Carbon Footprint

Fri, Oct 1, 2010

Going Green

Carbon footprint is the measure of units of carbon dioxide emitted by human activities such as driving a car, heating homes with oil, etc. Carbon footprint is measured over a period of a year. For example, for each gallon of gasoline used, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted is 8.7kgs. Carbon dioxide is a major component of the greenhouse gas (GHG) responsible for global warming. Other GHGs include methane, ozone, nitrous oxide, etc. Carbon footprint gives a fair understanding of personal contributions to global warming.

How is Carbon Footprint Calculated?

There are different ways of calculating carbon footprint. In the first method, called Life Cycle Assessment, the amount of carbon emissions is calculated over the entire life cycle of the product. For example, carbon emissions of a car would take into account the emissions from building the car, driving the car and disposing it off. At a country level, the carbon emissions are calculated top-down. In this method total emissions from the country are divided by the population or number of residents.

To find out your personal impact on the environment, use the online carbon footprint calculators at TerraPass and ClimateCrisis.

Carbon Footprint Facts

The U.S. accounts for more than 20% of the global total greenhouse gas emissions. An average American emits 22 tons of carbon each year. Approximately 40% of U.S. emissions come from home energy use and transportation. Every three bulbs replaced with energy efficient fluorescent bulbs in each American household would help to eliminate about a trillion pounds of CO2 a year.

How to Reduce Carbon Footprint

There are several ways to reduce individual carbon footprint ranging from bulbs to biomass energy.

  • Get smart about energy efficiency. Move the thermostat two degrees down in winter and 2 degrees up in summer. Replace lamps with CFL bulbs. Unplug battery chargers when not in use.
  • Become a locovore. Buy fruits and vegetables from local farmer’s markets.
  • Carpool or use public transport.
  • Purchase green power and support renewable energy generation.
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