Carbon Footprint

Your carbon footprint and other causes of climate change are discussed. The human impact on the environment is real and there are well known consequences of global warming. It is important to know your contribution to climate change and how to lesson your impact. This page was created by summarizing "The Rough Guide to Climate Change - section What Can You Do?" (by Robert Henson, 2011)

Where Do I Start?

Good question. You'd probably want to start with one of the carbon calculators out there on the internet. This will provide an idea of how many tons of carbon dioxide your activities contribute to the total emissions that enter the atmosphere yearly.

Once armed with this knowledge you can then make some adjustments in the way you conduct your day-to-day life in order to reduce your carbon footprint.

For comparative purposes you can also see where you stand compared with others. The typical CO2 emissions per capita in the U.S. and U.K. can be found on locations on the internet.

Home Energy

To begin you might want to do an online energy audit of your home.

Some of the things to keep in mind for improving effeciency around the home include:

•Make heating/cooling more efficient. If the budget is tight, you might need to wait until your old unit dies and invest in a more energy efficient model. Check manufacturing info for standards

•Add extra insulation to crawl spaces and easy-to-access, hidden areas. Also use weather stripping for drafts under doors and make sure you have energy efficient windows

•Make sure your thermostat is turned up in the summer (say 25C or 77F) and down a tad in the winter (18C or 64F)

•Hot water heating: use an energy efficient model if possible. Keep the temperature no more than 50C (or 122F). Also consider "insulating blankets" which can lower your energy use - to heat water - by 25-45%.

•If you have the flexibility, pick natural gas as your main fuel versus oil or electric. It is the cleanest burning fossil fuel and hence there are less emissions of greenhouse gas generated.

•Take a shower versus a bath - it's faster and saves water and energy

•Find an electric supplier that supplements their energy with renewable energy

•Of course, generate your own power if the budget allows, such as home solar panels.

•Make your roof more reflective. This reduces absorption of solar energy and keeps your home cooler during the summer.

•Look for energy labels for appliances, such as "Energy Star"

•Go with compact fluorescent light bulbs; they last 10 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs and generate 4x more light per unit area (i.e., all you need is 23 watts to have the same light as a 100-watt traditional bulb)

•Unplug those invisible power drains, such as TV, stereos, digital video recorders, computers, etc. A power strip can be hooked up and easily switched off. It is estimated that 5-10% of household energy is wasted by "stand by" mode.

•When your frigerator/freezer die, replace with as efficient one as possible.

•Use the dishwasher versus doing "by hand". Even though you might of good intentions to save energy, the time and water it takes doesn't add to savings, actually more waste.

•After doing laundry allow it to "air dry". Self explanatory. :)

What About Travel?

It has been estimated that 1/3 of your "carbon footprint" is generated from travel.

Below are some tips in being more efficient:

•Your bicycle is best for transportation; the car follows; trains & boats follow this; and planes are the worst as far as emissions go

•If you are due for a new car, consider the hybrid (i.e., Toyota Prius or Honda Civic Hybrid). They can get 70 miles per gallon.

•Even "greener" are the electric cars (i.e., Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt). These however need to charge every 100 mi or so.

•The reason planes are bad as far as global warming impacts is that it takes extra fuel to move people at the high altitude and speeds of a jet aircraft. And people fly much further than they'd travel by train, boat, or car.

•Two people flying round trip between the U.S. and Europe create greenhouse emissions equivalent to that a U.S. car generates in a year!

Shopping Considerations

Whenever you are considering buying at item, think about the energy that goes into producing, packaging, and transporting.

•Beef is the worst; from grazing livestock to preparation to your dinner table can result in nearly a fifth of greenhouse emissions! Dairy is also not good for the environment for similar reasons

•Buy "local" and "in season" to reduce food miles which lowers the carbon footprint

•Purchase items from second-hand stores when possible

•Compost leftover food instead of tossing in the trash can, which leads to the landfill. This is the best way to lower emissions.

•Avoid bottled water; this is one of the worst things you can do for the environment; from the petroleum in the production, to fuel in transportation costs, to energy to keep cool, and finally to the landfill or recycling

•Buy organic food when you can; there is slightly less emissions generated, but - more importantly - less chemicals in the food and better for you.
Buy in bulk to reduce transportation miles for individual items

•Bring your own re-usable bag when shopping (up to a billion plastic bags are used each year and a lot of these end up in landfills)

Shopping in a "green" fashion has potential to do a lot of good just because we are all consumers and we literally 'vote' with our money. Each purchase for something environmentally-friendly encourages businesses to continue to provide these sorts of things.

"Off-setting" & Conclusions

There are ways to cancel your carbon footprint. Usually you hire a company or person to do an activity which reduces the carbon by the amount you created.

Some suggested methods to cancel your carbon contribution:

•Purchase carbon "off-sets"

•Hire a company that buys permits and destroys them (impacts projects that harm environment)

•Hire a company that buys land and donates to a local trust (keep land off-limits to development)

•Support a company that funds renewable energy projects

As you can see, there are a multitude of ways you can reduce your own impact on the environment and reduce your carbon footprint. There more like-minded people there are the better off the earth will be!

Author's Bio: 

I'm a meteorologist with a passion for climate change and environmental issues.

If interested in learning more, check out my site: