Your Carbon Footprint and How to Calculate It
Reducing your carbon footprint has become such a commonly-used phrase that it has almost become a cliche. Most people have heard the term “carbon footprint” but far fewer know how to determine it. Do you know how to calculate your carbon footprint? Here’s how.
First, it is essential to define exactly what is meant by the term “carbon footprint.” A useful formal definition is provided by the UK carbon Trust: Your “Carbon Footprint” is the total set of greenhouse gas emissions caused directly and indirectly by an individual, organization, event, or product.”
It is important to recognize that your carbon footprint is not determined by simply looking at your daily activities and adding up all the carbon emissions that result directly from your actions. Secondary emissions are an important part of the calculation as well. Those secondary emissions results from a variety of choices and actions, including many that you probably never considered and important before. For example, the following everyday habits and consumer choices figure into the calculation of your carbon footprint: food preferences, organic produce, eating in-season food, buying imported food and goods or locally produced items, the amount of packaging material come with your purchases, the type of furniture you buy, your use of electrical appliances, how recycling you do, how you spend your vacati0n and recreational time, and many others.
Currently, the global average stands at roughly six tons per person per year, but in the United States, that figure leaps to more than twenty tons per person each year.
Why such a massive difference? In the United States (and in most industrialized countries) it is not unusual for people to drive their cars around fifteen thousand miles in a year. This alone creates a substantial amount of greenhouse gases.
Americans also heat and cool their homes more, and use more energy with their household appliances.
Additionally, Americans consume larger quantities of meat in their diets compared with people in most other nations. Americans also rely on such things as bottled water, plastics, and packaging to a greater degree than people in other countries. Taken together, these factors all cause increased energy consumption, higher greenhouse gas creation, and greater waste generation that lead to an increase in the size of the average individual carbon footprint.