What’s your carbon footprint? Do you know? Should you know? And how do you go about figuring it out?
Let’s start with the basics. Carbon footprint is the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused directly and indirectly by an individual, organization, event, product, nation or the world. It’s often measured in tons of CO2. Some GHG’s are natural occurring such as when natural gas deposits, methane, leak through the soil or when cows digest their food and pass gas. GHG also comes from the burning of fossil fuels and this is believed to be the largest contributing factor of global warming. Coal, gas and deisel are some of the biggest culprits.
So your carbon footprint involves how much electricity you use and where that electricity comes from. The kind of car you drive and how many miles you drive. Even what food you eat. Remember those cows? If you’re eating steak every night, then your carbon footprint is going up. How you heat your home, where your veggies and fruits come from and how many plane rides you take in a year. It can get rather complicated and it’s probably impossible to know exactly what your carbon footprint is, but there are a number of sites out there that can help you figure it out. And more importantly, these sites offer a way to offset your carbon footprint as well as lots of ideas on how to reduce your carbon footprint to begin with.
The average American is responsible for a whopping 50,000 lbs. of CO2 annually to light our homes, drive our cars, fly to grandma’s and everything else we do.
That’s a scary number. So what can you do about it? You can offset your footprint by purchasing renewable energy, energy efficiency and reforestation projects. Start by visiting the calculator section where you can learn what your home’s carbon footprint is. In my case, the number is 18.02 tons and I can buy an offset for $180.05. That’s $180 going towards a project such as Iowa Lakes Wind Energy & Turbine Program, Chino Basin Dairy Farm Biodigester, or New York State Landfill Methane Project. For complete list, click here.
Carnonfund also has a useful education page full of tips on how to reduce your footprint.
Brighter Planet also offers offsets. Their site seems a bit less technical (you can’t plug in the actual kilowatt hours your household consumed) but a little bit easier to navigate. But what I found most interesting is the fact that you can apply for their credit card and for every dollar spent a certain amount goes towards purchasing offsets. Using their calculator, $1000 worth of purchases would result in offsetting 3000 tons of CO2, the equivalent of taking three cars off the road for a month.
Another interesting idea is offsetting your events, such as weddings or trade shows based on the total carbon footprint of your event.