as fuel-efficient a car as possible.
  • Manage your computer power by using sleep mode and turning off monitors at night.
  • Eat locally produced and organic food.  13% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are a result of the production and transportation of food.
  • Turn off lights when you leave a room.  Use compact fluorescent or LED bulbs.
  • Consider how much and how often you travel.


Here are next level actions:

  • Drive a hybrid or electric car.
  • Install low flow showerheads.
  • Reuse and recycle consumer products and packaging.
  • Add solar panels to your roof. To reduce your use of electricity and lower your electric bill.
  • Buy energy efficient appliances.
  • Insulate and seal your home.
  • Get an energy audit.
  • Compost food waste.
  • Reduce your junk mail (Paper Karma contacts each company and requests that it remove you from their mailing lists.).

Calculating carbon footprints

See our earlier article about carbon footprint.