How do you calculate your Carbon Footprint?

How do you calculate your Carbon Footprint?

The increase in greenhouse gases has contributed to climate change. Most of those gases come from carbon emissions produced by burning fossil fuels and deforestation. When it comes to controlling the amount of carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere, we measure our impact on something called a carbon footprint. But what is a carbon footprint, and how can you calculate yours? Here’s what you need to know, and how to calculate with online tools.

The term “carbon footprint” may conjure up thoughts of Taylor Swift’s private jet consumption or the huge ton of carbon some oil conglomerates emit into the atmosphere. However, as the Nature Conservancy explains, “a carbon footprint is the total number of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide and methane) produced by our actions.”

Carbon emissions are measured in units of carbon dioxide, a gas known as a greenhouse. Everything, from the type of energy we use to heat our homes to our driveways, and the websites we visit, can make that footprint bigger or smaller. It all adds up to a significant impact on the ecosystem.

In addition to the more obvious choices, like how much we use our cars, things like the food we eat can contribute to our carbon footprint because of the methods used to grow and cultivate the produce and animal products we eat like beef, dairy, and farming. eggs.

Even internet usage can add to our carbon footprint. According to Mozilla and the Carbon Literacy project, the simple act of sending an email can emit about 17 grams of carbon. That doesn’t seem like a lot—and it’s not unique—but the billions of emails sent every year add up.

So what do we do with all this? Is there anything meaningful we can do to reduce our carbon emissions and feel like we are contributing to the preservation of the environment? Yes, but first we need to know how much CO2 – and similar gases – we emit. Now is the time to measure your carbon footprint.

EPA carbon footprint calculator

EPA’s online carbon footprint calculator (Credit: United States Environmental Protection Agency)

There are many ways to calculate your carbon footprint online. These tools all use very similar numbers to measure CO2 output, so choose whichever one seems easiest to you:

The calculator will ask you how many people are in your household, your current ZIP code, information about your utility bills, how much you drive, and more. Make sure you have the following information before you get started in earnest:

  • Your utility bills include electricity, natural gas, water, and propane.

  • Estimated MPG of the vehicle you are driving (or equivalent rating for an electric vehicle).

  • Anything that lists the square footage of your house/house.

  • Your average grocery bill.

You’ll also need to enter any flights you’ve taken under the “travel” tab so they can be entered. Some calculators allow you to add the mileage per trip, while others allow you to enter the mileage per year. Once you’ve tabulated all of this and entered it into the calculator, you’ll find your carbon footprint.

If you don’t have regular access to the internet, or you just don’t want to type all that into an online calculator, you can use a manual formula to find your carbon footprint number. Designed by Alexandra Shimo-Barry, author of “The Right Equation,” it looks like this:

  • Multiply your monthly electricity bill by 105.

  • Multiply your monthly gas bill by 105.

  • Multiply your monthly oil bill by 113.

  • Multiply your car’s annual mileage by 0.79.

  • Multiply the number of flights you took last year (4 hours or less) by 1,100.

  • Multiply the number of flights you took last year (4 hours or more) by 4,400.

  • Add 184 if you DO NOT agree to update the newspaper.

  • Add 166 if you do NOT recycle aluminum and tin.

  • Add 1-8 and your total carbon footprint.

Whether you calculate your carbon footprint online or by hand, a “good” carbon footprint is considered 6,000 to 15,999, while 16,000-22,000 is considered average. Under 6,000 is excellent, while over 22,000 means you should start taking steps to lower that number.

It’s important to take a comprehensive look at your carbon footprint by incorporating as many aspects of your daily life as you can to find and address any gaps. You may be doing well in one area but failing in another. As Kieran Mulvaney put it National Geographic: “A person who eats beef regularly will have more food than his neighbor who does not eat meat, but that neighbor’s footprint may be larger if he drives an hour to work and returns in an SUV each day while our meat-eating bikes go to his office. near.”

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Keep in mind that, because there are so many variables to take into account, your carbon footprint calculation will never be 100% accurate. Mulvaney uses the example of equating a commercial airline to your carbon tally: You can just take the emissions of the airline and divide it by the number of passengers, right? Not exactly. Business and first class passengers actually bear the highest part of emissions because they take up more space and pay higher fees, which encourages the airline to make more flights, thus emitting more carbon.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t calculate your carbon footprint. The calculator and formulas above still give a good enough ballpark figure to find where you can afford to reduce emissions—and where you’re already doing well.

Smokestack in Room

When tabulating your carbon footprint, it’s easy to get caught up in the numbers. You may feel guilty about your commute in a gasoline vehicle, for example. But remember that this puts a lot of emphasis on the individual.

The fact remains that the biggest polluters in the United States are large industries such as transportation, energy and agriculture. Petrochemical giant Shell was responsible for 1,377 million tons of CO2 equivalent emissions in 2020 alone. Cases like these show that any meaningful change must start at the top.

Together, however, we can make a difference. By choosing not to add to the problem, we are making things better at least one household at a time.

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