As discussion about our climate becomes more prominent, there’s growing buzz about our carbon footprints. But what is our carbon footprint and what are we supposed to do about it? This beginner’s guide will go through some tips and tricks for understanding your carbon footprint and how we can change it to work towards a more sustainable future. Let’s get started!
What Is a Carbon Footprint?
Your carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide or carbon compounds that are emitted into the atmosphere as a result of your everyday actions. It is typically measured by calculating the amount of Earth’s natural resources required to sustain your daily lifestyle. For instance, someone’s carbon footprint could be 2.7 Earths, which would mean that sustaining their lifestyle requires 2.7 Earths’ worth of resources.
The average carbon footprint of an American citizen is 16 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year. If everyone on Earth had a carbon footprint of 16 tons, we would require 9.94 Earths worth of resources to sustain ourselves. The average carbon footprint of an American is significantly higher than other countries. The international average carbon footprint is only 4.7 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year. With this international average, we are requiring 1.7 Earths worth of resources to sustain ourselves – more resources than one Earth has available.
Carbon footprint calculators will take into account both direct and indirect sources of carbon in your lifestyle. Direct sources come directly from your actions, including driving your car or turning the heat on in your home. Indirect sources are products or services we use that require carbon to be produced. This could include purchasing meats or dairy products, which emit a lot of carbon in their production processes.
To avoid exhausting our natural resources, we want to work to lower our carbon footprints. Carbon dioxide, along with other greenhouse gasses, work to trap heat within the Earth’s atmosphere. Natural amounts of greenhouse gasses are important for the planet. Without them, our atmosphere would be much colder, and we likely wouldn’t survive. That being said, we are currently facing the opposite problem. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the amount of carbon in our atmosphere was around 280 parts per million (ppm). Currently, the amount of carbon in our atmosphere is around 415 ppm. We are trapping more heat than we need or want, which is leading to changes in our climate patterns.
Carbon is one of the most abundant greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere, so working to lower the amount of carbon we produce in our daily lives is a positive first step in mitigating against further climate change.
How Do I Figure Out My Carbon Footprint?
Calculating your carbon footprint can seem like a daunting task, but there are some great resources to help you do it. If you want to know your carbon footprint, Conservation.org has an intuitive carbon footprint calculator. Answer their survey about your daily habits to learn what your carbon footprint is.
What Does the Future Look Like For Carbon Footprints?
The future of our carbon footprint is hopeful. Carbon footprints are becoming easier to reduce as technology improves and new innovations are designed to help make us more sustainable. Popularity in renewable energy and clean tech is growing and becoming more mainstream, which is helping us slowly improve our carbon footprint.
Solar technology is constantly advancing to make renewable energy more affordable and efficient. Switching to solar will allow you to rely less on fossil fuels to power your home, thus dramatically lowering your carbon footprint. Depending on what your carbon footprint is right now, going solar can reduce your footprint by 30-40%. Even in their production, solar panels produce much less carbon than other energy sources.
Electric vehicles (EVs) are also growing in popularity and are becoming more widely available. When paired with solar, EVs are significantly more sustainable than traditional vehicles. A fully electric vehicle does not produce greenhouse gasses when running. And if you charge your EV using energy derived from clean sources, your transportation needs are almost carbon neutral. However, if you charge an EV using power not derived from clean sources, then the carbon footprint of driving the EV is not much lower than that of gas cars.
With other smart home technology, you can see real-time performance analytics to give you actionable insights about your home’s energy use. Smart home technologies like Span and Lumin help homeowners understand their energy consumption and identify areas for improvement, ultimately leading to a lower carbon footprint.
One of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint is to stay educated about it. Continue to research ways to decrease your carbon emissions and stay on top of your carbon footprint goals. Inform your friends and family of how they can do the same. If many people take these steps, we can significantly reduce our carbon footprint, the amount of greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere, and take a huge step against the changes we’ve seen in Earth’s climate.
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