What is a Carbon Footprint? It might sound like some abstract metaphysical concept, but its actually a very real thing. A Carbon Footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases you emit, expressed in CO2. You may not think that one person would put off very much carbon dioxide, but the fact of the matter is that a large part of the objects we use and the activities we take part in some how emit it. I'll give you a few examples. The one that comes to mind first of course is car exhaust, which everyone knows about. How about your food though? 15% percent of our food in the U.S. is imported from a foreign country and the rest of it gets trucked in from across the nation. All this food transport alone emits tonnes of carbon... literally. In the U.S., car exhaust and the transportation of food and other goods makes up 27% of our green house gas (GHG) emissions. And that doesn't even take into account the production of the food. Think of all the tractors fertilizing and harvesting our food. Agriculture in the U.S. accounts for 9% of GHG emissions. One way to reduce this impact is to buy local foods that are produced with better farming practices and are transported much less distance.
Lets look now to the household, which might be a more tangible way to comprehend your carbon footprint. The number one biggest source of carbon emissions in our country is for electricity at a whopping 31%! And although you may be able to purchase alternative energy through your utility supplier, there are lots of things you can do in the home to reduce your carbon output, and electricity is a great place to start. Whenever possible, turn off lights when you're not using them. And this can go for any appliance. If your not watching your TV or listening to your stereo, turn them off. It will benefit the environment and your wallet. Strangely enough, water use contributes to your carbon footprint. To get water into your home, a lot of energy is required to purify and pump it. Once the water leaves it has to be pumped away again and often to a waste water treatment plant that has to clean the water to start the process all over again. So the less water you use, the more money you'll save and the less emissions you'll be creating. Waste and consumption are one of the largest emitters of CO2 in the home as well. Being conscious of what you are discarding can go along way. Make every effort to recycle anything you can. Check with your local recycling program to see what exactly can be recycled and how. Consuming less is an easy way to reduce your waste too. We often run into the issue of buying things we just don't need. So next time your as the store, ask yourself if you really need that item you are about to purchase, or instead see if there is a similar option that is produced using sustainable materials and practices.
Going back to transportation, there may be a few ways to reduce your carbon footprint in that department. If you live in an urban area you most likely have many opportunities to reduce your environmental impact and save money at the same time. Look into methods of alternative transportation such as ride or car share programs, public transit like a bus or train, and bike sharing. These modes of transportation use less fossil fuels and save you from having to spend money on gas, parking, and insurance. In more rural areas, try to carpool when possible and plan trips wisely in order to reduce drive time. Also if possible, when you're in the market for a new vehicle, look into an electric or hybrid car or at least one that gets the best possible gas mileage.
For more tips on how to reduce your environmental impact or to calculate your person carbon footprint go to http://www.nature.org/greenliving/carboncalculator/ and just remember to be mindful and conscious in everything that you do. The average American emits 17 tonnes of carbon each year so whenever possible strive to be better than average.
Tips for reducing your carbon footprint: