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Green Tips: Calculating Your Carbon Footprint

Green Tips | March 26, 2020

As climate change continues to become more pronounced, it is increasingly important for the public to cut energy usage and make more environmentally conscious lifestyle decisions. Many facets of our modern lifestyle require energy, and these activities contribute to our collective greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This week, we’re showing you how to calculate the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that your activities emit in a year so you can learn where you stand and where there’s room to cut back.

Calculate Your Annual Carbon Footprint 

A carbon footprint is the measurement of fossil fuel-sourced carbon dioxide emissions that one emits through various activities. Many things influence these outputs, including where you live, what you eat, and how you travel. Since people have different lifestyles, carbon footprints vary from person to person. 

Alexandra Shimo-Barry’s The Environment Equation shows how to quickly calculate your carbon footprint using the following method:

  1. Multiply your monthly electricity bill by 105
  2. Multiply your monthly gas bill by 105
  3. Multiply your monthly oil bill by 113
  4. Multiply total yearly mileage driven by .79
  5. Multiply the number of flights for the year–4 hours or less–by 1,100
  6. Multiply the number of flights for the year–4 hours or more–by 4,400
  7. If you don’t recycle paper add 184. If yes, add 0.
  8. If you don’t recycle aluminum and tin add 166. If yes, add 0.

Sum numbers 1 through 8 to calculate the pounds of CO2 that you emit in a given year. To calculate your carbon footprint in metric tons, take the previous total and divide it by 2,205. It may be hard to visualize what one metric ton of an invisible gas looks like, so here’s a visual

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calls for GHG emissions to be significantly reduced in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C. Human activity has already contributed to a global temperature increase of 1°C. The IPCC warns that emitting an additional 420 gigatons (420 million metric tons) can warm the planet to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Based on current trends, it’s possible that 420 million metric tons will be emitted by 2046. While large-scale action is required by global leaders to prevent another 0.5°C increase, we can do our part everyday to reduce our carbon footprint.

Carbon Emissions from Your Diet

You may have noticed that your calculated carbon footprint may be less than the average American, which clocks in at 14.95 metric tons. But the method above does not account for the carbon output of what you eat, which can significantly add to your carbon footprint. The IPCC recommends decreasing the consumption of animal products, which contributes more than half of food-related emissions worldwide due to methane gas released by animals and clearing land for pastures. Use this food calculator to calculate your food-related carbon footprint.

Assess your Impact

Calculating your carbon footprint can help you assess which of your lifestyle choices and habits have the biggest climate impact. Once you know where you stand, you can make changes to reduce your emissions. Check out some of our other Green Tips to help get you started: 

More Footprint Calculators

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